Letter: Wrong targets

Evidence from my constituents and information given to me by serving and recently retired police officers confirms that Strathclyde Police is, on the instructions of its Chief Constable Stephen House, pursuing a target culture in relation to fixed-penalty tickets.

The force term for these targets is “key performance indicators”. Officers refer to it as a “case league”.

The fact that officers are being instructed to pursue targets and therefore not being allowed to exercise their discretion is arguably in direct opposition to the policing model laid down in the Police Scotland Act of 1967.

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This act states that officers, where appropriate, should exercise their discretion. They obviously cannot do so if they are operating in a target-led culture.

Chief constables like statistics that show how effective they are, even better if the stats are a 100 per cent positive return.

Fixed-penalty tickets for road traffic offences are a favoured way of influencing a statistical return, in that the offence has not happened until the officer detects it, in other words, a 100 per cent positive return.

The other negative factor of a target-led culture is that these centrally set performance targets are destructive as they control officers’ activities while on duty and may prevent them from responding flexibly to local needs.

The performance target model means that good, established cops who know their area and the needs of their public are no longer able to manage their time and deliver a service based on their local knowledge. Instead, they are policing to targets. My concern is that lip service is being paid to local policing by under-pressure commanders.

A police officer’s primary task, as defined in the Police Scotland Act 1967, is to guard, watch and patrol so as to prevent crime, where crimes have been committed to detect offenders.

High-visibility uniform patrols with preventative policing at its heart is what the legislation demands Chief Constable House commands his officers to do.

Chief Constable House’s current policing model, with its emphasis on dishing out fixed penalty tickets to produce statistics to show us how effective his force is, serves no-one well, not least the citizens of Strathclyde.

(Cllr) Frederick Hall

Oban South & the Isles

Glenmore Road

Oban