Does Money Buy Happiness?

Are You “Very Happy” With the Police Services You Receive?

When polling firms conduct public opinion surveys they attempt to quantify and qualify their results in terms of the overall accuracy of the survey  and how strongly respondents feel about a particular issue.  When asked questions respondents are given response options like “strongly agree, agree, either agree or disagree, disagree or strongly disagree”.  When doing surveys on satisfaction levels with a service being provided the terminology used is usually framed  in terms such as  “very happy, happy”, etc.

A recent poll conducted by Forum Research showed that in Winnipeg 25% of respondents were “very happy” with the services offered by the Winnipeg Police Service.

Nationally, 39% of respondents were “very happy” with the policing services they receive.

The current budget for policing in Winnipeg is around $200 million per annum.  That is  up approximately $50 million from 5 years ago.

One could argue that when it comes to policing, money does not necessarily buy ‘happiness’.

The RCMP Standard of Conduct

During the recent debate on the expunging of police disciplinary records Winnipeg’s Chief of Police essentially took the position that because criminals can apply to receive pardons after five years of criminal inactivity, police officers should be able to apply to have their disciplinary records expunged after five years as well.  I wrote a post at the time which stated in part:

Talk about lowering your level of expectations by comparing police officers to criminals.  Whatever happened to the principle of expecting the very best from police officers and holding police officers to a higher standard?  The Chief’s position on this is poorly thought out and just plain wrong.

The recent press release by RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bill Robinson in response to the criminal conviction of two RCMP officers is a refreshing change when compared to the drivel being spouted by Winnipeg’s Chief.

Robinson stated:

We recognize that our members are held to a higher standard and we are proud of the hundreds of hard-working men and women providing highly professional police services to Manitoba communities. (emphasis added is mine)

That is how it should be!

Strategic Planning in Policing Part III

Part I of this series looked at the history of strategic planning and how the New Public Management movement introduced the strategic planning process to the public sector.   Part II  looked at the actual strategic planning process including the need to conduct an environment scan and the formulation of vision and mission statements, and the establishment of core values.

This part will look at the formulation of goals, strategies, tactics, and performance  measures.

Although performing a meaningful environmental scan, and establishing a vision, mission and core values may seem daunting, the next steps are even more daunting. The formulation of goals, objectives, strategies and performance measures require the organization to put it ‘on the line’.  They are required to stipulate what their goals are, outline their strategy(s), list their objectives and most importantly, indicate how goal achievement will be measured.  Then, having said what they are going to do, they have to do what they said and report on their progress.   It is this aspect of strategic planning that leads to taking responsibility and ultimately being accountable not for outputs (activities) but rather outcomes (results).  Measurement of outcomes truly brings to bear Sir Robert Peel’s Ninth Principle which states:

 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.

Goals, Strategies, Objectives and Tactics – linking the present to the future.

What are Goals 

Goals are directly related to the vision and express what an organization is attempting to achieve, the new state of being compared to the present state.  In policing terms, if a particular city is experiencing high rates of crime in particular communities or its downtown area a reasonable goal (dependent on the vision) might be ‘a safe downtown’ or in the case of other communities, ‘communities where residents feel safe’.  By intent, goals are broad in nature and like vision statements should not eliminate options in terms of how the goal will be achieved.

What are Objectives

Objectives describe what must be done in order to achieve goals.  In terms of the previous example regarding downtown safety one objective might be ‘to reduce violent crime in the downtown area by a specific percentage within a given time frame’.   Because the term safety is such a broad term, a stated goal of ‘a safe downtown’ might require a number of objectives, each addressing a different aspect of safety.   Other objectives might be ‘to reduce incidents of drunk and disorderly behaviour and panhandling by a specific percentage’ and  ‘to reduce thefts from vehicles by a given percentage’.  All these objectives, if achieved, would contribute to the goal which is  making the downtown safer for businesses, residents and visitors alike.

What are strategies

Strategy is a term with military origins.  The early writings by Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) clearly indicate that the concept of strategy, that is, a strategic approach  toward goal achievement, is not a new idea.  It was, however, only in the last century that businesses started seriously looking at using strategy as an effective business tool.  As mentioned in a previous post it was not until the advent of New Public Management that strategic thinking and strategic planning became accepted in the public sector.

Strategies are approaches or means that will be used to achieve objectives.  Going back to the downtown safety example, there are many different strategies that could be applied to the situation.  One strategy might be to simply do more of the same.  So if the police department was currently deploying foot patrol in the downtown area one strategy might be to deploy more foot patrols, ie if ten are good then 20 must be better.   An increase in numbers might be an effective strategy to address one aspect of the downtown safety issue,  ie drunk and disorderly conduct.  Other aspects of the safety issue such as break-ins to cars might be better addressed by another strategy such as the use of closed circuit television.  This means that a number of different strategies might be selected to address different aspects of the safety issue.

What are Tactics

Tactics drill down further and address the issue of not what should be done,  but how it should be done. If  a strategic decision were made to deploy foot patrols the tactical decisions would address the manner in which they are deployed in terms of what functions  they should perform, what hours they should work, areas they actually patrol, and whether they should be one or two person patrols.  In relation to CCTV,  tactical decisions would include where cameras should be located, whether to advertise their presence or if they should be covert, and if they should be live monitored.

