The vexed question is how does one evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the police?
Many persons including the police themselves tend to use crime rates, number of arrests and case clearance to measure how the police are doing. This may appear to be a good performance appraisal process. However, according to Wayne Bennett and Karen Hess (2004) such measures have several problems. They posit that: Low crime rates do not necessarily mean a police agency is efficient and effective.
A high arrest rate does not necessarily show that the police are doing a good job. A high ratio of police officers to citizens does not necessarily mean high quality police services. Responding quickly to calls for service does not necessarily indicate police agency is efficient.
In many instances, clearance rates are notoriously unreliable and arrest data are suspect. The possibility of ghosting should not be overlooked. Ghosting is the falsifying of patrols logs “to make the numbers come out right “or to use a local and common police term “cock the stats so that we can look good.”
In addition, there are the dark figures of crime – crimes that were not reported for diverse reasons.
Kramer and Fiedler (2002) summarises the problem well: “Traditional measures such as the Uniform Crime Reports…arrests and tickets tabulate only events. They do not measure whether the activities were completed efficiently and effectively, and they don’t describe what impact the activities had on the community. ”
They argued that rather than looking at crime rates, number of arrests and response time, evaluation should assess whether the agency is effective in fulfilling its responsibility to the communities.
They further stress that when evaluating the effectiveness, efficiency and productivity of the entire department, managers must focus on their mission statement. They must also consider what citizens want and expect from their protectors. Most citizens want to live in safe orderly neighbourhoods. Reduction of fear is a very important measure. It sends a very clear message to the public that the police are addressing their fear of crime and neighbourhood disorder.
What are some indicators to look for to conclude whether or not the police are doing a good job? Citizens’ approval or disapproval of police performance is generally reflected in support for police programmes, letters of criticism, commendation, cooperation with crimes and incidents being investigated, letters to the editor or public response to a single police/ citizen incident. The police are considered effective when they produced the perception that crime is under control.
One way to assess citizens’ approval or disapproval is through citizens’ surveys. They are win-win situations. Citizens are better served and the police receive positive feedback. It is a key in establishing communication.
I clearly remembered some time during the mid 1990’s; Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis detailed Superintendent Michael Wilson to conduct a Quality of Service probe at the East La Penitence Police Station. The officer had recently returned to Guyana from a Command Course for Caribbean Police Officers conducted by the British at the Jamaica Constabulary Staff College.
Wilson’s findings were very instructive. This led to a paradigm shift in the strategic, tactical and operational posture of ranks at that station in an effort to make them more efficient and effective.
Perhaps, the police can conduct some Citizens’ Surveys to find out whether or not they are efficiently and effectively utilising their human and other resources in the fight against crime, the fear of crime and traffic lawlessness on our roads.
The police have many university graduates among their ranks. Over the past few years two officers won the Prime Minister’s Medal for being the best graduating students at the University of Guyana. Some are not only high ranking officers, but are decorated with post graduate and Master’s degrees. They are fit and proper persons to conduct the citizens’ surveys with the objective to enable their members to efficiently and effectively deliver the highest quality of service to the citizens of the country they swore to serve and protect.
Assistant Commissioner of Police
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