Progressive police & crime planning and budgeting

Jon Harvey /   June 29, 2015 at 8:32 PM 1,948 views

I had a swell day in Leeds yesterday with the The Democratic Governance of Policing: The Role and Implications of Elected Police and Crime Commissioners conference. This was organised by the University of Leeds (Building Sustainable Societies research group) and the British Society of Criminology. You see the agenda here. Lots of fascinating speakers and discussions. Thank you to the organisers, especially Stuart Lister who took the lead in organising the event, I believe. It was first meeting of the Policing Network. There will be a number of blog posts arising from the day, but I will start with this one to look at the impact that PCCs could have upon how policing and crime budgets are formulated. Regular readers will know, I have a particular interest in resourcing matters. (See herehere and most recently here for example). I was left wondering yesterday about how many PCCs would grasp the opportunity to introduce progressiveplans and budgets as opposed to regressive ones… Let me explain. The Harvard Philosophy professor John Rawls was mentioned several times yesterday. A relevant quote from his “A Theory of Justice” is:

Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are both: (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged, consistent with the just savings principle, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity.

In other words, where inequalities exist, they should be tackled positively and only allowed to continue if they benefit the least well off / healthy / safe etc. (Please correct me if I have that wrong). This is a basis, as I would see it of progressive taxation as opposed to regressive taxation. Progressive taxation relies on the principle that those who can pay more should pay proportionately more into the public purse than those who are less able to pay. (As everyone knows: an income tax regime where rates rise as income rises is progressive whereas a sales tax where everyone pays the same percentage is a regressive tax.) So how does relate to policing plans & budgets? For me it all comes down to the resource deployment formula. If this is based purely upon population and reported crime incidents (which is the basis of Thames Valley’s current formula: see here) then not only is this almost tautological (since rates and incidents are highly linked to both numbers of officers and population) but also, I would argue, it is regressive. In other words the areas of high crime, ASB (etc) are getting no greater a slice of the police ‘cake’, as it were. Instead, I would argue for a resource deployment formula that is a) based upon harm / risk of harm (as opposed to incidents and reported crime) and b) favours areas with higher levels of crime,  making it progressive. As was pointed out at the conference yesterday by Simon Holdaway (andnow on twitter he was happy to report!) often crime is focused on just a few wards of a police area. But the resources may well not be deployed appropriately or even proportionately to those areas. Now I am not saying that the policing and crime responsibilities should only be focused on harmful crimes, but I am arguing for resource deployment that disproportionately gives more to areas of high harm in its full sense (the areas can be communities of interest as well geography by the way).  This for me would result in more just policingas it would be about tackling harm inequalities (just as health services should be about tackling health inequalities). It is in the gift of PCCs to make this progressive resource deployment happen. This is the moment to begin to do this, I would contend. This also (of course) needs to be reflective of what the PCCs put in their plans, naturally. (And for the record: budgets follow plans, NOT the other way around!!! Budgets are subordinate to plans and therefore they come second!!!) This is partly why I fundamentally disagree with the approach being taken by my PCC who appears not to want things to change that much and also wants the balance between rural & urban policing to remain fixed in aspic… whether is the right or wrong balance. So over to you PCCs: the power is in your hands as to whether you wish to introduce progressive plans and budgets, that seek to tackle harm inequalities or not. In my view, if you are committed to doing all that you can for victims, there is only one choice to make… Courtesy of Jon Harvey via A Just Future: Fair for All

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