News story

Police targets review published

Home Secretary publishes review of use of local targets in policing

Home Secretary Theresa May
Home Secretary Theresa May

A review into the use of targets in policing commissioned by the Home Secretary has found that the police need to go further in order to tackle a culture of narrow target-chasing and box-ticking which has got in the way of officers doing their jobs.

The review, led by Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, President of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, gathered feedback from all 43 forces and included a focus group with Police and Crime Commissioners, a review of police and crime plans and an online survey which received more than 6,000 responses from police officers and staff.

It found that while forces have generally moved away from the use of hard numeric targets, there are still some individuals in policing who believe targets for call handling or response times exist, even though Home Office performance targets were abolished in 2010.


The review, which was published today, makes recommendations for chief constables, PCCs, the College of Policing and HMIC, as well as the Home Office. They include:

  • Chief constables should improve their performance measurement, monitoring and reporting processes; and ensure managers are trained to manage performance effectively, holding their officers to account while empowering them to use their professional judgement.

  • Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) should develop a more sophisticated dialogue with the public on what they consider “success” to look like; and to consider the potential negative impact of setting numerical targets in their police and crime plans.

  • The College of Policing should develop a set of principles for measuring performance; identify good practice for measuring the success of safeguarding and welfare; and incorporate the skills required for performance management into the implementation of its Leadership Review.

  • HMIC should improve the way they present performance data and communicate their monitoring processes.

  • The Home Office should review the requirement for forces to submit victim satisfaction data as part of the annual data return; and consider taking back ownership of the National Standard for Incident Recording (NSIR).

Skewing priorities

Home Secretary Theresa May said:

This Government has abolished all national police targets, but as Irene Curtis’ review of targets in policing shows, local targets still exist.

Her review sheds light on current practice among forces and confirms the problems I have long noted with numerical targets: skewing priorities; causing dysfunctional behaviours; and reducing officer discretion.

It confirms the problems I have highlighted before: that targets don’t fight crime, they hinder the fight against crime. They distort operational reality and reduce police officer discretion, while undue focus on one target can lead to some other crimes being neglected altogether.

The review shows that the police need to go further in order to tackle the culture of narrow target-chasing and bureaucracy that has hampered and limited officers, preventing them from exercising their professional judgement. Quite rightly the public expects to see forces serving their communities, not chasing arbitrary targets.

I am grateful to Irene for her thorough investigation and analysis of the use of targets in policing. I hope the police will take her recommendations seriously and ensure they are implemented.

Willing to learn

Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales President, Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis, said:

I am pleased to have had the chance to review an aspect of policing that I highlighted as one of my priorities when I was elected as President in 2013.

It is clear the issue is wider than just the use of targets, and goes to the heart of how performance is both measured and managed within a force.

Most forces have moved away from crime-related performance targets but many are finding it hard to identify effective ways of measuring how they are performing, particularly in very complex areas of policing such as safeguarding.

However it is clear forces are willing to learn how to develop a more effective performance management framework, and I was pleased to see some good practice that can be shared.

I hope that my report and its recommendations will help forces review and improve how they manage performance. I would like to see a national approach to the principles that underpin effective performance measurement and management. I would also urge an end to the use of crime data as measure of police performance – it is no more a measure of this than the number of people with heart disease is a measure of the performance of the health service.

Policing is a complex service that cannot be reduced to just a comparison of numbers, and to help them to assess how their force is really performing the public deserve to be given a better understanding of the wider and more difficult issues that the service is facing and is managing.

Published 8 December 2015