League tables will lead to return of target culture says Fed chair

26 April 2021

The return of league tables will lead to damaging target culture within forces, says the chair of South Wales Police Federation Steve Treharne.

Steve has backed calls from national chair John Apter urging the Government to re-think ranking the work of police officers across six crime types, including homicide, serious violence and cyber-crime.

It was announced today that Home Secretary Priti Patel is working with the Home Office to draw up plans to measure forces’ performance and compare them against national benchmarks.

“I’m extremely concerned to hear of these plans. It will encourage target culture, which could cause difficulties for our members but also impact on the policing services we provide to our communities,” says Steve.

“There is already scrutiny and accountability within forces. According to the Home Office, this is a ‘relentless focus on cutting crime’ but I really can’t see these plans improving on the efficiency and effectiveness of the police service.

“There is a danger that forces will focus on areas where it is easier to meet certain targets, than on activities that require more time. This could come down to is what boxes you manage to tick. The introduction of performance targets will once again breed a target-led culture within policing, which could lead to unethical behaviour and working practices.

“This all seems very wrong and demoralising and it will cause officers unnecessary worry, including not wanting to come to work. It’s not as if we haven’t been down this path previously and it is apparent that lessons haven’t been learnt from bygone years.”

Steve’s comments follow those of national Federation chair John Apter who believes the move could lead to chief officers simply focussing on chasing targets.

“My message to Government would be to stop and think before returning to the mistakes of their predecessors. Reintroducing targets in policing would be a damaging and retrograde step. In previous years when they have been used we have seen forces focus on targets to the exclusion of other issues. This is not good for the public and certainly no good for the victims of crime,” he said.

“These league tables would also restrict the ability of forces to focus on local issues, because chief officers would be chasing targets which were judged on criteria set in Whitehall. If, despite these warnings, this is pursued it will fail, and it will be damaging.”

In 2007, the previous Government introduced league tables but these were soon scrapped thanks to campaigning from the Federation.