Yorkshire police force to end “unhealthy fixation on crime figures”

Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Keith Hunter
Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Keith Hunter
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A Yorkshire police and crime commissioner has criticised his force’s “unhealthy fixation on overall crime figures” as he unveils plans for how his force will change in the next four years.

Keith Hunter, a former chief superintendent elected as Humberside’s crime commissioner last summer, says his first police and crime plan setting out his priorities “does not identify simplistic or populist solutions”.

120516 The new Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside  Keith Hunter  outside his office in Cottingham on the first day in his new post.(GL1010/03j)

120516 The new Police and Crime Commissioner for Humberside Keith Hunter outside his office in Cottingham on the first day in his new post.(GL1010/03j)

And with forces nationwide facing continued pressures on their budgets, he warned that “merely trying harder with potentially fewer resources will inevitably lead to failure”.

The Labour crime commissioner last year admitted that the public has “lost confidence” in the force, which in 2015 was given the worst possible rating by a watchdog for its efficiency but has since made improvements.

He said: “Public bodies have faced years of funding cuts and the police are no exception. Services have had to adapt and change as a result but reduced funding in public services does eventually have consequences.

“Those who receive services feel the effects. The current financial outlook remains challenging for policing and bleak for local authorities and so a key challenge for service providers is to maintain the confidence and support of the public during this period of significant change.

“The dangers of a disenchanted and disenfranchised population are well‐evidenced and confidence is hard won and easily lost.

“For that reason my plan addresses the broad challenge of securing and maintaining public confidence whilst working to deliver services to the public that meet their needs.

“Delivering community safety is a hugely complex endeavour involving not just the police but many different statutory and voluntary agencies, as well as the public themselves, so the approach adopted cannot be simplistic.

“The leaders entrusted with delivering community safety together should be clear though, about what we want to achieve and how we will work towards it.

“The overall approach of this plan is to encourage the changes that are the key to delivering better results. Merely trying harder with potentially fewer resources will inevitably lead to failure.

“So, this Police and Crime Plan does not identify simplistic or populist solutions, it does not illustrate the complexity of delivery or attempt to list all activities the police will carry out; it is focussed on promoting long‐term improvement in service to the public.”

In November, Humberside Police was found to be ‘requiring improvement’ on how it manages its resources and forecasts demand. This was an improvement on the previous rating of ‘inadequate’ by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

In its report, HMIC said the force did not always send enough officers to priority incidents, meaning “that sometimes the service to the public was below the standard set by the force”.

It revealed that the number of officers employed by the force was set to drop from 1,582 to 1,524 in 2019/20, though the workforce as a whole will grow by 11 per cent.

The draft version of the police and crime plan was presented to members of the Humberside Police and Crime Panel scrutiny committee today.

Staff are currently working on the full public version, which will contain more specific proposals, and is due to be published later this month.

Describing his overall approach, Mr Hunter hinted that he would try and move the force and the other local authorities away from “arbitrary” targets and short-term priorities, which he said can be “counter-productive”.

He wrote: “Traditional performance management measures and processes can actually deflect from the development of longer term, sustainable approaches that could truly benefit the public.”

He wrote that he wanted agencies to adopt an ‘outcomes-based approach’, but added: “This can be a significant challenge when public, media or political pressure demands short term fixes, or a focus on a ‘flavour of the month’.”

He added a new way of measuring performance would be developed “focussed more on tracking the planned improvements outlined in the annual plans and away from an unhealthy fixation on overall crime figures and other commonly used indicators that may not contribute towards achievement of the stated aims”.

An appendix to the report said that although police received a better-than-expected grant settlement from the Government for 2016/17, the future of how the force would be funded “remains uncertain”.