Police outsourcing: lessons from the private sector

Police outsourcing: lessons from the private sector
My article in the Guardian yesterday, which was by the way atrociously sub-edited to make me seem an illiterate, suggests that the police are now often outstripping private companies in their thirst for outsourcing. Can we please build an evidence base for how different types of outsourcing affect cost and quality? In a related piece, Kate Blatchford at the Institute for Government provides a handy guide for government...
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Police privatisation…

Police privatisation…
I have written about police outsourcing at the Institute for Government blog here. One thing I missed out was that I think one of the reasons police chiefs are so eager to outsource is because of entrenched problems in the police workforce. Those in the police service performing administrative and specialist roles who are not warranted officers are undervalued, while warranted officers can still (after decades of ‘civilianisation’) be found in administrative roles for which they have little aptitude or appetite. Is it right to grab for the outsourcing quick-fix to such entrenched issues?...
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Call the sheriff!

Call the sheriff!
The Institute for Government has spared me a little time to think about who should come forward to be police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales. Currently, neither the parties nor government has given the question as much thought as they should have. Ultimately the caliber of PCC candidates will have have a major impact on the future of policing in Britain – and unless the parties get exciting candidates, there are concerns about whether voters will even turn out on a call November night. Read my Guardian article on the subject today here and the full Institute report...
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It really happened

It really happened
Wow! I haven’t posted here in quite some time – usual excuses apply – but there seems to be good reason now. Penal populism is back. I’d love to say that I was surprised but we looked at this in June and it was clear then that the UK’s experiment with a less punitive justice system was at an end. Now the death-knell is sounding loud and clear and there is frankly no way that the Ministry of Justice will meet its expenditure reductions with these sentencing...
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A double u-turn on sentencing policy

A double u-turn on sentencing policy
David Cameron’s speech on Tuesday sounded the death-knell for sentencing reform in UK. Ken Clarke had promised us a ‘revolution’ and what we  got was a spluttering false-start, as his plan to reduce the prison population by 3,000 by 2014-5 was vetoed by a prime minister cowed into submission by the vocal ‘lock ‘em up and throw away the key’ brigade. He said it simply and clearly: “we will not reduce the prison population by cutting prison sentences”. In fact, every single measure Cameron proposed in his speech seemed intent on ensuring that more people...
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Does television violence cause crime?

Does television violence cause crime?
In September 1974, robbers in Ogden, Utah, attempted to kill their victims by forcing them to drink Drano (a cleaning product), stating that they would have chosen another method had they not seen the depicted as shockingly effective in Magnum Force, starring Clint Eastwood, two nights earlier.[iii] That same year, a made for television film, Born Innocent, was shown in the U.S., depicting the rape of a girl with a broomstock. The next day a gang of four children copied the crime, raping a nine year old Californian girl and her eight year old playmate on a beach in the same manner.[iv] Unfortunately,...
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Three social media teething problems

Three social media teething problems
About two months ago, I set myself up online: blog – check; twitter account – check; newspaper blogs – check. It seems to be going quite well – see here and here for two articles about a parenting programme that I published today. The big benefits of my social media adventure are that I feel more up to date on what’s happening in the crime policy world, I’ve made some new contacts, and I’m pretty sure I’m getting a better feeling for the media and journalism. Still, there have certainly been some teething problems: 1. Social media is distracting. The...
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Crime and policing: politics vs evidence on BBC radio

Crime and policing: politics vs evidence on BBC radio
Speaking on Radio 5 live today, I tried to bring some evidence to the current debate about whether government cuts will lead to higher crime rates. My main points were: - The police definitely make a difference to crime rates. One of the best studies showing this looked at the impact of flooding London’s city centre with coppers after the July 7th 2005 terrorist attacks. - You can have less police and less crime. New York officer numbers fell by around 10% from 2000-2005, at the same time as crime plummeted - The police matter less than other services when it comes to reducing crime....
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Re-offending rates falling – but what does it mean?!

Re-offending rates falling – but what does it mean?!
‘The Ministry of Justice continues to mislead, referring to ‘reoffending’ when it means ‘reconviction’’.  So says Richard Garside from the King’s College Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (via twitter). He’s right. Reconviction rates show us when people get caught and convicted of committing a crime after being convicted previously: reoffending rates (which are usually much, much higher) show when people commit a crime after having committed a previous one. The problems with the language of reoffending rates don’t stop there, however – which leads me to want to share some points...
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Crime is shifting online – but don’t panic!

Crime is shifting online – but don’t panic!
Sony is the latest of a number of companies to suffer a breach of their security system. Sony don’t know, or won’t say, how many people have had their data stolen but it’s likely that a hacker (or group of hackers) is sitting somewhere in the world with the personal data of millions of Sony Playstation users who gamed online. The company doesn’t rule out the theft of credit card information, with its European Communications Director Nick Caplin warning customers: “While there is no evidence that credit card data was taken at this time, we cannot rule out the...
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Hot or not 3: pink prisons

Hot or not 3: pink prisons
The UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is looking for ways to make prison work. He’s talked about getting prisoners to work while doing their time, which sounds like a decent idea but is actually hugely expensive (security costs are so high that no prison-based enterprises are profitable). He’s talked about improving rehabilitation of prisoners through payment by results – let’s see what happens with that.  But has Ken thought about pink jumpsuits? These beauties (see left) are intended to shame and humiliate prisoners – and they’ve been used by wacky hard-line sheriff Joe Arpaio in...
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Hot or not 2: Indefinite Public Protection Sentences

