Federation: Police targets not good for the public

SOUTH Yorkshire Police Federation has warned the police and crime commissioner against setting targets to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in the force.

Neil Bowles, chairman of the federation, has met with PCC Shaun Wright, who said he was planning to introduce specific performance indicators.

“Mr Wright wants the force to reduce crime levels in line with the national average,” said Mr Bowles. “However, we expressed dissatisfaction at the idea of target-setting as we believe it does not do the public any good.”

Mr Bowles echoed comments made this week by Ch Supt Irene Curtis, the new President of the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, who has warned that a “tick box” target culture is prevailing in the police service.

Despite efforts from the Home Office to return discretion to front line officers, Ch Supt Curtis said that officers are still battling for arrests and detections.

“The use of numerical targets in performance management is embedded in the police psyche,” she said. “Policing should not be a competition. It should be collaborative and in the best interests of the public we serve. A different approach is needed to how we police.”

Mark Smith, Essex Police Federation chairman, has also warned this week that it was “very dangerous” to have targets on arrests.

“Police officers will meet those targets,” said Mr Smith. “But the worry is that they are arresting the wrong people, that they may be soft arrests. Would these people have previously been arrested or given a warning?

“Officers are not going to let bad guys walk away but with officers fearing they will not hit their targets there is a risk they will make soft arrests.

“That is unacceptable. It is not policing, it is chasing targets. It is not giving a service to the public. The target should be arresting the right people.”

A spokeswoman for Mr Wright said: “The aim is to reduce overall crime at least in-line with the national average. For each performance year the target is to reduce crime at a greater rate than the national average so that we end up converging with the national rate.

“Antisocial behaviour is one of the commissioners key priorities, targets have been set in the past by the previous police authority on this, and the commissioner proposes to do so in his forthcoming police and crime plan.”