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Targeted criteria performance

An investigation of a most similar
UK police force
Harry Barton
Division of Human Resource Management, Nottingham Business School,
Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK, and
Malcolm J. Beynon
Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
Purpose The paper is set in the context of the impact of new public management (NPM) on the
police service in the UK. Specically, it aims to describe a modelling based approach to targeted police
performance improvement within a specic area of measured operational policing namely sanction
detection levels. It draws upon nationally available crime statistics, which have been utilised in a novel
way in order to provide the police with an additional performance management technique.
Design/methodology/approach The paper uses secondary data and the PROMETHEE ranking
technique to exposit performance rank improvement of a police force amongst their most similar forces
Findings The modelling approach is a proven tool that could be used in partnership with other
police performance management techniques in their attempt to meet the public interest and Home
Ofce demands for improvements in base sanction detection levels.
Research limitations/implications The paper presents a theoretical approach that seeks to
address a complex and multifaceted operational issue affecting all police forces. The theoretical nature
in itself presents a potentially idealistic scenario.
Practical implications The paper demonstrates that innovative modelling has the potential to
add value to techniques that are currently used in the area of police performance improvement, in this
case sanction detection levels. At the fundamental level this could be viewed in terms of Where to
start rst, and from there? with respect to targeting certain types of crime.
Originality/value This paper uses a modern ranking technique previously unused in this area.
Keywords Police, Performance measurement (quality), Statistics, United Kingdom
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
Ofcial crime statistics have been collected and published by the United Kingdom (UK)
Governments Home Ofce since 1898 (Home Ofce, 2009a). However, it has long been
recognised that there are inherent weaknesses in the collection and interpretation of
such statistics, particularly where they are used as a proxy measure for reviewing
police performance (Lynch and Addington, 2006).
First, the level of recorded crime is subject to the uncontrollable variable of the
publics attitude to reporting crime. This may be as a result of a number of factors,
including a lack of condence or trust in the police or a fear of additional victimisation.
Second, police discretion can inuence how reports of criminal activity are recorded
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
International Journal of Public Sector
Vol. 24 No. 4, 2011
pp. 356-367
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/09513551111133498
(Home Ofce, 2006), and thirdly the volume of ofcial crime recorded can be inuenced
by social and economic changes (Dubourg and Hamed, 2005).
In an attempt to remove such potential distortions and reect more accurately the
true picture, the method of recording criminal activity has been the subject of
signicant research since the early 1980s, from both academics and practitioners
within and outside the criminal justice arena (Chartered Institute of Public Finance and
Accountancy, 2000; Ashby, 2003; Home Ofce, 2005; Fielding and Innes, 2006). This
has resulted in a collection of criminal statistics that provides an increasingly more
reliable and comprehensive account of patterns and trends of criminal activity.
Within the UK (England and Wales), such data is collated by the Home Ofce and
published in the form of annual statistical bulletins (Home Ofce, 2009b). Such
bulletins present a summary of the numbers of crimes captured by the British Crime
Survey (BCS), which measures the amount of crime in England and Wales by asking
people about crimes they have experienced in the last year, and those crimes that are
recorded by the police (notiable offences). This body of statistical data also provides
details of the amount of crime that has been detected by each of the 43 police forces in
England and Wales. These sanction detections include recorded offences that were
detected, where an offender has been charged, reported for summons, cautioned
(including reprimands and nal warnings) or issued with a xed penalty notice for
certain offences (disorder, minor retail theft and minor criminal damage) (Home Ofce,
Through a closer inspection of sanction detection levels for certain categories of
crime across different police forces, it might therefore be possible to aggregate such
differences to form a coherent picture of police performance in a national context which
has to date proved difcult: Currently there does not seem to be any comprehensive
collection or analysis of data at a national level to assess police productivity and cost
effectiveness. (House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, 2007).
The key objective of this paper is to demonstrate how nationally available crime
statistics can be utilised through the use of a novel mathematical technique
(PROMETHEE; see Brans and Vincke, 1985; Brans et al., 1986) to provide a basis for
police force comparisons. Specically, the sanction detection levels for six different
criteria (sanction detection types) of offences are compared across a group of most
similar forces (MSF group). Each individual force is then ranked on the basis of its
relative performance.
The theoretical model proposed enables, beyond the initial ranking of police forces,
one police force to improve its ranking relative to others, through the use of targeted
criteria performance improvements. In other words, how an individual police force
might initially focus on one particular criteria of criminal activity (sanction) for
example burglary through deploying resources to reduce the level, and as a result
will have an overall most positive impact on their ranking against a comparator force
(rank position).
