Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

PSNI urged to focus on good service

The police need to put more emphasis on quality of service and less on meeting specific number targets, say auditors

The police need to put more emphasis on quality of service and less on meeting specific number targets, auditors have claimed.

In setting performance goals for the PSNI, the Policing Board has put too much focus on quantitative measures rather than qualitative, according to an Audit Office report.

Comptroller and Auditor General Kieran Donnelly was examining how the board formulated its annual Policing Plan last year, which set out areas for improvement for the police.

While commending many facets of the plan, Mr Donnelly said there was more scope for focusing on service quality rather than obtaining specific numerical targets, such as arrest rates or officer redeployments.

"The process for developing the plan and the format of the finished documents has remained relatively unchanged since inception," he stated.

"There is a continued focus upon quantitative targets as a measure of performance. While these have their place, national developments in policing signal a greater emphasis on qualitative targets as a measure of performance."

Mr Donnelly said there was also "little evidence" within the plan of benchmarking performance targets against other police services in the UK or internationally. But he said the targets that had been set were reasonable and had clear deadlines.

He did raise concerns that the validation of certain data used to measure targets was inconsistent. "There is consequently a risk of inaccurate reporting of performance," said the report.

Mr Donnelly added: "An effective partnership between the Policing Board and the PSNI is key to achieving continuous improvement in policing. While this is important to everyone in society, it cannot be achieved by goodwill alone. Instead, it needs sustained effort, supported by arrangements that meet the needs of both partners."

A spokeswoman for the Policing Board said: "The Northern Ireland Policing Board takes its legislative responsibilities in respect of continuous improvement very seriously. This NI Audit Office Report and its recommendations, as they relate to both the board and the PSNI, will be considered by the new board in due course."

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