Target men

A Met policeman reveals how obsession with official figures distorts the work of the force

I am a long-serving officer in the Metropolitan Police and my passion for the job is matched only by my frustration and anger at what I see going on around me. The Met is capable of, and frequently achieves, great things. But this happens in spite of the way it is run, not because of it. For years, I have watched as the service has been disfigured by the need to satisfy targets dictated from above, fundamentally changing the way police do their job. What follows is my attempt to bring to light what is happening inside the Met, and doubtless in constabularies throughout the land.

The Metropolitan Police Service is now dominated by figures. Every facet of the organisation has targets and quotas on which everything else is measured, assessed and planned. The need to achieve these targets usually outweighs any other consideration, no matter the consequences. Vast sums of money are channelled into meeting these numbers, at the expense of everything else.

It starts at the response level — which is what we now call the people in uniform. Every officer at the police station where I work is set targets for arrests per week. Pressure is brought to bear on officers to bring in arrests because the team then receives a point. It doesn’t really matter whether the arrest is followed by a conviction. If the officer is shown to have made an arrest for burglary, or any other offence, on paper at least that means he is doing his job.

It does not take long to work out what the natural consequence is: people are arrested for nothing. I have reviewed hundreds of cases in which the ‘evidence’ has turned out to be woefully inadequate. And everyone knows it, from the arresting officer, through to the custody sergeant and on to the unfortunate detective.

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