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Page last updated at 06:39 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 07:39 UK
Chasing targets - not criminals

Police tape
Officers say their morale has been sapped by chasing targets
The government has promised that it will liberate police officers from chasing meaningless targets.

A policing green paper, From the Neighbourhood to the National, published a month ago, promised to cut red tape and give the police more time to get on with their jobs catching criminals.

In a series of interviews, reporter Andy Hosken spoke to some of the serving police officers who have seen the effect of Home Office targets on their daily workload.

They describe how ordinary law abiding citizens are being criminalised, and how the culture of targets and statistics is destroying police morale, meaning criminals are getting away.

POLICE OFFICER ONE

We feel utterly demoralised. If it's not government imposing things on us - telling us we should do this, we should do that - then it's the force. I've lost count of the number of re-organisations we've had.

In my force we took our eye off the ball several years ago. I felt we had our priorities completely wrong. The number crunching and the chasing of sanctioned detections was part of it and I just felt that I don't think that's what we're there for.
Do we spend a lot of our time worrying about what people think about how we do things, than we do actually doing them? Yes we do
Police inspector

The theft of a milk bottle by a juvenile counts the same as a multi-million pound fraud. Certainly we are trying to look after the easy detections.

I am aware that officers in a town just north of where I live have been told to go out on patrol deliberately to try and search for cannabis just so they can do a street warning for cannabis which is a sanctioned detection. They are literally told to go out and search a few people and try and find some cannabis so they can give a street warning and get a detection out of it.

POLICE OFFICER TWO

We are hitting Mr and Mrs Joe Average on the road and hitting them hard, so we can get a little tick in the box to say that we've issued a fixed penalty, when the people who we should be targeting are the people we know are causing the offences, who are causing the burglaries, criminal damages and theft.

The whole idea is to go out and get as much process and as many arrests as you can. That is to the detriment to the public because at the end of the day the vast majority of the public in the UK are law abiding citizens and we really don't need to hit them with a sledgehammer to attain these so called performance figures.

POLICE OFFICER THREE

We've got to have a means of recording how well we do, but there is a problem with that if you have a particularly good year.

I remember dealing with a burglar who admitted in excess of 100 burglaries, which is great - that made our results look good at the end of the year. But the following year, the results dropped down so somebody was caning the senior officers for their poorer performance.

When someone's arrested it takes up to two hours to process and put them into custody. The computer demands that level of activity. In my day, you put somebody into custody and you were allowed to get on and interview them and do the necessary things.

POLICE INSPECTOR

Approximately 40 police officers work for me on my team. We could come into work on one day and spend the entire tour of duty looking for a missing person. We get no recognition for that effort.

The following day, as a middle ranking police officer, I'll be held to task over why my team didn't get any sanctioned detections the day before, why we didn't get any arrests, we didn't do any stop searched.

Detecting crimes is everything, stop and search is everything. Arrests, everything. The way that we have our customer focus, everything.

The number of key performance indicators at any one time ranges between 20 and 30, which is a farce. You're running around like a headless chicken worrying about them all.

The job could be done a whole lot better, if we could add something back into the equation which was there when I first joined, which was discretion. We don't have that luxury anymore.
There is a huge problem with drugs, a huge problem with knives which we are simply having no impact on, and a huge problem with violent crime which I believe is increasing not decreasing
Police inspector

I wonder whether or not the people across our city actually appreciate it when the boss stands up there and says we've increased sanctioned detections by 0.1% in the last six months. I'm not actually sure that they care about that. What they want to know is that they feel safe and that they get a good quality service.

Do we spend a lot of our time worrying about what people think about how we do things, than we do actually doing them? Yes we do. Proportionately we spend more of our time doing that than we do going out policing, which is a real crime in itself.

We don't have the respect of the majority of the people we have to deal with on a day to day basis. Young people are not afraid to speak to us.

It's far easier to be able to tell you about what we're doing pro-actively, to go into all these minor criminal offences, than to actually deal with the reality of what is actually out there. There is a huge problem with drugs, a huge problem with knives which we are simply having no impact on, and a huge problem with violent crime which I believe is increasing not decreasing.



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