The proposed study here extends recent modelling (Barton and Beynon, 2006),
which identied the minimum changes required to improve a police forces
performance ranking, with the employed ranking technique PROMETHEE (Hyde
et al., 2003), with a development that, it is argued, brings this form of modelling closer
to becoming practically signicant, namely targeted rank improvement.
Targeted criteria
The practicality suggested here, rather than identifying a potential list of changes in
the sanction detection levels that all have to be made to achieve the desired improved
ranking, considers where to start rst in targeting improvements to the sanction
detection criteria and then progressively from it.
2. Performance improvement across the UK police service
Since the early 1980s, public administration has assumed a more business-like
approach (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000), commonly referred to as new public
management (NPM). As a result there has been an increased focus on value for money
and performance from public services (Dadds and Scheide, 2000; Ferlie et al., 2003;
Boyne et al., 2004). As such, the pressure for a reform of traditional management
practices as a proxy for improving performance within the police has led to tensions
both internally and outside of the service. On the one hand, developing a greater
openness and responsiveness to citizens needs and demands (Home Ofce, 2008b) has
to be balanced against the need to be more efcient, economical and effective (Home
Ofce, 2008a). The question for chief constables is nding the balance between
protecting or promoting the public interest, while at the same time dealing with the
political and ethical dilemmas presented by their accountability downwards to citizens,
outwards to their colleagues (police ofcers) and upwards to political leaders (the Home
Secretary) (Elcock, 2006). This degree of complexity may in itself be a reason why
attempts to introduce NPM to policing have not proved as effective as in other public
services (Newman, 2002; Loveday and Reid, 2003; Buttereld et al., 2005).
A paper by HM Treasury (2006), Delivering a step change in police productivity,
cannot be clearer in its assessment that the police service in the UK still has a
signicant way to go in making the improvements necessary in its operational
productivity and police resource management to realise vital performance
improvements. As a consequence, much work has been undertaken in the area of
police performance management, both at a governmental level (Spottiswoode, 2000;
HM Treasury, 2004) and academically (Barton, 2004; Drake and Simper, 2005). The
intensity of a need to do better is driven by the reality of a slowing of budget growth
in the years to 2010/2011, following the outcome of the Treasurys most recent
Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR):
For the Home Ofce, success includes achievement by the service overall of aggregate
cashable efciency and productivity gains, including nationally allowed carry forward from
SR04, worth at least 9.3 per cent of 2007/08 Gross Revenue Expenditure by 31/03/11 (Home
Ofce, 2008a).
Given this context, and the challenges facing the police service in the UK, there are
clear expectations from the UK government for the police service to rise to the
challenge of improving their performance across a broad cross-section of activities.
3. Criteria for measuring performance improvement
In 2008/09, just over 1.3 million crimes were detected. The number of sanction
detections fell between 2007/2008 and 2008/2009, while the fall in overall offences was
5 per cent. This led to a slight increase in the sanction detection rate from 27.7 per cent
to 28.4 per cent. However, the detection rates are not a straightforward measure of
police investigatory performance and need to be interpreted with care (Home Ofce,
Nonetheless the use of crime statistics as a means of identifying levels and types of
criminal activity within given geographic areas is a key element in considering
measures to reduce criminal activity. Success in achieving this is regarded by the UK
Government as one of the seven key performance indicators that have been used as a
measure to assess overall police performance at police-force level. Such assessments
are intended to measure, compare and assess the performance of police forces in an
effective, fair and transparent way (Home Ofce, 2004). The assessments are intended
to reect the aim of focusing on the end results delivered by police forces (with
partners) so that, amongst others, police forces can manage and improve there own
performance; police authorities can monitor local delivery and improvement; good
practice can be identied and shared and problems can be addressed (Home Ofce,
Currently, two assessments are made for each of the seven performance areas:
(1) reducing crime;
(2) investigating crime;
(3) promoting safety;
(4) providing assistance;
(5) citizen focus;
(6) resource use; and
(7) local policing.
These assessments are derived from a combination of performance data and
professional judgement.
The rst assessment concerns the performance delivered by a force over the last
year. Typically, this judgement is made comparing the performance achieved by a
force to that achieved by a group of most similar forces (MSFs). This mechanism for
force comparison was introduced in 2005, in part due to an acceptance by the Home
Ofce that due to the wide variations in geography, demographics and socio-economics
conditions, it would not be possible to construct national league tables for the 43 police
forces in England and Wales. Thus, with the movement away from national league
tables, the only elucidation of the relative performance of a police force is with respect
to its MSF group. These groupings have been produced by the Home Ofce in
conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Ofcers (ACPO), Association of Police
Authorities (APA), and Her Majestys Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC).
