That Target Culture

The way this works:

Government targets have led police to ignore serious crimes in favour of focusing on more trivial offences, a Labour-leaning think-tank says today.

James Crabtree, associate director of Public Services at the IPPR, said: "Current targets to bring more offenders to justice have resulted in the police concentrating on easier to solve low level crimes committed by children and teenagers often with complex problems.

"This has not resulted in crime reduction but serves to criminalise young people, increases re-offending and misdirects important resources away from dealing with severe offences and crime prevention"

Well, of course, but how to wrap this up in a nugget of a story? You can\’t just say that setting targets turns everyone into cheating lying spivs….first of all it\’s not actually true.

This might need a little work but Gerard Batten had the nub of it I think. He said (along the lines of) that when he was a salesman for BT when proferred his new commission structure, the first thing he worked out was the easiest way to achieve it. How to organise his efforts most efficiently to reach the targets.

And of course we all approach our own work in that way. Here\’s what we\’re being asked to do, what\’s the simplest way of performing those tasks? So there\’s nothing odd in the police arresting teenagers over apple cores: they\’re being measured on the number of cleared up crimes.

Now it is true that setting sensible targets for salesmen does in fact work: even there thought there\’s an art. You want to set a target for gross margin (even better, net) rather than number of visits made, or number of calls made, or God forbid, gross sales at little or no marign. This is because you know exactly what you want out of the salesman in the end: profit.

It\’s a great more difficult when there is no obvious measurable end goal. We don\’t actually want to measure the police by collars felt or villains banged up. What we really want is crime deterence: and how do we measure that?

The rather wimpish argument at the end of this is I think that in those areas where there is in fact no measurable target that we can aim at, then we need that most under rated of attributes. Professionalism. Hire the right people, give them the freedom to do what they, and their surrounding culture, think best.

Anyone got any better ideas?

5 thoughts on “That Target Culture”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    Elect the Chief Constable?

    We all know what we want from the police well enough to vote against it when we don’t get it. Or perhaps we ought to elect a Police Board which would supervise the police in a local, and I stress the word local, area.

    In the end, you need to pick the right sort of chap and let him get on with it. But that also means what the British Civil Service never ever does these days – sacking those that aren’t up to it.

  2. Actually, there’s quite a lot of targets, gathered in a reasonably scientific manner, which could be used, known as the British Crime Survey. Measuring police performance on these annually would seem just the ticket.

    However, this runs counter to both the Marxist analysis of crime and the producer interests of the police. After all, if the level of crime is purely a factor of the level of capitalist overlord oppression, there’s nothing the police can do about it, is there?


  3. Have you noticed IPPR has recently started repositioning itself closer to Tory policies? I wonder why?

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