Hot or not 2: Indefinite Public Protection Sentences
Here’s a policy idea that has already been put in place in Britain: Indefinite Sentences for Public Protection, or IPP sentences for short. IPP sentences were introduced in the 2003 Criminal Justice Act. IPP sentences can now be given out by any judge in Britain to anyone found guilty of a violent or sexual offences of a reasonably serious nature, if there is strong evidence that that offender poses a serious threat to public safety. There is a long list that specifies the crimes for which IPP sentences can be given – but a reasonably fair rule of thumb would be that if the minimum sentence if...
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The public are wrong about crime: blame pollsters

The public are wrong about crime: blame pollsters
A poll published in The Times today (subscription required) once again told us that the public are an angry lot who would, if they had their way, lock up everyone who broke one of the ten commandments for a very long time indeed. The Times is a paper that has to make money so I won’t spill all the beans here. But I will let myself use some of their material to comment on the polling company Populus who asked excellent questions on their behalf – that is if the purpose of surveys is to give the person who commissioned the survey exactly the results they want to hear…. Let’s take...
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Tipping points and “decriminalisation” of drugs in Portugal

Tipping points and “decriminalisation” of drugs in Portugal
At a certain point, a problem becomes so common that everyone knows someone who is suffering. So it was with drug addiction in Portugal in 2001. After the collapse of fascism following the bloodless left-wing military coup of 1974, society experienced rapid change and drug use became associated with progressive values – a way of dissociating oneself from past fascist cruelties. Initially a problem only among working class and the workless in Lisbon and other big cities, heroin use increased rapidly and spread across the country. With relatively low levels of education and drug awareness, the...
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Lisbon’s football hooligans provide lessons on AV

Lisbon’s football hooligans provide lessons on AV
The Juve Leo members’ clubhouse in central Lisbon is a anthropologist’s dream. Skulls with bullet holes, flags and mottos adorn the walls. And plaques pay tribute to those injured or killed in past riots involving this group of Sporting Clube de Portugal ‘ultras’ – the most fanatical of football fans, who are sometimes involved in violence. Low ceilings keep in the smoke and the noise and those standing by the door appear to act as unpaid bouncers, monitoring comings and goings. I got an approving nod on my way into the clubhouse this weekend, presumably due to the green...
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Nick Herbert on police and crime commissioners

Nick Herbert on police and crime commissioners
Policing Minister Nick Herbert laid out a cogent defence of elected police and crime commissioners in today’s Telegraph. He writes: “Over the years, the police have become estranged from the municipalities from which they sprang and increasingly look to the Home Office. But they are a monopoly service and officers must be accountable for their actions and performance. Far better, surely, that they should answer to local communities than to box-ticking officials in Whitehall.” Now, I quite like this argument. Yes, it would be great for police to be responsive to local communities,...
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Hot or not 1: Booze wardens

Hot or not 1: Booze wardens
So, this is the first of my attempts to get your views on crime policy – as well as being an excellent excuse for me to share some of the wackier ideas knocking around in policy circles. While some of these ideas will never have been tried, many will have been trialled in specific countries or cities across the world. This idea is one that I failed to persuade Downing Street on back in 2006. I thought I’d resurrect it because I think it’s rather elegant. So, anyway, if you live in any big city in the UK or U.S. nowadays you’ll know that parking illegally is a pretty risky...
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Organ harvesting in Kosovo

Organ harvesting in Kosovo
The phrase ‘harvesting of kidneys’ is sufficiently evocative to make even the most ravenous traveler put down his British Airways sandwich. But when I read this story on the flight back from Kosovo to Britain last week, I barely paused before tucking in. Strange, perhaps, because the story is quite attention-grabbing. The allegations are that organised criminals harvested the kidneys of poor locals (and willing donors from nearby Turkey and Albania) and arranged for wealthy foreigners to visit Pristina, Kosovo’s capital city, in order to implant the organs. More shocking still are...
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What to steal?

What to steal?
Pristina is the capital city of Kosovo, a small republic in south east Europe that lies just south of Serbia, the country that most vigorously disputes Kosovo’s legitimacy having once ruled over it as a semi-autonomous province. Walking through the streets brings a few hazards. But this is not because the city has particularly high crime. Most residents consider the city very safe . No, the danger comes from navigating the various obstacles, many of which do have criminal origins. The first difficulty is getting past parked cars. These aren’t just parked on the edge of the pavements,...
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Policing 2011: Will the Government compromise on police and crime commissioners?

Policing 2011: Will the Government compromise on police and crime commissioners?
Until today, I was certain that 2012 was certain to see the first direct elections of police and crime commissioners in England and Wales. The political will behind this manifesto commitment is, after all, palpable and insiders will testify to the fact that both Cameron and the up-and-coming Minister for Policing Nick Herbert are resolute in their support for reforms. But at a policing conference today, I found myself involved in a six-person panel discussion in which only one  person – the Conservative Lord Wasserman – wholeheartedly supported the government’s plans. The rest of...
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