Seizing productivity gains will improve trust and confidence in policing, review finds

Policing’s attempts to improve its productivity are “currently hampered by the quality and consistency of data”, according to the Policing Productivity Review published on Monday (November 20).

Nov 20, 2023
By Paul Jacques

While considerable work is underway to improve policing data and how it is used, the reviews says to make the improvements needed more quickly, the chief executive of the College of Policing should lead an “urgent” 12-month programme to galvanise efforts to strengthen the police’s data capabilities.

It recommends the college brings together all parties currently engaged in improving police data (its quality, its consistency and its application) under the umbrella of a Policing Data Hub.

“Data on the police workforce must improve: the reporting requirement must be expanded to include consistent data standards and more information on sickness and leavers,” the review says.

The review was commissioned in summer 2022, against a backdrop of tens of thousands of new officers, significant challenges to trust and confidence in policing, and greater expectations of the police service.

“Productivity matters because it means we are getting the best possible policing service we can from the resources we have available,” said Alan Pughsley QPM in his foreword to the report.

“Good policing is the cornerstone of a safe and thriving society.”

The review also recommends that the Government carries out an urgent review of guidance and practice on how police submit case files to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), with the specific intention of making processes “more time-efficient and productive”.

It says the CPS and National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) should run a pilot giving some additional charging decisions – where a guilty plea is expected – to high performing police forces.

Evaluation of organisational initiatives and changes in policing also needs to be more systematic, the review notes, with the NPCC, chief constables, police and crime commissioners and the College of Policing collaborating and collectively agreeing an approach by March 2024.

“In the course of the review, we have helped identify and deliver tangible improvements to the front line,” said Mr Pughsley. “The changes already agreed in terms of how policing responds to mental health calls and how crime is recorded are freeing-up over one million hours.

“In this report we make recommendations which would free-up more police time – police hours which could be used to attend more burglaries, more cases of domestic abuse, more incidents of anti-social behaviour.

“We also recommend improvements in how police forces make best use of good practice and of science and technology, now and in the future.

“We find that forces have more in common than is sometimes argued and that targeted financial incentives to forces will help unlock productivity improvements.”

Mr Pughsley added: “Working with a small number of forces, we have developed a model process tool which will enable police forces to deliver improved outcomes for the public.

“We recommend rolling this out to all forces in England and Wales in the next 18 months. The insight this tool delivers will improve the service police forces offer, as well as strengthening future service models.

“Officers and staff must have the confidence to do the right thing and to do it well.”

Improving productivity needs to be “more ingrained in policing culture”, said Mr Pughsley.

“We make several recommendations, including a big push on data and evaluation and a bespoke policing productivity function to drive improvement.

“It will be important to build on the momentum created by early productivity gains.

“When taken together, all the recommendations in this review have the potential to free-up about 38 million hours of police time over the coming five years – this will of course require considerable effort from policing and from its partners. This is the equivalent of another police officer uplift.

“At a crucial juncture for policing, seizing productivity gains will improve outcomes for the public and improve trust and confidence in policing. Nothing can be more important.”

Responding to the review, the NPCC chair, Chief Constable Gavin Stephens, said: “This review demonstrates the huge strength and breadth of work our officers and staff undertake and we welcome the recommendations which could reduce some of the significant daily burden placed on them.

“Greater adoption of science and technology is highlighted as a key area in which we can boost efficiency, building on innovation and setting out the skills and capabilities needed in our future workforce to continue this development.

“The reforms to our operational excellence and in support of our workforce must be underpinned by stronger long-term financial resilience as while the remit of policing has continued expanding, investment has remained static.

“Since 2010, officer numbers have increased by 2.5 per cent, while recorded crime has increased by 25 per cent and police forces are cumulatively operating at around a £3 billion deficit.

“We welcome a commitment that productivity benefits will be made available to reinvest in policing, as this is greatly needed to make necessary changes which can help us out pace criminality.”

Mr Stephens added: “We must also focus on recruitment and the importance of our police staff members as well as our officers.

“We have 4,000 police staff vacancies across the board and we must do all we can to ensure policing is an exciting vocation for all, especially those who have never seen themselves in policing before.

“The productivity review can help inform our collective response to this challenge and how we spend public money effectively to achieve the greatest impact on criminality, safety and feelings of safety in our communities.

“We look forward to working with our partners to move forward on implementing review’s recommendations.”

College of Policing chief executive officer, Chief Constable Andy Marsh, said: “This review is a positive contribution to efforts to improve the police service. It provides further endorsement for work already underway in the college to share knowledge and innovation quickly and easily through our Practice Bank and the What Works Centre.

“I welcome the review’s recommendation to improve the use of data through a Policing Data Hub led by the college. The review rightly recognises the importance of policing having high quality data available.

“The College of Policing will work closely with partners and government to review the recommendations fully.”

Association of Police and Crime Commissioners chair Donna Jones commented: “This is an important and timely report, both because the pressures on policing are growing, and because the means to combat crime are advancing exponentially.

“The increase in police numbers as a result of Operation Uplift, and the opportunities afforded by the use of cameras, artificial intelligence and facial recognition, mean that the public expects more from policing, including a greater focus on crimes including anti-social behaviour, theft and burglary.

“PCCs support a greater focus on community policing and are working to ensure that the necessary safeguards and governance mechanisms in relation to the appropriate use of advancing technology, such as live facial recognition surveillance, are in place, recognising key Peelian principle of policing by consent.

“PCCs are also supportive of police initiatives, including Right Care Right Person, which ensure that vital policing time is not spent dealing with mental health crisis, but dealt with by the appropriate health and social care agencies.

“In this way the focus of the review on recognising and removing barriers to productivity can already be seen to deliver tangible gains for the public.

“It is the duty of PCCs to reflect the public’s priorities on policing and to help rebuild trust and confidence in policing. As the report acknowledged, police productivity and efficiency related directly to this agenda.”

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