Thematic Group on Understanding Demand, Capacity and Capability

A recent event at Nottingham Trent University on the 15th March 2019 has highlighted a number of key areas for development in understanding demand, capacity and capability. Academics and practitioners came together to explore development following an initial Roundtable held at Lincolnshire Police HQ back in 2018.

Now, a rolling thematic group, led by Superintendent Mark Housley, will continue to meet and you’re invited to get involved in this vital area. Northamptonshire, Linconshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leciestershire forces, EMSOU and the NCA are all represented. A number of key academics, such as Dr Rowena Hill, are able to offer additional insights based on extensive working with EMAS and Fire and Rescue Services.

The next event will be between 12 noon and 5pm on Friday, 3rd May 2019, again at Nottingham Trent University. It’s free to come along but to reserve a place contact

The key insights that will be picked up for further development are:-

An overly process driven ‘tick box’ approach may increase the risk of not being to see the ‘wood for the trees’, and creating a reactive approach rather than the proactive one needed.

Standardised approaches wherever possible help practitioners and researchers to work together, identify themes, draw out best practice, strengthen understanding and rationale, and reduce duplication.

Reginal co-operation where practitioners and researchers come together allows best practice to be shared more easily – such as sharing models of Demand Dashboards.

It’s important that both customer and political expectations are managed – the default position of trying to be all things to all people suggests policing will fail to deliver. This opens up a crisis of clarity over what is the role of the police service, and how a service catalogue and service offer could be modernised.

Policing is being abused by other agencies using the service as a ‘scouting’ and holding function to triage and filter their own resource allocation.

The whole topic is about public need, and there is a need for a more joined-up partnership approach, as much public demand is not what the police could, or should, be asked to deliver against.  There is potentially a badge of honour culture in policing in ‘picking up everyone’s pieces’, in an age of austerity. In the future, there should be more joint Blue Light work and the active involvement of CDA (1998) Section 17 partners more to try and address the root causes of societal issues and reduce the reactive cycle.

Policing is risk averse and there are implications in the police saying no, as in reality that could well mean ‘nobody goes’ to a public need. There needs to be a review amongst partners of what does help ‘out of hours’ look like. Where policing prioritises everything nothing actually gets prioritised in practice. Hampshire’s ‘most appropriate agency’ approach is worthy of further exploration.

There is a double uncertainty here – firstly in understanding by what we mean by ‘demand’ and secondly in understanding actual demand. For example, is the debate about responding to demand, managing demand, reducing demand, risk assessing vulnerability, influencing demand, forecasting demand or clarifying who should do when and when? Or a combination of all these things? How policing responds to demand should not be conflated with understanding demand.

There has been a lot of attention given to geo-spatial mapping, algorithms, models of patrolling and so forth but less on horizon scanning what’s in the future, such as Policing 4.0. There needs to be more proactive insight to break free of a one-dimensional reactive mindset.

The People Zones work in Leicestershire shows promise and the region should explore more (Professor Darren Smith of Loughborough University is supporting this programme).

Data pooling would allow researchers to be able to better offer insights, akin to Torch Light (Leicestershire) where data mashes allow patterns to be recognised better.

Policing resourcing is underpinned by an historical model and more agility is needed to map resource to need more fluidly, such as seasonal retained workers.

For future meetings, Heads of Change need to be present, and eventually, as the thematic group matures its discussions, key partners will be needed to ensure holistic approaches are being taken: joined-up solutions for joined-up problems!

For your reference, the first EMPAC Roundtable report on Understanding Demand, hosted at Lincolnshire Police HQ in June, 2018, is here:-


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