Introduction to Police Workforce Benchmarking

Having worked on projects with many Police Forces across England and Wales a key theme that emerges during discussions is a desire to understand how the organisation compares relative to Other Forces. Our expectation is that each of these organisations will be different both in terms of the processes they apply and the context they work within. Sensible, usablePolice Workforce benchmarking takes account of these differences between areas with the view of identifying the root cause of variations within metrics.

One comparison method that we have seen used throughout Police Forces is comparing across Most Similar Groups Set out by HMICFRS. Although comparison within the groups can be useful for some exercises, it very much depends on what you are looking to compare as evaluations are not always applicable with the Police Workforce.

Constables per 100,000 population

A relatively simple question that Force’s may pose would be how does the number of officers that we have compare with other forces? When normalised for population levels the Workforce data shows a high degree of variability between different Forces:

  • At the lower end of the metric there is Lincolnshire & Wiltshire (105), Staffordshire (106),  Warwickshire (107)
  • While on the higher end of the range there is Metropolitan Police (279), Merseyside (189) West Midlands (179)

Clearly, the Force’s position within this spectrum will have a bearing on the workings of its operation

Neighbourhood Policing – levels of PCSOs

Neighbourhood Policing has been a key area of focus for many Forces over the past few years, partly driven by various national reports including the Modernising Neighbourhood Policing Guidelines published by the College of Policing back in March 2018. Having supported numerous Neighbourhood Policing reviews over the past two years, it is evident that there is considerable variation in the way in which Neighbourhood Policing is structured and delivered. Furthermore, there is a lack of clarity and consistency across Forces as to the role of Neighbourhood Policing Officers. This lack of clarity is particularly evident when it comes to the role that Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) play in the delivery of Neighbourhood Policing.

pcso numbers

The graphic above shows the vast range when comparing across Forces the number of PCSOs per 100,000 population. The Welsh Forces (shown in Red) display a higher number of PCSOs per head of population, posing the question, is this due to lower population density or possibly more likely due to additional funding from Welsh Government. Depending on your Force’s position within the graphic, the emphasis that is placed on PCSOs in the delivery of the Neighbourhood Policing may be markedly different.

Levels of Service – Comparison of Experience levels

Comparing the level of Officer Experience across the Police Workforce can provide an understanding of the distinct challenges that each face. At a national level 6.3% of Officers were seen to have less than 1 years’ experience, while almost 11% had greater than 25 years on the job.

Experience levels

The distribution of experience levels is interesting and will be a function of Force’s recruitment and attrition rates in the past. Overall Officer numbers have been following a downward trend over the past decade; this is evidenced by the red bar (5 to 10 years) which is proportionally smaller than would otherwise be expected – this reflects a period in which little recruitment took place. The relatively low proportion of Officers with 30 plus years experience would be anticipated as many Officers choose to take their pension when reaching the 30 years landmark.

Although the national proportion of Officers with less than 1 year experience sits at 6.3%, there are a number of Forces in which this rate is significantly higher. The figure below shows the top 5 Forces with Officers having less than 1 years experience. The impact of having so many recent starters may manifest as issues particularly around the ability to deliver the Response Operating Model. In most Forces Officers tend to start on the Local Policing Response teams and build up their knowledge. With such high proportions of inexperienced officers Forces are likely to experience unique challenges including high levels of double crewing and limited ‘Blue Light’ trained Response drivers.

proportion less than 1 year

On the other hand, having too much experience may bring about different considerations. There is some evidence to suggest that levels of fitness may drop as age increases and may see increased rates of sickness and restricted Offices in Forces with significant levels of very experienced Officers.

Although the experience levels may be viewed as beneficial in the short-term there are organisations which could be referred to as “ticking time bombs” given the high percentage of Officers due to retire in the coming years

proportion 25 plus

The figure above shows 6 Forces with greater than 13% of their workforce with at least 25 years experience. Making an assumption that all of these Officers would be looking to retire within the next 5 years, suggests that these Forces would need to replace at least 1 in every 7 Officers they currently have. This type of analysis highlights the importance of Workforce Planning will have in the coming years. For these Forces, even to remain at current Establishment levels may require unprecedented recruitment and training efforts.

Each Force does have different experience dynamics at play. The difference to the national picture is shown in the following diagram

National Average Experience

Gwent Police is an interesting example, with higher proportion of Officers with less than 12 months in post and lower levels of overall experience. This is a complete juxtoposition from Staffordshire in which 37% of Officers have been on the job for more than 20 years. From a knowledge sharing and best practice viewpoint there may be some lessons that Forces such as Staffordshire can learn from the likes of Gwent for the future if high levels of recruitment and training are required.

Supervisory Rates with the Police Workforce

At a National Level, over three-quarters (78%) of Officers are Constables, with 15.1% being Sergeants. However there are wide-ranging differences across the different areas.

  • Proportion of Constables ranges across Forces with Gwent highest with 80.7% and Lincolnshire lowest with 72.7%
  • Sergeants levels also see considerable variation with Lincolnshire highest 18.4% and West Yorkshire lowest with 12.4%

Summary of Police Workforce Benchmarking

Analysis of the Police Workforce data shows that each Force is structured slightly differently and although each organisation will be performing similar roles, the specific contexts will be different. Benchmarking provides a method of comparison between the various Forces posing questions about why variations exists and understanding where areas may be out of kilter with the norm.

For further information about the Police Workforce Benchmarking Analysis or any questions, please contact Ali Motion