Police force 'league table' plans spell return of 'damaging target culture'

Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation

Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation - Credit: MartisMedia/Jason Bye

Proposals to reintroduce police force 'league tables' could herald the return of a "damaging target culture", according to the staff association for officers in Suffolk.  

In response to reports of Home Office plans to rank forces on their success in cutting serious crime, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, Darren Harris, said: "We’re a public sector service and it’s very difficult to put key performance indicators (KPIs) on who’s good and who’s bad." 

According to The Times, forces could be judged on their ability to reduce homicide, serious violence, drug supply, neighbourhood violence and cybercrime.

They would also be measured on victim satisfaction.

National benchmarks could include new data measures, such as the number of police referrals into drug treatment programmes and hospital admissions for youth stabbings.

In a letter, policing minister Kit Malthouse reportedly said the plan would provide “national accountability and collective responsibility” but “does not represent a return to force-led numerical targets”.

Mr Harris said the reported proposals could put pressure on police to report crime in a certain way to avoid being bottom of a league table.

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He added: "Policing is built on discretion. If you take that away it’s a dangerous place to be for my members.

"It can create a bad feeling between officers on the ground doing the job and senior management teams, because a government is dictating how we should be working and what we should be doing.”

A Home Office spokeswoman told The Times: “The public expects the government to work with the police to cut crime and keep them safe.”

In 2007, when targets were introduced by a previous government, the Police Federation successfully pressed for them to be scrapped after it led to “ludicrous” decisions - such as arresting a child for throwing a cucumber slice.

Mr Harris said it was unrealistic to compare vastly different forces, adding: “No two forces are the same – we have different demographics, different geography, different funding."

He said accountability already existed via police and crime commissioners and that the national uplift of 20,000 officers would, over time, see results returning to pre-austerity levels.

"We do not need to be beaten with a stick to achieve that," he added. 

"If you try to force it, you’ll skew the results and put more pressure on the police officers on the ground, who are just here to do a good job for the public.”