Police business processes

In order to (re)structure an organisation its business processes need to be made clear.  Apparently simple organisations such as sports clubs turn out to be complex, even down to what happens on the first team pitch.  A common acronym in team sports is KISS (keep it simple stupid) – this is widely misunderstood.  Massive investment in selection, training, development and hard work go into keeping that flowing move “simple”.  Most people watching a top class team game lack nearly all aspects of this “simplicity”, to the extent the team would be better playing with a man or woman short rather than trying to use our “talents” other than in highly restricted ways.  The scrutiny on players these days almost beggars belief, cataloging ground covered, tackles, passes, hits, breaks made and missed and even heart rates in the middle of all this.  Most people don’t face anything like this scrutiny and also don’t get chance to see how such figures can change subjective view of who does what on the pitch.  The vital players in teams often aren’t the ones that catch the spectators’  eyes.

Police forces are not sports clubs (though when playing for both division and force teams it seemed a bit this way), but one of the things you need to do in organisational structuring is look for models or systems you have a good understanding of and see if these might apply in the job you’re trying to do.  If you know how a system works, you know how to change it or control its outcomes with minimum input.

There are organisational theories, much in the way there are workshop manuals and cook books.  Reading them (which even most undergrads studying do not) will not turn you into a competent organisational mechanic or cook, just as people with no clue about tools or cooking won’t be able to fix brakes safely or cook a decent meal ‘straight from the book’.  Most people remain academically incompetent despite attendance at school or university.  Google up GCSE exams, have a go and remember 50% of our population fails even this low standard.

To do organisational analysis you need to develop an investigative mind and a sense of evidence as other people produce it.  The idea of being expert in this is a Holy Grail – if you can’t spot this early you probably can’t hack the subject, let alone get a grok.  Much of the ‘theory’ you deal with is the problem, and not just the stuff from books.  Most of what people tell you is merely their espoused theory of what’s going on and this is nearly always at variance with the theory in use.  We rarely practice what we preach.  One of the great works in history on this is Machiavelli.- still too shocking for today’s minds.

To skirt the impossibly complex theories, we try lo look at something we can handle.  This is where something like business process analysis or cost accounting comes in, even work study or the tackle count.  These will have been conducted in at least some police forces.  We have seen Theresa May hold forth on the hideous numbers of forms cops need to complete even on minor matters.  These matters can be streamlined, but I’ve met senior detectives appalled that investigation and case presentation is still ‘quill and ink’ – the police processes are a result of outside demands.  Business processes are often inter-organisational.

As soon as we start thinking that cutting idiot police forms from 90 to ten is a good thing, we may be missing the point.  Existing processes may not need improvement but replacement; even simple removal.

What’s really lacking is open source data to work on.  Given today’s technology this is a disgrace – but it’s true across the board of government and organisational secrecy.

24 hour Response across our forces requires 5 ‘shifts’ to account for days off and sickness.  I don’t know where the precise figures are, or what the nature of this work now is.  Though I’ve seen some really good work, I suspect the quality is very low and the quality of the job such that most doing it want to get out of it.  There is no data to be able to tell.  Well away from the specifics of this job, we may be making police officers ill simply through the existing shift system (big links between nights and diabetes).  The average number of arrests processed per officer is only four.  This hardly suggests much work, yet Response teams always seem to be flapping under the stress of coping like blue-arsed flies.

The point is that we need detail to work with and this is not made available.  So much so that questions as to whether there is much understanding of what is important to collect and for what purpose arise.  When studies were done on police management information systems, the result may as well have been ‘area search, no trace’.  MIS is notoriously difficult to implement and has come 20 years too late in UK policing.

A broad consideration (Australian) that resonates with UK policing can be found at:

http://www98.griffith.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/10072/9194/1/18414_1.pdf

“The research literature reveals some pretty damning evidence to debunk the wisdom of random patrolling. The bottomline is that there is NO crime control effects of random patrol presence. Random patrols do NOT deter crime and the chances of police discovery of a crime during random patrolling is very remote”

“The second and closely related deficit of policing is an outdated attitude that quality of life concerns are not the types of problems that the police should focus on. Many police, to this day, consider quality of life calls for service as “soft” policing, annoying dispatches, or, in one police officer’s words: “bullshit calls.” Quality of life calls include a whole array of minor complaints such as kids skateboarding, neighbourhood disturbances, loud radios, barking dogs, drunks in the street, people throwing bottles,and all those run-of-the-mill calls for police service that don’t generally involve a CRIME .Police HATE going to these calls: they want to minimise their time spent responding to these types of calls, they often have a poor attitude when they turn up to respond to these calls, and they see
these so-called rubbish calls as wasting their time and taking them away from dealing with the “real thing:” that is crimes such as rape, auto theft, break and enter, robbery, and assault. This police attitude toward Quality of Life calls is a problem for several reasons:”

These snippets from a paper by Mazerolle.  The worrying feature of research like this is that the public is pissed off with ‘nothing being done to resolve the real problems’.

Most police business goes through our magistrates’ courts.  I spent a couple of weeks in my local court and think these proceedings should be subject to open scrutiny and potentially rapid change.  We might be able to reform a lot of policing by treating these courts as a hub to trace the processes.

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