Analysing Police Demand: the service of first and last resort


Kate Hemstock is Interim Head of Analytics at Derbyshire Constabulary. Kate is an experienced analyst and team leader with 12 years’ experience in law enforcement, working in strategic analysis, performance management, business intelligence and business change. She is the lead developer of the Organisational Risk Assessment (ORA) model on behalf of the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) led Management of Risk in Law Enforcement (MoRiLE) Programme, and one of EMPAC’s FMS Demand expert leads. 

With thanks to Stronger, the Alarm Journal (October 2020) EMPAC is pleased to reproduce here a feature written by Kate. Policing is in many ways the service of first and last resort, and Kate explores that as a core issue in understanding demand here – read on! 

A full and clear understanding of demand is key to ensuring a successful operating model. UK policing has long recognised this challenge and in recent years, driven by changes in the nature and complexity of demand, there has been a greater push to improve understanding of the demands on policing.

A new Organisational Risk Assessment (ORA) model has been developed by the Management of Risk in Law Enforcement (MoRiLE) programme with the purpose of enabling police forces and partner agencies to improve their understanding of demand and how well they are set up to deal with it. The model is designed to inform changes and improvements to the way the organisation operates, to better manage demand and reduce the risks to the communities they serve.

As an analyst working in policing, I’ve seen a significant change in the demand picture over the last ten years in particular. Policing 4.0 (2018) report reflects on the policing context, describing a: ‘spread of demand in every direction’. New and complex criminality such as modern slavery and human trafficking, and cyber-crime have become increasingly prevalent, while previously hidden crimes such as domestic abuse, are now a recognised part of every police force’s demand profile.

Austerity measures and cuts to public services have also impacted on policing demand, with the police alarmrisk.com October 2020 stronger appearing to take increasing responsibility for a broader remit of public safety.

The service of first and last resort

Sir Tom Winsor, in State of Policing (2016), described the police: ‘being used to fill the gaps that other agencies cannot’; coining the phrase: ‘the service of first and last resort’.

This shift in the nature of demand faced by police forces and partner agencies makes it even more important we continue to develop our understanding of the demands facing us. We need to be in a position to make an informed and honest assessment of how well we are set up to manage demand and ensure an appropriate treatment plan where required.

The police inspectorate, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) recognised the importance of demand understanding in delivering an effective policing service, building core questions about demand understanding, operational efficiency and a sustainable workforce into the efficiency pillar of their PEEL inspection routine launched in 2014.

This was followed in 2018 by the Force Management Statements (FMS), a self-assessment which all Chief Constables are required to produce annually. The statements are designed to provide an explanation of current and future anticipated demand, how the force is set up to meet this demand and what changes are needed to close any demand gap.

ORA

The ORA model provides a structured approach to answering the key questions posed by the FMS. While the risk assessment model has evolved to meet this requirement for UK police forces, these are arguably diagnostic questions that are crucial to any organisation, regardless of sector:

  • What are the demands on my organisation, now and in the future?
  • How are my resources set up to meet these demands?
  • Can my organisation meet future demand, or is there a demand gap?
  • What changes can I put in place to close the demand gap?
  • Is there any residual demand, and if there is, what is the risk to the customer and to the organisation?

The ORA is divided into sections under the headings of; Demand; Assets; Preparedness and Impact, within which are a series of questions which have graded responses, generating a score for each answer. Qualitative data is also captured in the form of the accompanying narrative required for each answer. The assessment, and particularly the narrative, is used to form the basis of the FMS.

As well as the valuable detail captured for each individual question, a smaller number of key metrics are generated by the risk assessment. The risk assessment is designed to be completed for each individual team or function in an organisation, which means these metrics can be used to gain a high-level view over organisational functions. This is to identify areas of  higher risk where focus may be required, and also to highlight areas of  good practice where there may be learning to be gleaned.

The ORA has been piloted in Derbyshire Constabulary this year as part of the FMS 2020 approach and has been shared with other national forces for testing.

So, what have we learned about demand?

We knew demand in policing was increasing, but the ORA has allowed us to understand which functions are more affected than others and where we might want to focus our analysts’ efforts on building better demand understanding. The ORA has also given us an organisation-wide perspective of our ability to predict what different demands might look like and has surfaced some key areas of hidden demand that Assessing the harm to the public that could result from any unmet demand provides us with the impact part of the equation, allowing us to calculate the risk of service delivery failure for each function.

We know more than we’ve ever known about the status of our assets across the organisation. The ORA provides us with a structured approach to capturing information and insights about our resources in terms of their capacity, capability, condition and performance.

Completing the assessment at the individual function level means we can assess any gaps and make a judgement about where the greater level of risk is, focusing on the functions that need it most. Our understanding of demand continues to improve. This is an area where the challenge was recognised, but perhaps not always well understood or articulated. The ORA allows us to go beyond a generalised narrative of demand outstripping supply, to a more nuanced understanding of the extent of the gap between ‘what we need to do’ and ‘what our resources allow us to do’.

Assessing the harm to the public that could result from any unmet demand provides us with the impact part of the equation, allowing us to calculate the risk of service delivery failure for each function. Our mitigation (planned changes) can then be prioritised in accordance with this risk, ensuring resourcing and investment are directed to areas of greater risk.

Finally, we continue to learn about the effectiveness of the things we choose  to do, what works and what doesn’t. By revisiting the demand gap after we have made changes, we can understand whether the actions we have taken have had the desired effect in reducing the demand gap,  allowing for reassurance where they have, and learning where they have not.

The application of the ORA in Derbyshire continues to extend beyond the FMS requirement. We are using the ORA to build a detailed blueprint of our organisation and how it operates, considering the capacity, capability,  condition and performance of our resources, all in the context of the demands facing us.

You can contact Kate at: kate.hemstock@derbyshire.police.uk

The Service for First and Last resort – Understanding Demand was published in the October 2020 edition of Stronger, ALARM’s member journal. ALARM is a membership organisation run by members, for members, supporting risk professionals that support our communities and citizens. For more information, please visit alarmrisk.com. 

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