A second assessment is made on direction by comparing the performance of a force
in one year to that achieved by the same force in the previous year. While controversial,
the conception and adoption of MSF groups acknowledges that police forces operate in
different environments and it is reasonable to expect that performance will vary as
these environments differ in complexity. Here, one example police force is considered,
Cleveland, for which its respective MSF groups are presented in Figure 1.
The police forces included in the MSF group presented in Figure 1 are unique but
similar. For the police force considered (Cleveland), the collective MSF group is made
up of a total of ve other police forces, namely, Merseyside (Msyd), Northumbria
Targeted criteria
(Ntmb), South Yorkshire (SYrk), West Yorkshire (WYrk) and West Midlands (WMdl).
The details of these six police forces are reported in Table I.
Table I, therefore, indicates that there are different sanction detection levels across
the six different criteria. These six criteria are for violence against the person (Vap),
sexual offences (Sxo), burglary (Bgy), fraud and forgery (FaF), criminal damage (Cdg)
and drug offences (Dfc). The rationale for including these specic criteria is that they
are consistently used as measures within the British Crime Survey (BCS) and success
in improving the level of detection at an individual force level should result in
improved performance within their MSF group. These can them be utilised through a
PROMETHEE analysis to establish a ranking of the various police forces within this
MSF group.
4. PROMETHEE analysis of one UK police force and its unique MSF group
PROMETHEE (Preference Ranking Organization Method for Enrichment Evaluation)
is an outranking method of multi-criteria decision-making (Brans and Vincke, 1985;
Brans et al., 1986). As such, it can elucidate a ranking (performance) of alternatives
(police forces) through the comparative differences of values over a number of different
criteria (sanction detections) (see the Appendix). Moreover, it is central to the targeted
improvement analyses later considered.
Police force Vap Sxo Bgy Faf Cdg Dfc
Cleveland 50 46 13 37 12 94
Merseyside 68 40 16 15 12 93
Northumbria 57 33 12 50 14 98
South Yorkshire 59 36 16 35 13 89
West Yorkshire 51 31 15 28 12 93
West Midlands 46 29 10 18 11 91
Table I.
Criteria details (sanction
detection levels, shown as
percentages) of police
Figure 1.
representation of the MSF
group for Cleveland police
The PROMETHEE technique is employed since it is characterised by simplicity and
clarity to a decision-maker (Brans et al., 1986). PROMETHEE is also considered to have
a transparent computational procedure (Georgopoulou et al., 1998) (see the Appendix).
Put simply, the ranking achieved using PROMETHEE produces a series of nal net
values which are used to rank objects (vehicles), found from the aggregation of
constituent criterion values, which express the levels of preference of the objects over
different individual criteria.
These characteristics of PROMETHEE have made it a versatile methodology in
many areas of study, such as negotiation, planning and socio-economic processes
(Espinasse et al., 1997; Brans et al., 1998; Lahdelma et al., 2000). It is noted, there exist
other ranking techniques, such as ELECTRE (Milani et al., 2006; de Almeida, 2007) and
TOPSIS (Lai et al., 1994; Abo-Sinna and Amer, 2005), which offer alternative
approaches to the ranking problem considered here, and could potentially be employed
instead of PROMETHEE in the analysis in this chapter. One concomitant technique is
data envelopment analysis (DEA), previously used in police-oriented research
(Thanassoulis, 1995; Drake and Simper, 2003a, b, 2005). Its (PROMETHEE)
employment here is also due to the already developed performance rank
improvement work using PROMETHEE (see Hyde et al., 2003).
For the police performance problem described previously, Barton and Beynon
(2006) applied PROMETHEE to performance rank police forces with respect to their
concomitant MSF group, based on levels of certain sanction detection criteria (Vap,
Sxo, Bgy, Faf, Cdg and Dfc; see Table I). For the case of the Cleveland police force and
its MSF group (see Figure 1), the initial PROMETHEE analysis produced the following
set of results, in terms of calculated net ow values f( ); see Brans and Vincke, 1985,
and the Appendix), on which the ranking of the police forces is made (see Table II; here
adopting equal importance of the sanction detection criteria).
The results in Table II have identied a rank ordering (bottom row) of the six police
forces in the Cleveland MSF group (based on f( )), with Northumbria and West
Midlands found to be the top and bottom performance ranked, respectively. Cleveland
is fourth ranked in this group based on the six sanction detection criteria. These results
are only pertinent to the Cleveland police force, since the other police forces in its MSF
group have their own unique MSF groups.
