20,000 police officers

An extra 20,000 police officers plus 6,500 police staff have been promised nationwide by 2023. To get best value from those resources, it’s important to take an evidence-based view. At our recent Client Conference, we were joined by Andrew Wilson, Lisa Taylor and Ashley Liggins from Northamptonshire Police, who talked us through their strategy for allocating resources.

Andrew has recently been seconded to the National Police Chiefs Council, where he was working on the structure and enablers required to recruit the additional 20,000 police officers nationally.

One of the key take-aways from his talk was the scale of the work required to put 20,000 officers on the beat. Taking into account precept rises and attrition, police forces need to recruit a total of over 50,000 officers in the next three years. The recruitment process itself sees many unsuccessful candidates. Process attrition modelling undertaken by Process Evolution showed, for example, that 43% of candidates don’t get as far as the assessment centre. Of those that do, 16% don’t turn up, and 34% don’t pass. The upshot is that a total of about half a million applicants could be required to put an additional 20,000 officers into police stations.

There has been quite of lot of recent recruitment, Andrew told us, so by March 2023 at the end of the uplift, over 32% of officers are expected to have less than three years of experience. As a result, police forces will also need to think carefully about demand reduction and learning and development to help deliver real benefits and it may take some time.

Andrew has been working with Process Evolution to model the recruitment process to help identify issues such as whether any protected groups are disproportionately affected by a particular attrition step during recruitment, and whether forces are on track to meet their recruitment targets.

Andrew is also working with Process Evolution to see whether the police have the capacity to vet the new officers. “Vetting capacity is not as bad as we first feared, but there is still some additional investment required,” he said. The evidence base suggests that it’s sensible to allocate a small proportion of the 6,500 new police staff to vetting as vetting delays can lead to strong candidates giving up and moving on to other job opportunities. One reason for delays is that forces don’t have streamlined vetting processes. While the most popular tool for managing vetting is a dedicated vetting case management application, the second most popular tool is Microsoft Excel, which is likely to be much less efficient. Some forces are still using hand-written forms for vetting applications, which must then be rekeyed and rechecked. In one police force, 90% of vetting applications are received by post.

Making recruitment data available to forces will help them to understand what other forces are doing, and whether their recruitment processes will deliver the results they’re aiming for.

At a local level, the first challenge is to work out the baseline, which opens up conversations about establishment versus strength. Forces are budgeted using full time equivalent (FTE) figures, but the baseline considers the Annual Data Requirement (ADR) methodology. The ADR figures covers FTE and headcount but includes people on career breaks and externally funded secondments, and sponsored officer posts. These roles wouldn’t normally be counted in the force base budgeted establishment because they’re paid to carry out a specific role, rather than being a generally available resource. In Northants, the base budgeted police officer establishment is currently 1,249 FTE, which gives an ADR headcount of 1,337. By March 2024, subject to funding allocation decisions, the ambition is to significantly increase the base budgeted police officer establishment.

To allocate the resources effectively, Northamptonshire Police are investing in building the capability of their business analysis team, using Process Evolution tools. Lisa told us: “By investing in our employed staff, we can offer a much more sustainable understanding than we would get by spending the same money on a one-off piece of work with an external consultancy.” Over the last two years, the team has been able to provide evidence for a frontline operational budget increase of £2.4m and for a precept increase of approximately £3m. They’ve also unlocked savings of £350,000 using Outcome Based Budgeting (OBB), and a further £200,000 improving Night Time Economy patrol targeting using the Hot Spot methodology.

Northamptonshire Police are taking a prioritised approach, as Ashley explained. The first three phases involve an analysis of core demand, an analysis of frontline policing demand and resourcing, and a study of the demand on operational and enabling departments. The final fourth phase uses prioritised reviews, which involves working out where to do a focused analysis for productivity improvements and efficiencies, and understanding how to mitigate resourcing gaps.

To understand the demand, Northamptonshire have developed a five-step systematic approach:

  1. Clarify the scope.
  2. Create an AS IS understanding of demand, using system data capture, process discovery, observation, operational experience, and engagement.
  3. Model TO BE scenarios which could include changes in organisation structure and resources.
  4. Report and recommend evidence-based options to enable the force to make informed decisions.
  5. Support implementation, which involves monitoring progress and responding to real world changes.

Using this process, and tools including Response Profiler, Northamptonshire Police have been able to model their future resources requirements. The conclusion is that the uplift will not be enough on its own to meet the increasing demand. The fastest growing area of demand is response, while public protection is the area with the biggest shortfall in officers. “We need to get an understanding of how we can close the gaps, not just move resources around,” said Ashley. She added that the need for productivity improvements and demand reduction “jumped out” from the research, and there might be opportunities to reduce the demand on response by intervening earlier, for example with missing persons cases which drive a lot of demand.

Thanks to the team from Northamptonshire for sharing their experiences with us. If you’d like to find out more about the Client Conference, see our report Ten Top Tips for Analysts in the Police and Fire Service, and our conference round-up.

Find out more about our work with police forces here.