Police action is oftentimes taken for police efficiency not only by members of the public but also by some members of the force who readily highlight outputs but not outcomes. This mistake will be made because of the absence of factors and criteria relating to the test for police efficiency. In the absence of these factors and criteria which are needed to measure police efficiency, we will have to rely on the authority from credible sources as we would with Pythagoras and mathematics, Oxford and the English language, Newton and Physics, and Maslow and motivation. In the case of police efficiency, an extremely credible source on the subject comes to us from Sir Robert Peel a former Commissioner of police of the London Metropolitan Police Force. According to Peel, the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.
Favour is found with Peel’s criteria for testing police efficiency as it is consistent with the objectives of any sensible police force which is to prevent crime and disorder and maintain peace. Where these objectives are not being achieved, both the police and the citizens will shift their attention from measurable outcomes to wishful thinking. It is through this wishful thinking that failure to achieve police efficiency is overlooked for visible policing actions, which have been tested time and time again without achieving desired outcomes. Placing a policeman at every intersection in the corporate area would look good, but it would not necessarily create police efficiency it may cause more chaos and congestion than if we allow the traffic lights to work on their own. Having joint operations with the military and the police without clear and achievable objectives will not achieve police efficiency. Establishing zones of special operations and states of public emergency just to satisfy the wishful thinking of the public will not achieve police efficiency. Police efficiency will only be achieved when crime and disorder are brought under control and not when visible evidence is seen of police action in trying to deal with it.
The police must now begin with the end in mind which is to remove crime and disorder from society. They will not be able to eradicate crime but at least, bring it to a manageable and tolerable level. The police must understand the difference between police action “inputs ” and police efficiency ” outcomes “. Based on our present circumstances we could begin with strategic leadership which is a type of leadership with a long-term vision for the organization but also have a short-term focus on the contemporary challenges of the country as it relates to crime and disorder. This leadership should be prepared to identify, prioritize, and solve those challenges. This strategic leadership must be drilled down to the lower levels of the organization where managers and supervisors are given the requisite authority and responsibility and are held accountable for achieving the objectives of the force. They must hold those under their command similarly accountable. Strategic leadership must be built solidly on a foundation of performance management where failure and mediocrity are not options. If the force accepts failure for any reason, it will never achieve police efficiency based on the criteria set out by Sir Robert Peel.
This is the first of a two-part article. In part #2 we will look at how to achieve police efficiency in a changing and dynamic society.
Assan Thompson is a retired Assistant Commissioner of Police who is the Head of Department for the Centre for Security, Counter Terrorism and Non-Proliferation at the Caribbean Maritime University. He holds a Masters Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the University of the West Indies, Mona. He lectures extensively in the area of Security Studies.