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Devon & Cornwall police chief's survey concerns

By This is Exeter  |  Posted: February 16, 2010

Stephen Otter, chief constable of Devon & Cornwall police

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CONCERNS have been raised  about the use of  surveys after  the performance of Devon and  Cornwall’s police  plummeted  for no discernible reason.
A decision by the Home Office to sweep away a raft of  crime-related targets in favour  of a single “public confidence”  has been welcomed. However,  concerns are spreading within  the Association of Chief Police  Officers (ACPO) and the Home  Office that the figures are unreliable following a number of  anomalies.
In September 2008, surveys  showed that 53.2 per cent of  people agreed that Devon and  Cornwall Police and local authorities were “dealing with  anti-social behaviour and  crime” in their area.
That response ranked Devon  and Cornwall second out of the  43 forces in England and  Wales.
But by September 2009, that  approval rating had slumped to  46.9 per cent — putting the  force 35th in the national  table.
Acting deputy chief constable Debbie Simpson told a  meeting of the Police Authority, which governs the force,  that the confidence figures had  dipped, despite falling levels of  crime and more offenders being brought to justice.
She confirmed that the force  had consulted other top-performing forces, but said the  reasons for their success  weren’t clear.
“If you are asking for a silver  bullet,” she told members of the  authority, “there isn’t one.”
Chairman of the authority,  Mike Bull, said the confidence  rating was “being seen as  something of an anomaly” given the percentages were declining while the force was improving.
Chief Constable Stephen Otter said the Home Office was  carrying out “urgent research”  into the issues. Nevertheless,  Mr Otter said there were things  the force “could do better”.
 He added: “It is still important for us to focus on improving the service we give to  people.”
Sergeant Steve Tovagliari,  chairman of the Devon and  Cornwall branch of the Police  Federation, was concerned unreliable ratings could lead to  wasted time and effort.
“No one wants to return to  the bad old days when officers  had to waste their precious  time recording a plethora of  information to meet meaningless targets set by the Home  Office,” he said.
 “But it is ludicrous to start  measuring forces by public  confidence, if no one then  knows which forces are performing well or poorly, and  where improvements need to  be made.
“It is demoralising for our  officers, who know they are  doing a good job, to see these  figures. It is equally confusing  for the public, who deserve to  know that the system being  used to rate their force is accurate and reliable.”
A spokesman for the Home  Office denied that the confidence measure was being reviewed.
He added: “The public confidence target is measured using the British Crime Survey.  The survey is widely acknowledged by independent experts  to be a high-quality survey  which provides comparable data across forces that is consistent over time.
“We believe the survey provides a robust measure of public confidence.”

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    Fee, Sidmouth  |  February 16 2010, 1:29PM

    Perhaps ACPO could commission a new survey to see whether or not surveys are regarded as reliable or not?

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    Bill, Devon  |  February 16 2010, 12:52PM

    It was only in last weeks news that Mr Otter is planning to cut 180 Police officer jobs quoting: ¿The public need to gauge us on the service they receive not the number of officers we have,¿ So not only reduced officer numbers but also reduced confidence. Brilliant!

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    Roger, Devon  |  February 16 2010, 10:18AM

    Don't worry Mr. Otter I'm sure the Home Office will soon bring in a new system that disregards public opinion and shows the Police as better than ever with no crimes and 100% clear ups. Whether we will believe it is not important as the public merely pay for everything and deserve nothing.

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    Chris, East Devon  |  February 16 2010, 8:14AM

    Funny how the police dont like statistics when they dont give the image they want, they are to used to manipulating the ones they give out!