What is Performance Measurement

Lastly, there is the  thorny issue of accountability and  performance measurement.  Most policing organizations report to a civilian oversight body such as a Police Board or a Police Commission.  Boards and commissions work with police to determine what the goals should be and serve as the accountability watch dog that police report to in terms of goal achievement.  Winnipeg is different.  It is one of the few cities, if not the only city, in North America where the Chief of Police reports to the Chief Administrative Officer of the city, and the police department has a reporting relationship to a standing committee of council (Committee of Protection Parks and Culture) and not a commission or board.  In the Winnipeg example this committee has never truly embraced its oversight function leaving the police somewhat  adrift in terms of accountability.

Most strategic plans have a status report or follow-up feature, at least annually.  Some organizations treat this as a report card or progress report if you will.    This accountability feature  helps ensure everyone within the organization is keeping their eye on the ball.  The greater the stress on accountability, the better the plan and the greater the likelihood of positive results.  Creating specific areas of accountability within a plan (actually naming a particular person or position within the organization as being responsible and accountable) is another positive feature.

The last word on performance measurement and accountability is this:  make sure you are measuring results (outcomes), not activities (outputs).  The purpose of a strategic plan is to achieve results, not itemize the busy work the organization plans to engage in.  Plans that stress activities or list activities that will be engaged in without direct links to goals and anticipated outcomes are of little use.

The next post in this series will examine several strategic plans for Canadian police departments.

RCMP Tight Lipped About Bousquet Investigation

In December of 2009 the media was in an uproar over the alleged use of excessive force by Winnipeg police when they arrested  Cody Bousquet.

Allegations of police misconduct filled the air.

In January of 2010 the Winnipeg Police Service decided to call in the RCMP to conduct a review of the incident.  The intent of the review was to determine if  members of the Winnipeg Police Service used excessive force in arresting Bousquet.  One of the reasons the RCMP was asked to do the review was that one of the officers involved was the current Chief’s nephew.

As the investigation has now been ongoing for close to 2 years I decided to follow-up to determine if any progress has been made.

I first contacted the Winnipeg Police Service to inquire as to the status of the investigation and received the following reply:

This investigation is being handled by the RCMP and therefore all questions pertaining to the investigation should be directed to them.

I then contacted the RCMP and asked them the same question.  The RCMP replied with this statement:

The RCMP is not in a position to comment on this specific matter at this time.

Generally, only in the event that an investigation results in the laying of criminal charges, would the RCMP confirm its investigation, the nature of any charges laid and the identity of the individual (s) involved.

Despite the fact that the RCMP would seem to have a policy on not confirming they are conducting an investigation until such time as charges are laid, I found an interesting quote in an article by Chris Ketching where the RCMP did in fact comment on and confirm that they were investigating the Bousquet matter.

The RCMP has been made aware of this apparent contradiction.  No response at the time of this writing.

Winnipeg Police 2010 Annual Report Late – Again

Between March and September of 2011 the following western Canadian police departments released their 2010 annual reports:

Edmonton Police 2010 Annual Report,  released March 16th 2011.

Calgary Police Annual Statistical Report 2006-2010, released May 2011

Vancouver Police Department 2010 Annual Report, released in August 2011

Regina Police Service 2010 Annual Report,  released August 2011

Saskatoon Police Service 2010 Annual Report, released September 2011

Winnipeg Police Service 2010 Annual Report:  sorry, not yet released

This is the second year in a row that the Winnipeg Police Service annual report is late, and I mean really late.  This year we will be lucky to see the report released prior to 2012.

The Winnipeg Police Executive is fortunate they only  report to citizens and politicians.  If they were reporting to shareholders and a board of directors they would be toast!

Winnipeg Police Crimestat Maps Offer a Distorted View of Crime

There is a problem with the crime maps displayed on the Winnipeg Police Crimestat site.

If  you go on the site and draw up the map for District 1 (the downtown division) you get the following disclaimer:

Your filter selection returned 2060 incidents.  You are viewing the first 1000 crime incidents on your map window. Click on ‘view report ‘for complete crime incident details or refine your filter criteria further.

The Crimestat map for District 1, the downtown area for the period of January 1st  to November 25th 2011, displays only the first 1000 incidents reported in 2011 (Map 1).    Because the first 1000 incidents took place between January 1st  and June 24th 2011, a search for those dates will display the same map, the same 1000 incidents.

Map 1

Source: Winnipeg Police Crimestat (Retrieved on 11 11 27)

If you want to see a map that depicts the  crimes committed between June 25th and November 25th 2011, you will need to draw up a separate map. It will show the additional 1038 crimes not shown on the first map.  Map 2 displays those incidents.  Although the maps appear virtually identical, i.e. the crime pattern as largely unchanged,  subtle differences can be noted.

Map 2

Source: Winnipeg Police Crimestat (retrieved on 11 11 27)

In order to get a true view of crime in the downtown area you would need to be able to combine those two maps but the system does not allow that.

The same limitation applies when you request a map for any geographical area that has more than 1000 reported incidents.  When you draw up the city-wide map (8509 incidents reported between January 1st and November 25th 2011) the map only displays the first 1000 incidents.

Imagine what the maps would look like if you could see all incidents of reported crime!