Pointers for measuring the outcomes of police work

The police are funded by public money, which is why they, like other public organisations, are held accountable for their actions. But what is meant by police performance? Is it mainly crime rates and the number of completed crime investigations or does it include citizens’ experiences with the police? An assessment of performance measurements at ten police jurisdictions* provides various pointers to improve the measurement of police performance in the Netherlands. It needs to be clear what the purpose and level of the police performance measurements are before these pointers can be used. This is the conclusion of a study by RAND Europe, commissioned by the WODC (Research and Documentation Centre

Agreement on purpose of measurements

Careful consideration must be given to why police outcomes should be measured, for instance. In the Netherlands, there are different perceptions regarding this purpose, depending on the responsibilities of the parties concerned. These parties could be the regional police unit, the Ministry of Justice and Security or academic staff. Some mainly want to collect quantitative data to demonstrate that citizens are getting value for money, while others also consider qualitative data necessary to improve the services they provide. According to the researchers, agreement on these matters can be reached through consultations between key stakeholders, such as the National Unit (Landelijke Eenheid), regional police units, municipal authorities and the Ministry of Justice and Security. The observations and perspectives of other stakeholders, such as the Public Prosecution Service and the Netherlands Court of Audit, can provide valuable additional information.

Agreements on level of measurements

In addition to agreements on the purpose, agreements are required on who sets the purpose, indicators and targets for the measurements, and whether this is done on a national, regional or local level. This is necessary as the study shows that the key national stakeholders currently do not have a clear picture of the many purposes and indicators that are being used at present. The reason for this is that arrangements are the responsibility of local and regional stakeholders.

Overview of foreign measurement methods

The study shows several promising and innovative measurement methods, including the Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle used in England and Wales and North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany). By implementing the continuous process of planning, doing, checking and acting, the police there are getting more grip on the outcomes of their work. Indicators are another example that help address problems and give impetus to improvements. In Seattle, for instance, they have indicators for the fair and impartial treatment of individuals and groups. The choices made for purpose and level can make performance measurements in the Netherlands more coherent. It will then also become clear which practices from abroad are feasible for use here.

*Australia, Canada, England and Wales, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany), Sweden, The Netherlands, The United States (Seattle).