Solution Oriented: the future of policing

A fiscal crisis threatens the policing model

There is general agreement on the need to revitalise local, or neighbourhood, policing. Given budgetary pressures the challenge is how to do that.

A new community model of policing is emerging that could grow without extensive public funding. We have an opportunity to explore different business models of policing, focused more proactively upon communities and sustainable quality, than resourcing reactive demand management.     

There is pressure on UK public finances, with high tax, low GDP growth, an ageing population and an anticipated funding gap from 2025 to 2028. Cuts would fall on services that were already reduced between 2010 and 2015 and have never recovered. More cuts could mean public services shrinking apart, leaving more gaps often where they are most needed.

Doing less with less

The latest thinking from several politicians, to meet this funding gap, is to slice off more policing functions, effectively rationing triaged services to a public who already have record low levels of trust and confidence in policing.

There is another way. Since the conceptualisation of professional policing in the 19th century, the vision of its function has seldom aligned to its tactical deployment. The Peelian principles were about outcomes (the absence of crime) but policing has become about inputs and outputs (siloed targets).

The police know best?

Peelian principles were about the public, but professionalised policing moved further and further away from its roots, towards managerialism and politics. The incumbent urban business model that policing, and other public services, established emphasised the inputs directed towards the public. There are never enough resources to go around and they seldom deliver what the public want as an outcome.

The policing urban input model now is not only unaffordable, but has a poor track record, even in its own output measures, such as detections. The over focus upon efficiencies and productivity of inputs means that quality outcomes are not only missed, but abandoned.

Local ownership for local solutions

Put simply, there is not the money to put policing resources everywhere all the time. Having a focus on local solutions means that there is local ownership for clear goals that everyone, including what policing resource there is, support as one team.

This is the way some isolated communities have managed to have low crime without high investment. Having a model where the police react and the community waits is too slow and too expensive.

Outcomes not inputs

Solution Oriented Policing is a community model, not a police model. Its influences are taken from W. Edwards Deming, with a focus on quality outcomes, and autonomous community agency to work collectively. Like all methods of quality, the approach requires a solid vision of ‘what good looks like’ to marshal collaborative effort towards a common goal. Contextualised, co-produced goals are informed by community voice, using Charrette techniques, for local sustainable ownership.

There needs to be a sustainable alternative to a policing reactive model that cannot be afforded anymore with its repeat demand failure. Policing has proven to be an expensive, and perpetual, service contract that rushes to communities when it’s too late. Neither the public, nor Peel, ever asked for that: they would prefer an absence of crime; they just want to feel safe.

Now is the time to change

Empowering communities to inform quality proactive outcomes, based on solutions, rather than imposing a reactive structure of problem response, is not a new idea. It’s actually a very old one: focusing on causes rather than symptoms is basic common sense.

It’s just we’ve never done it because we’ve assumed a police-centric model that services the public, rather than enabling safer communities, is the best, and only, way of doing things. Now, a fiscal crisis may be just the nudge we need to change in order to facilitate solutions, rather than chasing problems.



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