Sunday, February 7, 2010

One-Way Hand-basket on the Bean-Counter Express

Those of you who are already in police work have probably checked Inspector Gadget's blog. But civilians should also check there occasionally. You may avert a crisis in your own community vis-a-vis law enforcement. Read a little further and I will link you up.

One of Inspector Gadget's main themes is that of the police under fire--not by the 'yobs' or 'trashy people' or even the extremist 'Londonistan'-type enclave close by--but by their own government. Truth to tell--it looks like Big Brother has already shown up in the British police precinct, leaving Animal Farm everywhere else. It scares me greatly. That's just what the Inspector intends.

Use and Abuse of Statistics
On January 29, 2009, Gadget reported that the police in his precinct were to clean up 'any outstanding crime reports'. Sounds constructive, but go to the next sentence:
  • They must not, under any circumstances, get out on the street and find any more crime. Not until the next financial year anyway. All their accumulated leave (and there is lots of it being as we don’t pay overtime any more) is to be taken between now and April. It’s best to have them out-of-the-way, they just cant be trusted to stay indoors.
  • You see, when a proactive team get outside, be it CID or uniform, they just will insist on executing warrants, finding stolen property, stopping known criminals on the road and discovering nicked motors. Each time this happens, they have to put on a crime report. Being as we don’t care about detecting crime any more, and its all about the amount of crime, this kind of behaviour is a nightmare for senior police officers and their annual cash bonus.
In this country, some Police Departments have introduced COMPSTAT (that's NYPD's, but the model has been adopted elsewhere). Like all stats, knowing which corners get which crimes, how often, and at what times of the day are great for crime prevention and apprehension. And precinct commanders have been made more accountable for the crime in their district. But what seems to happen instead, the crime is not reported within the district--or--its severity is downplayed. Thus an attempted rape is listed as a simple assault, or a purse-snatching doesn't make it onto the stats, in order to gloss the statistics and avoid shit from above.

Bureaucratic Correctives
The bean-counter response to under-reported crime within a department (because this response is corrupt, after all) will be to hire a bunch of auditors. That's ten thousand more investigative statisticians in your police department. Not a one of them will be catching the street. Instead, they'll be pulling street officers in to answer questions. Do you think a game-playing precinct command will own up to this? Or will they shove the blame downward, to the beat cop who wanted to report the assault as a rape in the first place and therefore get some help?

Now attach the idea of bonuses to this. The fakery becomes cash fraud. In this scenario, the victim's rights are also forgotten, particularly a victim who is distressed or otherwise afraid to make a fuss. But there's a bureaucratic response to that, too:

On January 27, 2009, Inspector Gadget reported the UK government will start a National Victim Agency. Good luck paying for that.

Customer Satisfaction Ratio
On January 20, Inspector Gadget informed us that he must submit customer satisfaction statistics for every shift. I do think customer satisfaction counts. However, he got two complaints for the same call--one for responding too quickly, and one for not being there yet. As he informs us, he is supposed to have a 75% satisfaction rate on each shift. He's already 0-2 on one incident before his personnel even arrived.

Now let's say there's a bar fight, and Inspector Gadget's team wades in to keep the peace. That's thirty disgruntled customers, not to mention their spouses and aggrieved parents. One grateful bouncer, one grateful bartender, and one pissed-off bar owner who wonders why Gadget wasn't already in the bar when the first pint was thrown. They stopped a riot, but their approval rate is 6%. Johnny Law, good luck to you. I mean it.

As civilians, we can call in customer satisfaction all day to try to make our police officers look good. What will we say? "Dear Customer Service Officer, today I am happy with my police because nothing bad happened to me."  Do they really want to hire the switchboard for that? Do you expect a crime victim, bashed up in the hospital, to call a Customer Satisfaction hotline? Who is thinking this up? Nothing bad has ever happened to them. That I can tell.

Sincerely, how do we use statistics as a tool instead of having them tool us? There's got to be a way to stomp this pre-Orwellian condition--we'd better figure it out. Quick.

And in the meantime, all of us should be thinking: What is customer satisfaction to us, as taxpayers and as people walking the street? Is our satisfaction so shallow that it cannot take in the deeper picture?


Bob G. said...

Thanks to you and Gadget for posting this...
This is EXACTLY the problem I see in Ft. Wayne (my city).
ANd we even used the same verbage: PROACTIVE!

It's not the fault of the "grunts" or even the "supers", but it's the old "BS always rolls downhill" stuff!!!
It's coming from THE TOP.

I tell 'ya...couldn't wear the shield today - not with THIS kind of crap making our streets "less than safe' for both citizens and those sworn to PROTECT AND SERVE.

Customer service to *me* should mean I should be able to enjoy my God-given RIGHTS to life, liberty and the prusuit of happiness, unfettered by those who think they have EVERY right to MY rights, and that means police PROTECTION from such people.
bhey, that's just *my* opinion...from my "hood".

Excellent post!!!

The Observer said...

Ann T.

Wow, good stuff! We have similar problems sometimes in health care. There is a survey tool called Press Ganey (me thinks that's the right spelling...) that almost every hospital uses to gage patient satisfaction.

We don't always make our patients "happy." Whether it's the nurse dragging the post op patient out of bed (for his recovery--activity is a must--bedrest is overrated here!) or a primary care doctor telling the fat/smoking/drinking patient he needs to stop killing himself, to the ER doctor saying "No" to the narcotic seeker to the ER doctor telling a patient his condition did not constitute a real emergency, we often make our clients unhappy. If the patients want to, they can make a stink on the Press Ganey survey and the health care professional hears it from management.

For police work, another thing is that "feedback" can discourage officers from taking initiative and acting strongly. Have you run into the term "de-policing"? I understand it to be basically doing police work while trying not to offend anyone-especially minorities. For one example, not doing effective car and pedestrian stops (You might be "profiling.")

As for the manipulation of crime stats, that is just as bad as the press playing games with what they will report about crime. And just what any government department needs--another layer of middle management!

Customer satisfaction is correlated by some customers (not all, thank God!) with getting exactly what they want. Satisfaction should be with the service provided. I am satisfied with the police if they can make my city safer.

Sorry for such a long comment!

The Observer

Ann T. said...

Dear Bob G.,
I think I would call your view very functional, since it means: "police go where they're needed and have the power and mandate to act as needed." In this case, the stats fall where they may because the mission is being addressed.

I think the stats come in for staffing, first. E.g., moving personnel to precincts with a lot of incidents. And then it just goes from there. Wherever there are stats, somebody will compute a percentage. It's like spring follows winter (hopefully).

Not everybody will call the police. That makes no sense to me either. But I wonder if the stats were also developed to make up for people who are afraid to call, or press charges, or whatever.

In the meantime, life liberty and the lawful pursuit of happiness . . . we can just keep witnessing, I guess.

Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Don't apologize for this comment. It explains a lot.

I especially like how you dismantle the idea of customer satisfaction as--job performed--not, 'feelgood' stuff.

Anyway, it seems clear that for certain professions we cannot expect a butler to suffice.

Thank you very much,
Ann T.