It is the established rank order that a particular police force would consider reacting
to (Cleveland in this case), including how to improve their rank position, with respect to
their MSF group. Hyde et al. (2003), considered the minimum changes to the criteria
values of an alternative (police force), when using PROMETHEE, which would make
their net ow value to be equivalent to that of a higher ranked alternative (see the
Appendix). From Table II, with respect to its MSF group, Clevelands fourth rank
position means it could consider improving to any of the three higher rank positions,
only to the rst rank position is considered here (see Table III).
Force Clvd Msyd Ntmb SYrk WMdl WYrk
f( ) 0.447 0.754 1.577 0.530 22.781 20.526
Rank 4 2 1 3 6 5
Note: Police force abbreviations are as dened previously
Table II.
Net ow values of the six
police forces in
Clevelands MSF group,
Targeted criteria
The results in Table III identify the proposed new criteria values of the Cleveland
police force, which collectively (see Hyde et al., 2003), would equate its nal net ow
value with that of the top ranked police force Northumbria.
The results, in Table III, proposing changes to the sanction detection criteria to
improve a police forces performance rank position have to be undertaken collectively
to attain the desired higher rank position. The development in this study is to elucidate
an order to these changes to the original criteria values (in small increments).
At the technical level, the rst requirement is the level of incremental change
intended for each sanction detection criterion that will be considered. Beyond this, the
iterative procedure requires the repetitive employment of PROMETHEE to identify
which sanction detection criterions increment would most greatly improve the net ow
value of the considered police force relative to the compared to force. The quantity of
increments possible with a sanction detection criterion is constrained by the level of
improvement identied by the associated analysis (see Table III).
This approach is demonstrated on the Cleveland police force, from the overall
performance results in Table III, only the intent to achieve the rst place rank position
is considered, from its original fourth place identied in Table II. Throughout this
investigation, potential incremental increases of 0.1 per cent (or remainder if less than
0.1 per cent) on any of the current sanction detection levels are considered (a
generalisation that understandably would be criterion specic). The subsequent
ordered targeted performance improvements for the Cleveland police force to achieve
rst place are shown in Figure 2.
In Figure 2, the points shown from left to right across the graph each represent 0.1
per cent (or nal remainder) improvements to the respective sanction detection
criterion identied on the left axis. Inspection shows the rst target should be to the
improve the criminal damage (Cdg) sanction detection level, indeed the complete
sequence of 0.1 per cent increases from its original 12 per cent, up to the required 13.640
per cent. After this, full successive increments of four of the other individual sanction
detection criterion should be undertaken, in the order, Bgy, Dfc, Vap and Faf.
The dened reason for this prescribed order was to make as much gain in the
relative improvement of the Cleveland police successively, in terms of its net ow
value, to ultimately achieve rst place in the performance ranking amongst its MSF
Criteria Vap Sxo Bgy Faf Cdg Dfc
Original fourth 50 46 13 37 12 94
To rst (Ntmb) 50.265 46.000 14.013 37.138 13.640 94.769
Table III.
Changes in criteria values
of the Cleveland police
force to improve to rst
rank position
Figure 2.
Order of prescribed 0.1 per
cent improvements of
sanction detection levels to
progressively increase the
relative performance of the
Cleveland police force
group. That is, each identied increment of 0.1 per cent (or other) on a sanction
detection level is dependent on the fact that it optimally decreases the difference in the
net ow values of the Cleveland police force and the rst place police force, North
Humberside in this case.
5. Conclusions and future research
The relationship between the police service and the general public in England and
Wales is subject to a signicant amount of scrutiny. In the UK Governments 2008
Green Paper From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing Our Communities
Together (Home Ofce, 2008b), the Home Secretary signalled that there would be a
single, top down performance indicator for the police to improve levels of public
condence. As a result the Home Ofce will set force level targets from January 2009,
based on the British Crime Survey (BCS) question To what extent do you agree or
disagree that the local police and local council are dealing with the anti-social
behaviour and crime issues in this area?.
