SPF chairman criticises targets culture and calls police figures ‘newspeak’

SPF chairman criticises targets culture and calls police figures ‘newspeak’

The chairman of the police body representing rank-and-file officers has described the force’s statistics as “newspeak” and criticised the suggestion that a statutory code would be a panacea for the problems surrounding stop and search.

Brian Docherty (pictured), from the Scottish Police Federation (SPF) lambasted the focus on targets on the anniversary of the creation of Police Scotland.

At the SPF’s annual conference he said major changes are needed or officers would find themselves “policing for statistics instead of policing for the public”.

He appealed to the leaders of the major parties, all of whom were present, to listen to SPF members before the general election.

He said: “A lot of people don’t like talking about ‘targets’, they prefer the phrase ‘Key Performance Indicators or KPIs’. I am one who calls all that jargon targets.

“Targets were introduced for two basic reasons.

“One, politicians of all parties wanted a degree of control over police activity, and two, they wanted some form of check that they were getting value for money. I can see why they wanted that.

“They introduced business practices and accountancy measures to try and show on a balance sheet whether they were obtaining a good police service.

“This is where things started to go wrong. Policing cannot be explained in pure statistical terms for what is measurable is not always meaningful and the meaningful is not always measurable.”

Alluding to George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, he added: “Police statistics have become something of a ‘newspeak’ for the way in which we quantify success.

“They demand swathes of resources and if things keep going as they currently are, we will soon have more people counting than we will actually delivering the job.

“We might never be free of targets, but unless they undergo major adjustments then we will continue along this road of policing for statistics instead of policing for the public.”

The conference comes at a time when Police Scotland’s stop and search policy is under scrutiny following the publication of a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) which was highly critical of non-statutory stop and searches.

Mr Docherty said the problem cannot be solved with simple measures.

He added: “Some commentators would have you believe that by creating a legislative framework for all searches, all would be right in the world.

“They are wrong.

“It is simply impossible to codify the myriad of different circumstances where asking - I repeat asking - someone’s co-operation with a search is currently the right thing to do.

“Be under no illusion, voluntary searches are an important feature of a police officer’s toolkit.”

The SPF chairman also said the police budget “can be cut no more”.

He said: “The expectation to make more savings cannot be delivered without hurting the police service, police pay and police numbers.”

Share icon
Share this article: