SUPERVISION OF POLICE STATIONS
At the end of this module the students will:
have examined the Police Rules relative to the Supervision of Police Stations - particularly formal and informal inspections;
have considered ways of improving the existing system which exists under the Police Rules;
understand the principles of the systems approach to management;
understand the importance of accurate management information to effective supervision of Police stations.
At the end of this activity students will:
· Have examined the Police Rules relative to the Supervision of Police Stations - particularly formal and informal inspections;
· Understand the importance of accurate management information to effective supervision of Police stations.
Supervising Police Stations - A Systems Approach
A systems approach
As we have seen, management is a complex activity and our knowledge of it has been derived from many different sources. The sheer diversity of management studies makes it difficult to produce a consistent pattern which can be applied by practising managers. This problem is not, however, confined to management; in many areas of activity the growth of technology and the complexity of problems that must be solved have made it necessary to find some way of combining the fruits of many different areas of research. Modern medical knowledge has been increased by the application of highly specialised sciences, the results of which have to be consolidated into a usable form, while a space programme requires the practical application of knowledge of such disparate subjects as engineering, astronomy. metallurgy, electronics, chemistry, aerodynamics, physics, and mathematics. This necessity of being able to take a wide-ranging view of complex situations has produced what has become known as a systems approach.
Like many other complicated subjects the systems approach is based on a very simple idea - that of regarding variable activities in terms of 'systems' and 'subsystems'. A system is merely something in which a number of variables interact, but this basic concept can be applied to many aspects of life, including management.
A system is any organisation which has input and output and performs some internal operations of processing or production or both. A system is assumed to be a changing thing which will normally adapt to changing circumstances. We can think of an individual person as a system or a social group of people may form a system, so will a school, a company, or a bank or a shop. Indeed, our concept of system is general and is essentially that of an organised body of some sort which must necessarily transact with its environment.
A system can be defined in the following way:
All systems consist of a hierarchical arrangement of specialised subparts, each purposively linked into structural and behavioural relationships with the others. This structural linkage between the subparts or subsystems serves to maintain and develop the total system by the process of exchanging and transforming materials, energy, and information between the system and its external environment. There is thus an interdependency, not only within the system but between the system and other separate yet interrelated systems, which comprise its environment.
Although these descriptions apply to all types of system, they are particularly useful for the way in which they illustrate the key aspects of societies and organisations. The society of any one country forms a total system that is influenced by its environment - that is to say, the world at large. Within that country there are an infinite number of systems that make up the whole of society - systems that interact and are interdependent on one another. One such system is the police service which itself is composed of numerous systems including police forces and representative bodies.
Organisations are made up of groups of people linked together in formal and informal configurations, but neither the groups nor the configurations are static. People come and go, informal groups break up and reform, and formal structures are adjusted to meet new situations. It is therefore much more realistic to regard organisations as being organic systems which are made up of many interrelated and interdependent subsystems.
A police force is not a fixed structure, but is a constantly evolving organism that should adapt according to changes in its environment and in such a way that what happens in one part (or subsystem) of the force affects others. The aim of the managers within a system is to detect changes in the environment so as to adapt the organisation to meet new demands while at the same time preserving the effectiveness of the system. In addition to the all pervasive social changes described previously, there are other changes of a local or specialised nature that may require even quicker adaptations.
For example, a unit covering a residential area which is falling into decay and being rebuilt will have to adapt its approach to meet the demands made of the police as old residents leave and new ones arrive, with inevitable conflicts as the two processes occur simultaneously. The changes in population will create a variable relationship between the police and the public in that area, and pose new problems which must be identified quickly so that the necessary corrective action can be taken before they get out of hand.
Thus, at the boundary between the police unit and its environment there is a constant process of interaction which shapes the relationship between the local people and the police. The leaders of the police have to manage that boundary so that the relationship is a constructive and mutually supportive one. If the police respond to the needs of the community by playing a positive but impartial role in preventing conflict, creating a feeling of security and responding to urgent calls for help, then the community will tend to support the actions of 'their' police in safeguarding their interests. If the police unit fails to meet the needs of the area, then not only will the policing problems increase in number and seriousness but it will not gain the support needed to contain the problems.
To be able to adjust their approach to a changing environment, police leaders have to be able to 'read' the information coming back from the environment that indicates to what extent they are achieving their objectives - this is the feedback that is an essential ingredient of management control and will be considered in more detail later. They also have to balance the needs of today against the future. Although any good practical police officer can forecast with some accuracy what sort of problems are going to arise in his area in the short and medium term, he may find it difficult to take the future into account because he feels that he must concentrate all his efforts on what is actually happening at present. That what he has to cope with today was probably once 'tomorrow's problem' is obvious, but it requires a perceptive and determined leader to employ strategies that allow for what he sees as probable problems in the future, when he is having to use limited resources to deal with day-to-day pressures. Yet when the demands on the police are changing so rapidly, the ability to prevent problems by intelligent anticipation and influencing events is an important aspect of leadership.
In managing the boundary between the system and its environment, it is necessary to balance the needs of the public and those of the people within the system. This means that in adapting an organisation to meet change, the adaptations must be made in such a way that the basic structure of the system is not weakened by, for example, creating boundary problems between subsystems within the organisation.
Because change does produce internal stresses unless it is managed with great care and understanding, leaders with limited vision may tend to follow well-trodden paths, even when something more radical is needed. It has to be accepted that change is a natural and inevitable fact of life and, provided that it is properly managed and clearly related to genuine needs, it can be accomplished without undue stress.
Changing the system
The significance of interaction within a system is best seen by studying an actual case.
Within a city covered by a large police station, there was a small area that had noticeably changed in character over a period of a few years. From being a quiet neighbourhood inhabited by, generally speaking, older people, it had become a boisterous and sometimes violent area with immigrants from many different parts of the world living side by side with the remnants of the indigenous population. From the complaints emanating from all sections of the community and from the difficulties encountered by the local police, it became clear that the policing system being used did not fit current needs.
To introduce change meant that the police officers who worked in that area, and who made up about a quarter of the staff of the police station, would have to operate as a separate unit and under different conditions from the rest of their colleagues at the station. Thus, from the outset, the design of the new police arrangements had to be geared both to the needs of the community and to divisional police structure. In the event, it was the police structure which posed the greatest problems and, by limiting the range of options, greatly influenced the final outcome. The highly structured deployment, shift, and supervisory systems employed on the division contrasted very sharply with the need for flexibility in the new police arrangements. In implementing the scheme, full use was made of participation by the people who were to work it. Using the public media, the aims and methods were successfully 'sold' to the public so that the new scheme was well received. The police officers working in the area quickly adapted to their new roles. The problems that arose stemmed not from the scheme itself but from the personnel who were not part of the new arrangements. Because their relevance to the scheme had not been recognised, insufficient effort had been put into explaining it to the rest of the staff at the station. Subsequently, amendments had to be made to the original plan to allow for its effects on the people who, although not directly involved, were part of the total system within which the scheme was being operated.
The concept of an organisation as a series of interrelated, interdependent subsystems can be clearly seen in this example, but so too can the way in which these subsystems exist on more than one level.
On the social level, the effect of the new scheme was to split one group of police away from their colleagues to form a new social grouping. On the technical level, the new unit could not operate completely independently - no police unit can; it must work with all other parts of the service and receive support from them. In particular, this scheme depended upon the support of the rest of the division in terms of aid in emergencies, logistics and mutual co-operation in technical matters and, in the social sense, the continued friendship and goodwill between the people working the scheme and the rest of their colleagues.
The need to cater for the social as well as the technical dimensions of a system is a common feature of all management decisions involving people. This is where the knowledge of human behaviour that has been discussed in previous exercises is applied. The technical aspects of a change in the system may be perfectly sound yet lack of awareness of its effects on the social system can defeat its principal objectives. So with the example above, by concentrating on making the scheme technically sound and fully acceptable to the people who were to work it, the decision-makers overlooked the important relationships between those people and the rest of the system. In this case, the feedback from the system in terms of minor practical difficulties was correctly identified as a social problem, and treating it as such resolved the situation satisfactorily.
This does not always happen, however, when changes of any nature are introduced, leaders are often irritated by what they see as minor technical objections which are raised by the people involved. It takes some patience and the use of considerable social skill to analyse the objections so as to distinguish between genuine technical flaws and the outward manifestation of underlying problems of morale and motivation. A useful general rule is that where a scheme is being introduced by a high morale group, people will make light of teething troubles and will improvise and use initiative; where morale is low, slight problems will be magnified into major issues and people will seek constant direction and guidance.
The reorganisation of part of a police division described in the previous section has shown something of the range of considerations that need to be applied by managers in introducing change. To obtain some indication of the functions of a leader in his day-to-day work, we can consider the position of the police officer who is put in charge of the new scheme after it has been set up. In carrying out his job of commanding his unit he will have to perform the following three principal managerial functions.
The unit was set up to provide a more appropriate policing method for a particular area. From the complaints received, the crimes committed, the pattern of disorder, rowdyism and vandalism, the nature of the people, the sources of friction between various sections of the community, and the problems encountered by the police in the past, a picture can be built up of the policing needs of the area. There are statistics available which will give some basis for the application of experience and professional judgement to identify the key objectives which, if achieved, will mean that the police are being successful.
The main objectives are likely to be: to prevent conflict; to minimise the effects of those conflicts that cannot be prevented; to prevent crime; to detect those responsible for crimes that cannot be prevented; and to create an atmosphere of security, mutual co-operation and support within the community.
The measures of success will be mainly negatives: no conflict; no serious disturbances; less crime but a higher clear-up rate for those crimes that are committed; and lack of complaints from the community. Since it is a characteristic of group behaviour-which applies equally to work groups or groups within a community-that high morale produces a higher level of tolerance, more co-operation, making light of minor difficulties and complaints, can be seen to apply here to the community as well as to the police unit itself.
Having decided what needs to be done, it is now necessary to organise the activities that are necessary to produce results, and these activities must then be converted into jobs and people selected to do them. Duties must be arranged to provide a 24-hour service within the bounds of an equitable leave and duty roster, yet having enough flexibility to meet the needs of the scheme. The system must be such that definite subsystems or groups can be formed to provide mutual interaction and support.
Where possible, small teams can be given group objectives as well as each individual being given clear objectives with his job and a means of assessing his performance (think back to the earlier exercises you undertook relative to Policing by Objectives). Physical resources-equipment, cars, accommodation-must be procured and allocated fairly.
2. Implement action
Every person within the unit must be made aware of his or her part in the enterprise, the work that has to be done, the rules by which the unit will operate, and how performance will be measured. People must then be motivated to pursue the aims of the unit. The commitment of everyone to the aims of the unit is essential, because high levels of imagination, initiative, patience, and understanding are required; therefore the design of people's jobs and the manner of communicating these aims to them are critical.
Basically, people must be given the responsibility to achieve something, with the opportunity to use as much of their ability as possible and with emphasis being placed on self-discipline.
The group identity of the unit should be emphasised so as to encourage the formation of strong group norms consistent with the aims of the unit and the rules of the organisation. Communication should be positively employed to keep people in the picture and to provide an upward flow of ideas, feelings, and information.
The unit commander must remember the lower order needs of people (remember Maslows Hierarchy of needs) reasonable working conditions must be maintained and consideration for people's welfare both as individuals and as groups must be given proper weight. Moral support is essential in all new schemes, to overcome the uncertainties and difficulties caused by people not being quite sure of the exact terms of reference of their new role. People often have to experiment to see what reaction they get success and/or official approval signifies a correct assumption, failure and/or official disapproval indicates that they have not identified their role correctly. Role change takes time and can cause stress and worry, so it must be taken into account during the first few weeks of the scheme at least, or even longer for some people.
The success of the unit should be measured against the objectives set for it - objectives which should have been agreed between the senior officers of the division and the unit leader. It is important that the unit leader should have criteria whereby he can gauge the results of the efforts of himself and his group. He has to keep his subordinates informed about their results - a prerequisite for maintaining morale and enabling them to verify that they have correctly identified their roles. He also has to use the knowledge of what results he and his unit have achieved to apply correctives to improve performance and limit failings. As the driver of a car needs to be able to see where he is going and at what speed to be able to steer and use the brake and accelerator, so a manager needs a constant flow of information to enable him to motivate his staff to work harder, rein them in to prevent excesses of enthusiasm, and redirect their activities so as to improve results.
The leader must also use feedback from his environment to check that his objectives are still in line with those of the area he is policing; as we saw earlier, he is not in a static position but rather one of constantly having to amend his aims to meet new problems and situations that come from a changing society.
As part of his control, the leader must ensure that the rules are being followed by his staff and that resources are being used effectively. His principal resource, the people who work under his command, must be utilised correctly and every person must feel that he or she is playing an important part in working towards the aims of the unit. The leader needs to be aware of the standards of performance of each individual relative to his or her objectives; this information he feeds back to the individual concerned so that everyone knows how they are being assessed. Personnel development, a fundamental responsibility of all supervisors, depends on people knowing the results of their efforts and being encouraged, trained, and given the opportunity to improve.
The three sets of activities described above are the key functions of management at all levels and in all types of organisation, whether it is newly created or long established. In many ways, long-established units present a bigger challenge than creating a new one, because of the inertia that must be overcome when traditional aims and methods are found to be unsuited to modern conditions. The extent to which organisations continue to flourish depends on their capacity to evolve to meet new demands, and the police service is no exception. Through the continuous application of planning, implementation, and control, police leaders at all levels can keep the service moving forwards in step with the demands made of it.
A comprehensive definition of planning is :
Planning is deciding in advance what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and who is to do it. Planning bridges the gap from where we are to where we want to go. It makes it possible for things to occur which would not otherwise happen. Although the exact future can seldom be predicted and factors beyond control may interfere with the best-laid plans, without planning events are left to chance. Planning is an intellectual process, the conscious determinator of courses of action, the basing of decisions on purpose, facts and considered estimates.
There is a tendency to think of planning as a specialised activity that is performed by a department created for that purpose, but this is not so. Planning is an operational function - it is for the leader to determine the direction in which the organisation must move. The role of a planning department is to take a detached and objective view of the organisation, in order to seek out all the relevant information so as to be able to suggest alternative courses of action to the leaders. It is the leaders who must decide what is to be done. Essentially, planning departments exist because operational personnel are usually so absorbed in coping with the day-to-day problems facing them that, at most, they tend to plan only for the short-term future. But many resources, for example, buildings, have a long lead time so that someone within each organisation must keep directing the attention of the leadership towards the long term in order for necessary steps to be taken to achieve a steady rate of development with adequate resources available as and when they are required.
Planning consists essentially of the following:
1. Identifying objectives and setting targets in key areas of these objectives.
2. Devising strategies using the available resources to achieve those objectives.
3. Converting the strategies into plans of action that can then be implemented.
Inherent in step 1 is the need to have a means of measuring effectiveness so that the 'targets' are positive and quantifiable, but this has always been a problem for public services. In many industries, it is possible to set an aim such as 'to secure a 40 per cent share of the market for our product' against which success can readily be measured in numerical terms. In public services, success tends to be measured in terms of their ability to continue to achieve reasonable results with limited resources - a much less satisfactory measure of performance. The difficulty of using more positive criteria as measures of police effectiveness arises because the police service forms only part of an involved social control system. The plethora of crime statistics has to be related to the effects on social behaviour of the efforts of government, courts, police, lawyers, and various post-conviction agencies.
The usual practice in the police service is that more and more work must be undertaken with the same resources. Additional manpower is not usually readily available to meet the increasing demands of the public in terms of crime, vandalism, rowdyism, and emergency calls. Planning thus becomes a matter of identifying objectives, ordering them into a sequence of priorities, and allocating resources accordingly in the plans that are made.
Operational systems must have enough flexibility built into them to allow them to adapt with the changing environment. Members of such systems may have to be diverted from their primary role as new, higher priority tasks arise - for example, if large numbers of personnel are needed elsewhere to counter a particular series of crimes - but such sudden changes of role need to be kept to a minimum. Constantly diverting people away from their main areas of responsibility creates the impression that their 'normal' work is unimportant, so that their morale and effectiveness quickly suffer. Some measure of reserve capacity has to be built into most schemes to allow for the surges that police units commonly meet.
In planning, there is natural tendency to continue existing methods and practices rather than to try a change of strategy. There are a number of very good reasons for this:
1. The difficulty of proving that an unknown quantity may be better than an established method, particularly since direct cause and effect are rare in police work. To 'prove' that one system of policing is 'better' than another takes time and lengthy research.
2. New methods have an in built risk of failure and in many public services failure attracts a good deal more attention than success.
3. Change causes turbulence and controversy. A manager has an easier job if he can minimise the amount of change he introduces into his organisation.
4. It is difficult to work out the full implications of changes in a subsystem because of the interaction that occurs with other parts of the system and with the environment. For example, the coverage in the public media about the scheme described earlier produced a reaction in other, apparently unrelated parts of the force area, as members of the public complained that the neighbourhood covered by the scheme was being given favourable treatment.
All these factors contribute to the inertia of a system which must be overcome if it is to be adapted, when necessary, to meet new demands and challenges. Change must not be made simply for its own sake, but obsolescence must not be permitted to set in simply for the lack of dynamic management.
Control is linked very closely to planning: a plan is necessary in order that deviations from organisational objectives can be readily controlled; control is necessary to ensure that a plan is properly implemented and amended as new situations emerge. The word 'control' can be interpreted in different ways, but may be usefully defined as the processes that a manager must facilitate to ensure that corrective action is taken to prevent departures from his aims. One important aspect of control is the enforcement of rules and policies. Rules are an essential part of an organisation, particularly one which requires absolute integrity and incorruptibility, and they must be enforced. If they are out of date and cannot be enforced as they stand, then they should be changed so that people know exactly what is expected of them.
The rules that can be applied in any organisation must be related to the norms of society, therefore, changes in those norms have to be reflected in amended rules. Unfortunately, there tends to be a time delay in most systems, so that rules get out of step with the norms of society and either create resentment or, by tacit consent, are ignored ' Sometimes a supervisor chooses to invoke an obsolescent rule and creates a 'case' that produces a change in the rule. The process of control should include changing the rules as well as enforcing them.
The same is true of policies. All organisations require a means of providing consistency in certain areas of decision-making, and policies achieve this. Decisions can be made lower in the organisation if policies are laid down from above that provide a firm guide as to how specific matters will be resolved. But policies can also become obsolete and act as a source of inefficiency and friction. This is particularly true of long-standing personnel policies since these are, by definition, rooted in the norms of a past society and thus may conflict with those of today's society. Part of the control process must be to review, and update where necessary, all standard policies.
But there is more to control than the enforcement of rules and policies; it should be viewed as a positive measure that is necessary to steer the police service through a turbulent world. The whole process of planning, implementing, and controlling is a continuous cycle or, in systems terminology, a 'cybernetic system'.
The 'control' mechanism monitors the effects of the action that is being taken, detects any deviations from the aims that have been set, and relays feedback about them to the point of decision-making so that plans can be amended or new ones made. If, as an example, we consider the action that must be taken to deal with a ‘demonstration crowd’, we can see the continuous nature of the planning/control process. The senior officer responsible for the advance plans allocates his resources according to his experience and the information then at his disposal, but he knows that there is a margin for error and so has reserve manpower available. On the day, the basic plan is implemented: information is fed to the person in charge and he re-deploys people and brings in reserves to cope with new problems as they arise.
Once all his resources are committed, he must be able to take people from sectors where the problems are easing or the potential for serious disorder is low and send them where serious new problems have arisen. He therefore needs very accurate, up-to-date information as to what is happening in every sector. Lack of such feedback can permit one group of police to be overwhelmed when reinforcements are available but are not used because their availability is unknown. The speed and accuracy of the control mechanism here makes all the difference between a successful outcome and one in which people are seriously hurt.
In long-term plans, the time scale and nature of the feedback may be different but the principle is always the same. All operational police planning features cybernetic systems, which are simply those in which there is a mechanism for feedback and control. They form a basic part of many mechanical and natural processes, as well as being a fundamental part of management. More advanced uses of cybernetics will be considered in the next part of the exercise but for the moment it is necessary to concentrate on organisational control requirements. There are ten linked requirements for adequate management controls:
1. Controls must reflect the nature and needs of the activity. Controls must fit the situation they are meant to monitor. Where statistics are used,' they must reflect the true aims of the system otherwise the accumulation of the statistics may become the objective and not the activity they are supposed to measure.
2. Controls should report deviations promptly. Being told that something has gone wrong is nothing like as useful as being told something is going wrong in sufficient time to take corrective action.
3 . Controls should be forward looking. Quite often it is even better to be told that something is probably about to go wrong, rather than to wait until it actually does. In a crowd control situation, to report 'the crowd is twice as large as expected, they are restive, and I do not think I have enough personnel to contain them' gives the person in charge several options, for example, to send reinforcements, to station reserves near by in case disorder breaks out, or to formulate a new plan that takes the extra-large crowd into account. To wait until events prove that there were not enough personnel is less than helpful.
4. Controls should point up exceptions at critical points. The management by exception principle should be applied in a sensible way so that attention is properly focused on those activities which are critical for success.
5. Controls should be objective. If they are to make any sense, assessments need to be made according to positive standards which are known to both the assessor and the person who is in charge of the operation. This important topic will be considered in more detail in the next exercise.
6. Controls should be flexible. Flexibility is a key commodity in both plans and controls, and the best way of achieving flexible controls is to have flexible plans which can be adapted to meet any reasonable contingency. Controls in the police have to allow for unexpected emergencies, which usually means that provisions are made for people to use their discretion. Such controls need careful calculation so as to permit adequate safeguards where incorrect action could have serious consequences, but without stifling the initiative of those people capable of using it responsibly.
7. Controls should reflect the organisation pattern. Control is an essential activity at all management levels, and every member of the supervisory structure is responsible for exercising control over that part of the system for which he is responsible. The corollary is that every supervisor also needs clear objectives, objective standards of performance, and feedback as to how well he is achieving those standards.
8. Controls should be economical. When a mistake is made, there is a tendency to introduce controls to prevent such a thing ever happening again. The extent to which elaborate and costly (in money or man-hours) controls should be introduced should be related to the probability of a mistake being made and the consequences of such a mistake.
9. Controls must be understandable. The processing of statistical data must not be such that only a mathematician can understand it. This will become more important as computerised command and control centres become more common. Printouts from computers must be designed for the managers who must use them, not for computer experts.
10. Controls should indicate corrective action. To be able to correct deviations from his plans, a manager needs to know exactly where they are going wrong. This is not always easy, because in police work the links between cause and effect are not always apparent. Certainly, however, diagnosis is made more probable if feedback is sufficiently detailed to indicate where the results are deviating from the standards set, and what action appears necessary to correct the deviations.
Organisations are not static structures but form systems that must change to match their changing environment or they may collapse. Within an organisational system, there are many interrelated and interdependent subsystems, the composition of which change as people change jobs and as the organisation adapts to changes in its environment.
In order to be able to evolve to meet the changing needs of the environment, an organisation needs internal resilience and this comes about through the social and technical support people receive through the interaction of the subsystems that make up the organisation. In introducing change, managers have to be able to anticipate the likely effects on the system, not just on the subsystem or subsystems directly concerned but those which will be affected through interrelationships and interdependencies. By correctly identifying the total effects of potential change a manager can use the appropriate decision-making and communication method to avoid causing unnecessary tension or friction within the system.
Key functions of management are to plan what is to be done, to implement the results of the planning, and to control the resulting action. These form a continuous cyclic process, with control information being fed back to the manager to enable him to update his plans.
Planning is concerned with identifying objectives, devising strategies, and converting these strategies into action. In public service the effectiveness of planning tends to be measured in terms of the provision of an adequate service with limited resources. Consequently, managers in public service, such as the police, need to be constantly aware of the order of priorities in their objectives and be prepared to revise it so that they provide the optimum service with resources at their disposal.
In planning, a conscious effort has to be made to overcome the natural inertia of the system, much of which stems from the uncertainty associated with change.
Control is necessary to ensure that plans are correctly put into action and fulfil their aims. Rules and policies are part of the control process, but updating them is as important as enforcing them. The main purpose of control is to feed back to the leader what he needs to be able to carry on the continuous process of planning. Ten requirements have been suggested as a basis for effective management control.
Supervising Police Stations - Management Information
The nature of management information
The system of planning, implementing action, and controlling, described in the previous exercise, relies for its success on a flow of information and it is quite possible to view an organisation as a total information system within which managers act as decision-making centres through which information flows and is processed.
By analysing the nature of the information passing through an organisation and the direction of its flow, it is possible to streamline decision-making processes, identify communication problems, and eliminate a great deal of wasted effort. It is necessary to ensure that the information used to monitor performance focuses attention on true objectives and not administrative procedures.
For example, an increase in the number of emergency calls answered by a police force does not indicate that the police force is more efficient than it was, because a prime aim of the police is to prevent the crimes, disorder, or traffic accidents that cause people to call the police. The measure of performance of a crowd control plan is not the number of arrests but the absence of the need to make large numbers of arrests.
Because police work is largely concerned with the gathering, processing, and dissemination of information, it is not necessary to stress the importance of an efficient information service running through and around a police organisation. But, simply because there is so much concern with reports, forms, and statistics, it is necessary to distinguish genuine management information from all the rest.
Information overload is a serious social problem, and in the police service there is a need to limit the amount decision-makers need to plan, implement, and control their work. This need becomes more critical when computers are being considered for management information purposes, first because of the sheer volume of data a computer can produce in a given time, and second because much money and effort can be wasted if unnecessary information requirements are built into the computer program.
In terms of planning, by processing the number of calls by the time and area, over a period, it is possible to calculate what disposition of cars will provide a given probable level of response. But response times measure only one aspect of policing, and the allocation of resources to achieve a rapid response to emergency calls has to be balanced against the other demands made of the police. This is not to say that the information provided by the computer is of no value. Quite the contrary-processing computer-held information to produce incident patterns by time and area can improve police deployment, but we are still a long way from a total computerised management system in Pakistan, and in any event, their usefulness can be easily overstated.
The basic requirement of management information is that it must enable a manager to control his results and this means that it must provide him with some form of objective measurement in the critical areas that distinguish between achieving his objectives and failing to achieve them.
These measurements need not be rigidly quantitative; nor need they be exact. But they have to be clear, simple and rational. They have to be relevant and direct attention and efforts where they should go. They have to be reliable-at least to the point where the margin of error is acknowledged and understood. They have to be understandable without requiring complicated interpretation or philosophical discussion.
Because there is so much routine information, it is easy to become bogged down by it. This has been a problem for a long time and it is getting worse. As early as 1919, F. W. Taylor proposed the principle of 'management by exception', in which instead of the manager concerning himself with all the routine matters which occur, he should focus his attention on significant departures from the routine-whether good or bad.
Types of information
The information required for management purposes comes from two sources - from within the system and from the environment in which the system exists.
Information from the environment
The number of crimes, accidents, incidents of violence, vandalism, and hooliganism which occur clearly provide some indication to the police as to the extent to which their objectives are being achieved. Unfortunately, to be of any value as management information these statistics require very careful study because they reflect influences other than those of the police. For example, the inability of society to cope with one persistent juvenile criminal can produce scores of burglaries despite the efforts of the police, because if every time the child is caught and convicted he is immediately freed to commit further crimes, then his contribution to the statistics is more a reflection on society than on the police. Traffic accident statistics are susceptible to many variables, yet common sense suggests that the probability of being caught by police for excessive speed or dangerous driving does have some restraining influence on most drivers and so prevents accidents.
Because they are subject to so many variables, statistics of this kind are particularly subject to short-term chance fluctuations so that, while it is possible to see them in time, trends tend to emerge as historical facts rather than as indicators for control purposes. Experience and judgement are needed to be able to detect when a number of events constitute a definite trend which must be met by a change in tactics.
The preoccupation within the police for collecting facts and figures must not be allowed to obscure the importance of information that cannot be easily converted into mathematical data; the fears of elderly people living alone, the sense of frustration in the victims of vandalism, and the tensions that threaten to erupt into violence in an area of rapid population change all provide valuable information that must find its way into the control decisions that are made.
The police service must also react to the type of changes in society discussed throughout your training so far. Police leaders have to sense public attitudes to current problems - since police forces need the active support of the public, they have to be keenly aware of public expectations.
Reports and procedures
All organisations rely on formal reports, forms, and procedures to regulate their activities and to supply senior levels with control information, but they themselves require to be controlled. This problem is not confined to the police. Management control procedures can get out of hand when:
1. Different specialist departments at headquarters set up their own procedures to obtain basically the same information. For example, both the personnel department and finance section may both want details of days off through sickness but might have different procedures for obtaining this information.
2. Managers try to solve problems using procedures instead of having better policies, clearer delegation, or improved direction.
3. Procedures are instituted to correct one off mistakes that may never happen again.
4. Procedures become obsolete because the need for them has passed, they have not been kept up to date, or failure to apply them properly has led to them breaking down.
5. Managers devise procedures to repair an obsolete method of operation rather than set up a more effective system.
6. Managers fail to appreciate the real purpose of some procedures, their cost, the extent of duplication, and how they can be overhauled.
All of these conditions are as likely to occur in a police force as in any other organisation. Since all police organisations are continually evolving, it is necessary to check all procedures at periodic intervals to ensure that the development of the organisation is not being stunted by ill-fitting control mechanisms.
Basically, most management information systems should follow the same basic pattern:
1. Collect accurate information.
2. Process relevant information into a form in which it can be transmitted through the system without distortion.
3. Collect the information in such a way that it is in a form that renders it most suitable for decision-making.
4. Store the information in such a way that it is readily accessible to those people who have to make the decisions.
Many information systems are deficient in all or some of these processes; information may not be collected at all, or it is so extensively filtered on its way through the system that it loses its accuracy, or it is in a form that is incomprehensible to the people who really need it, or it is stored in such a way that retrieval is difficult or even impossible. In the headquarters of many organisations, including police forces, there are huge quantities of paper recording masses of information that cannot be used simply because no one can retrieve the exact document he needs when he needs it
Unfortunately, the more sophisticated the system, the easier it becomes to store information, and the more difficult it is to store only what the organisation really needs, since people tend to keep something rather than risk not keeping it.
The importance of informal communication has already been emphasised previously, and it is only necessary here to issue a reminder that managers can never rely entirely on the information fed to them through formal reports. They must go out and meet people, visit work-places, and be willing to listen if they are to really know what is happening. The easiest way to visualise this important point is to consider the difference between meeting someone and receiving a letter from him. When you meet people, what they tell you is augmented by the way in which they convey their feelings, doubts, confidence, and enthusiasm. This human contact provides an additional but essential dimension to the basic information that is actually spoken, in the same way that informal communication rounds off the information coming through the official channels.
But although informal communication is an integral part of all organisations, it must supplement an efficient management information system to provide the facts for decision-making when and where they are wanted
Management information is the life blood of any organisation. On one hand, there must be a distortionless flow of useful information through the system, but on the other hand it must not be such as to cause information overload.
Care has to be taken to ensure that information actually reflects a key aim of the service and is not used because it is readily available in statistical form. There is always a danger that managers will concentrate their efforts on activities that produce a measurable result rather than a more important aim that cannot be readily measured in quantitative terms.
Information coming into the system from its environment indicates what managers must do to ensure that their organisation fulfils the purposes for which it exists. Information from within the system monitors performance through reports and procedures and indicates how the people within the organisation feel about their work.
To be of any value, management information must be available to decision-makers when and where they need it, so that in addition to a flow of up-to-date and accurate intelligence there is a need for an efficient means of collation and retrieval
Computers have many advantages: they can store large amounts of information which can be quickly and easily recovered, perform routine transactions automatically, make searches to identify subjects with common features, prepare statistics, and process them to reveal patterns. The disadvantages of computers are cost, lack of flexibility in the way in which some information can be stored, and the difficulty of programming a machine to fit the exact needs of the police, and their limited availability in Pakistan.