For well over 30 years, public opinion surveys such as the BCS have played an
increasing role in monitoring and guiding police accountability. They have also
provided a far more repeated and systematic opportunity for research on public
opinion about policing in England and Wales than in most other Western countries
(Hough, 1989; Reiner, 1992; Skogan, 1996; Flanagan, 2008). As a result, crime statistics
have become a key metric for judging the performance of the police service as a whole
and have been utilised by successive UK governments as the basis for setting
performance targets with respect to reducing crime (Home Ofce, 2006). Such
performance targets have been set on the understanding that the statistical crime data
is reliable and has improved over the last decade as the police service has moved
towards greater standardisation of crime reporting procedures across the 43 police
forces in England in Wales. This has resulted in the ability to conduct inter-force
comparisons across a broad spectrum of activities including sanction detection levels
for individual categories of crime.
Given the availability of such data it is somewhat surprising that there are few, if
any, studies that propose a mathematical modelling technique that has the potential to
contribute to internal force level discussions on crime reduction strategies. The
developments in this study are an important practical step in identifying how an
individual police force could, through utilising this technique, improve its ranking
comparative to other members of its concomitant MSF group. Having succeeded in
achieving this, it might be reasonable to assume that the force itself has improved in
terms of its performance in at least the area of sanction detections. The intention is not
to set one individual force against another nor to use the performance indicators as a
proxy for increasing inter-force competition, but rather to broaden the scope of
management tools open to senior ofcers in the context of improving individual force
Quite clearly, the adoption of such a strategy might have resource implications and
therefore an analysis of the cost effectiveness of such an initiative would have to be set
against the perceived benets. Further, research should attempt to realise the efcacy
of the developed model, including the conferment of how practical the progressive
increments to sanction detection levels are to a police force (or other criteria). Indeed,
Targeted criteria
with technical practicality developing, the question on what are the criteria that a
police force should/do consider is an important next development.
To an extent this has been assisted through the introduction in April 2008 of a new
police performance framework. The UK Home Ofce development of the Assessments
of Policing and Community Safety (APACS) framework is an attempt to simplify and
reduce the number of measures by which the police and others are judged in terms of
their success in crime detection and improvements in community safety. The
framework covers policing and community safety issues in a balanced way that
focuses on the most serious crimes and criminals. It harmonises with related
frameworks and contains indicators and targets that are shared between inter-agency
Given this context, and the ongoing nancial challenges facing the police service in
the UK, there are clear expectations from the public and politicians for the police to rise
to the challenge of improving their performance across a broad cross-section of
activities. One such activity that draws popular inspection is that of the effectiveness of
the police service in terms of sanction detection levels. This relationship of sanction
detection and its consequent impact on public opinion is an area where additional
analytical modelling tools could well contribute to future overall improvements.
The role of the PROMETHEE technique is potentially, without loss of generality to
the employment of other ranking techniques, such as ELECTRE, TOPSIS and DEA. It
would be interesting to see how these techniques, in some cases previously used in
police research (DEA), are able to incorporate the type of targeted improvement, as
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PROMETHEE quanties a ranking of alternatives through the pairwise comparison between
their criterion values (Brans et al., 1986). To express the preference structure of alternatives and
to withdraw the scaling effects of the K criteria, generalised criterion preference functions P
( , )
(k 1; . . . ; K) are dened.
Each P
; a
[ 0; 1 confers the directed intensity of preference of alternative a
over a
with respect to a criterion c
. From Brans et al. (1986), here, the Gaussian form of P
; a
adopted, given by:
; a

1 2exp{ 2d
} if a
. a
0 if a
, a
where d v
is the difference between criterion c
criteria values and s
a level of
dispersion of the criteria values (standard deviation of a set of criteria values).
It follows, a net ow f(a
) value is then dened by:

; a
; a
where w
, k 1; . . . ; K are the relative criteria importance weights. The net ow values exposit
the relevant rank order of the considered N alternatives.
Hyde et al. (2003) considered the change to the r
th ranked alternatives criteria values so its
net ow value would be larger than or equal to that of the r
th ranked, namely fa
$ fa
. A
Euclidean based measure (d
) allows the minimum changes necessary over all the criteria
values (at once) that improves an alternatives rank position, given by



where w
and w
are the initial and optimised criteria importance weights subject to

and v
and v
are the initial and optimised (standardised) criteria values. Further
constraints on the criteria values of the r
th ranked alternative are that they are kept within
known domains, given by LL
# v
# UL
, k 1; . . . ; K, where these bounds LL
are the minimum and maximum values, respectively, of each criterion (similar for criteria
weights). Dened as a constrained optimisation problem, it is solved here using the evolutionary
algorithm, trigonometric differential evolution (Fan and Lampinen, 2003), with objective function
Corresponding author
Harry Barton can be contacted at: harry.barton@ntu.ac.uk
Targeted criteria
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