Police complaints hit 17-year high

November 16, 2007 11:39 AM

Yesterday the Telegraph reported that police complaints are at record highs.  That isn't much of a surprise and the police themselves saw it coming.  In May the Police Federation warned that targets and other symptoms of political management were turning people off the police force:

"A spokesman for the federation said such cases were a result of officers being "so busy chasing targets and securing ticks in boxes".


As a result, he said, officers were distancing themselves from "middle England"."

Unfortunately, the complaints aren't likely to achieve much.  When the police are forced to choose between satisfying members of the public who can, at best, force an investigation and politicians who have all the real power and want to see targets met the public's priorities go out of the window.


Complaints might even make things worst.  A famous study by Canice Prendergast, reprised here (PDF) for HM Treasury, found that a strengthened complaints system for the Los Angeles police service led to a collapse in their productivity with arrest rates for serious crime and narcotics offences falling and more gang-homicides.  Officers had little incentive to actively pursue crime and confront criminals.  They sat on their hands.


No complaints system can create proper incentives for the police to serve the public instead of politicians.  Only making the police accountable to ordinary people instead of politicians can do that.

Yesterday the Telegraph reported that police complaints are at record highs.  That isn't much of a surprise and the police themselves saw it coming.  In May the Police Federation warned that targets and other symptoms of political management were turning people off the police force:

"A spokesman for the federation said such cases were a result of officers being "so busy chasing targets and securing ticks in boxes".


As a result, he said, officers were distancing themselves from "middle England"."

Unfortunately, the complaints aren't likely to achieve much.  When the police are forced to choose between satisfying members of the public who can, at best, force an investigation and politicians who have all the real power and want to see targets met the public's priorities go out of the window.


Complaints might even make things worst.  A famous study by Canice Prendergast, reprised here (PDF) for HM Treasury, found that a strengthened complaints system for the Los Angeles police service led to a collapse in their productivity with arrest rates for serious crime and narcotics offences falling and more gang-homicides.  Officers had little incentive to actively pursue crime and confront criminals.  They sat on their hands.


No complaints system can create proper incentives for the police to serve the public instead of politicians.  Only making the police accountable to ordinary people instead of politicians can do that.

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