Police focus on government targets overlooks public duty

Police forces are prioritising petty crimes and government targets ahead of serving the public, a report out today has claimed.

A study by right-wing think-tank Civitas, The Public and the Police, said officers focus on charging members of the public with minor crimes such as chalking on a pavement or holding tube doors open, so that their bosses can be eligible for £15,000 bonuses.

The report claimed that targets miss the point of what the public wants, because petty crimes would be treated with the same priority as murder.

It said: “The Home Office judges each police force by how many crimes they detect and clear up. The public wants something different. They do not want the crimes happening in the first place.”

It added that all interviews with police officers were characterised by a high level of bitterness and frustration.

“Bonuses are paid to senior officers based on how they comply with targets. As in the NHS, bad targets are coercing otherwise ethical public servants into unethical behaviour. Serious crime is ignored and minor crime elevated to the serious in order to satisfy the measurement regime,” it said.

One officer quoted in the report said: “We are bringing more and more people to justice – but they are the wrong people.” Another chief superintendent said: “I get fed up with apologising to the public for the failures of the criminal justice system.”

The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said ‘sanction detections’ and ‘political interference’ were impacting on operational policing.

Chairman Paul McKeever said: “Police officers are struggling to bring some common sense to the increased demands of a target-driven culture, which is all too often resulting in arrests to boost the statistics we are judged upon, rather than to do what is right for the public. This vicious circle of chasing targets then further alienates us from the majority of law abiding people.”

The report also found that officers spent just 14% of their time on patrol because they were bogged down with so much paperwork – something the Flanagan Review was supposed to address.

The report concluded: “It is hard to get the police to respond to reports of crime and anti-social behaviour. Investigations are frequently lacklustre and often abandoned.”

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