Peel’s Ninth Principle

Principle Nine

 To recognize always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

In 1829 the word ‘efficiency’ had a broader meaning in the context of measuring organizational performance than it does now.  As performance measurement has progressed, organizational performance measurement has been divided into two distinct areas, efficiency measurement and effectiveness measurement.  In 1829 the term efficiency essentially embodied the meaning of both those terms.  As the word is used in the Ninth Principle it embodies both the concept of delivering a service at a reasonable price, and delivering a service that has the desired outcomes.

This principle is one of the first to express the need to test or measure  police performance.  It essentially says the emphasis should be on outcomes as opposed to outputs.  In this context the desired outcome is the absence of crime and disorder, the outputs are the actions undertaken by police to achieve the outcome.         

Efficiency is measured in terms of cost, i.e. are tax payers receiving good value for their tax dollars?  In the policing context cost is examined at various levels.  At the highest level cost would be looked at as the per capita cost of policing.  The per capita cost of policing in Winnipeg according to the Winnipeg Police 2008 Annual Report was $259.40.* Cost can also be calculated on a per-unit of service basis.  As an example, the cost of issuing a photo radar ticket in Winnipeg was reported to cost $48.01 in  2004. **  Once established, cost figures can then be compared to costs reported by other police agencies to determine a relative level of efficiency. 

Establishing whether the organization is effective is more difficult and involves an examination of whether the organization is doing the right things to achieve its stated goals.  Most police agencies have a stated or at least implied goal of reducing crime and disorder. Effectiveness measures establish whether the strategies, approaches and tactics employed result in the desired outcomes.  In Winnipeg, as an example, the Police have employed an innovative strategy to address the auto theft issue.  The stated goal was to reduce auto- theft.  With reductions of 16, 37 and 43 percent between 2006 and 2008 the strategy can be judged to be effective. *   The desired outcome was realized.

Many public service delivery organizations (both policing and non police) have become overly politicized.  In the case of municipal policing, police departments can become extensions of their political masters – especially if there are no effective buffers between the police and the mayor.  This is most clearly demonstrated in the United States where the links between municipal policing and mayors is closer than in Canada.  In the United States the mayor’s agenda frequently becomes the police agenda.  In some major American cities the position of Chief of Police is essentially a political appointment.  Many mayors in large American cities run on law and order platforms and one of the first things they do when elected is to appoint a new police chief whose approach and values are in keeping with their own.  Miami and Atlanta are recent examples of this phenomenon.

The more politicized an agency becomes the greater the emphasis on activities, or in Peel’s words, “visible evidence of police action”.  The emphasis on action allows both the politicians and the police to be seen to be doing something.  The emphasis on action can detract from a close examination of the services being delivered.  Program evaluation is mandatory to determine if the actions undertaken are yielding the desired results in terms of outcomes. The action orientation tends to discourage evaluation. 

Daily news conferences held by police agencies are intended to inform the public through the media of crime that is currently occurring in the community and, of course, what the police are doing about it (actions).  News conferences are not the forum in which to discuss outcomes. 

Reporting to the public on outcomes is more appropriate in an annual report.   Most police agencies, however, give limited coverage to reporting on outcomes in their annual reports choosing instead to highlight activities.  It is the statistical portion of the annual report that tells the real story about police efficiency and effectiveness, not the pictures and stories.  Statistical reporting, however, accounts for only 10% (in terms of volume) of most police agency annual reports. 

Some progressive police departments actually publish meaningful business and strategic plans that outline in detail police priorities and goals for the next 1-3 years.  The degree of goal achievement is reported upon in subsequent years and in some cases during the course of the current year.  Generally the goals relate to crime reduction or the restoration of order in the community and reflect an attempt by police to deliver services and measure their outputs and outcomes in keeping with this principle as opposed to simply reporting on their activities.    

In order to achieve outcomes police agencies need to state their goals and objectives up front and then report on their progress.  This needs to become part of the public accountability process.  In order for police to establish widespread public support they need to be accountable to the public. 

The Vancouver Police Department publishes an Annual Business Plan which lists both its goals and the strategies that will be employed to achieve the goals. ***  It serves as a good example for police agencies that do not formulate or publish meaningful business or strategic plans. 

*Winnipeg Police 2008 Annual Report.  Available at   http://www.winnipeg.ca/police/annualreports/2008/2008_WPS_Annual_Report_English.pdf

** City of Winnipeg Photo Radar Audit.  Available at  http://www.thenewspaper.com/rlc/docs/2006/winnipegaudit.pdf

*** Vancouver Police Department, 2009 Annual Business Plan.  Available at http://vancouver.ca/police/policeboard/agenda/2009/090121/8VPD2009BusPlan.pdf

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