18th April 2020
Police productivity down over 30%
Chief Commissioner can you please explain to Victorians why the Criminal cases that have been initiated at Magistrates Courts have dropped by over 38.5%, and why all the key performance indicators relating to crime have consistently and unabatedly headed in the wrong direction since you were appointed?
Policing has a number of core functions[i], and that is how the performance of Victoria Police must be measured. In turn, the Chief Commissioner’s undeniable responsibility is to ensure that Victoria Police achieves satisfactory performance measured against each of the core organisations benchmarks.
One of the key Policing functions is the “detecting and apprehending of offenders.”[ii] Which leads to perpetrators being put before the courts to determine their guilt and if necessary, administer a penalty.
While it is difficult to accurately correlate precisely the statistics from various sources, what is evident is that Victoria Police as an organisation from 2014 to the present has been catastrophically inept. The explanations that are proffered will indeed be interesting.
It is no wonder the community do not feel safe when the number of criminal cases initiated before the Courts has dropped, by over 30% according to the Magistrates Court Victoria’s Annual Report.[iii]
The community is much more adroit at picking up on crime trends than they are given credit for, and have serious doubts about the material they have been fed for a long time. The Chief Commissioner’s rhetoric never seems to match the crime reported in the media, and what people see and experience.
The Community are presented with micro snippets of the criminal trends as headlines, but the community recognizes they are not reflective of what they know, hear, and feel. With crime climbing 17% over the period and a 24% increase in the number of unsolved crimes, it is no wonder. They are big numbers.
Between 2014 and 2019 the number of criminal cases initiated has dropped, by an incredible 66,644 cases and unsolved crime rose by 24% or over 43k crimes left unsolved. That is some black hole.
That means, potentially 66,644 perpetrators never faced court and continue with their criminal pursuits, and if anybody argues more Police will fix it, “Tell ’em they’re dreaming” because the statistics do not bear that out. There were 4390 additional sworn members added to the strength over that period with no noticeable improvement, and not even a stabilization at any stage, just the decline.
Operational Police are spinning their wheels rather than performing their proper function. This is not a Rank and file issue as we have fine Police; it is the consequence of a deeply flawed administration.
We continue to argue that it is not the number of Police, but how they are used, that is the core issue
How does that all look when the statistics from 2014 to2019 are overlayed?
Variables 2014 to 2019
- Crime Rate up compared to 2014 by (all crime) 77,607 + 17%
- Total offenders up but falling since 2016 (adults only) 37,129 + 12%
- Court cases instigated compared to 2014 down by (adults only) 66,644 -30.5%
- Unsolved crime climbing compared to 2014 by (all crime) 43,205 + 24%
- Police numbers up compared to 2014 by 4,390 +26%
The CAA has argued since 2014 that policing has been going the wrong way and the data proves we are right.
Significantly, during Chief Commissioner Ashton’s tenure, the following has occurred and an inquiry needs to be established to answer the following.
- Why is the crime rate substantially higher at 17%, over that period and is trending up?
- Why are the total number of Offenders charged in serious decline and trending down?
- Why are unsolved crimes trending parallel with reported crimes, so no headway being achieved despite a substantial increase in police numbers?
- Of most significance, why are Cases initiated at Court trending down? They should be running parallel with offenders charged as the period started out. What happened to the 66,644 cases?
- With an increase of 25% in Police numbers, why are these key indicators in serious decline?
What do these figures tell us?
As VicPol rapidly grows with an extra 4,390 Police over that period, so does all the components that the growth is supposed to curb, an oxymoron perhaps.
More Police staffing is achieving,
- More crime.
- Fewer offenders detected
- Fewer cases initiated at Courts
- Fewer crimes solved.
Victoria Police are operating as an antithesis to a functional Police Force.
These figures indicate a crash in 2016 in the number of cases initiated at Court, and the only notable event apart from a Crime Tsunami predicted by CAA, was the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.
It looks suspiciously like the Royal Commission made these recommendations without proper consideration of the broader impact on Policing. If it is the cause of the overall failure of Policing, this paradoxically, adversely affects the people the Royal Commission was seeking to protect.
These sorts of outcomes are predictable when the management of Policing is outsourced as with the Independent Review into sex discrimination and sexual harassment, including predatory behaviour, in Victoria Police in 2015.
The Chief Commissioner should have addressed both of these issues, and if the Chief Commissioner could not fix the issues, a replacement is in order. It seems erroneous functions placed on the Operations of the whole force, as fashionable as that may be, may have had adverse consequences for Policing more generally.
Anecdotal information from former and serving Police is that the recommendations from the Royal Commission have created an insurmountable workload and the police have been used as a tool of the Commission with Police performing jobs that are not a Police function. The personal toll this has had on Police has been dramatic and needs proper evaluation.
These statistics can also be an indicator of the failure of another critical core function of Policing, proactive crime prevention.
Many years ago when the then Chief Commissioner Kel Glare was faced with a rising crime rate and the Government who were unable to provide extra Police, he decided that his only alternative was to reduce crime in the first place, and embarked on building up the proactive/preventative functions of VicPol. These initiatives worked spectacularly, and far faster than even he imagined.
Unfortunately, Chief Commissioner Nixon for whatever reason later dismantled the proactive functions of Victoria Police, and her successors failed to recognise this error or rebuild this basic policing function, and now we are paying the price, reaping what was sown.
The Government cannot be blamed, as they seem to have supplied whatever resources the Chief Commissioner has wanted. They would it seems, have been sold the line, more Police will solve the problem. It has not solved the problem, and it is getting worse. However, they should have recognised the decimation of Pro-Active Policing and taken action. In their defence, the current Chief Commissioner routinely publicly confuses Pro-Active and Re-Active policing, an embarrassing trait for a Chief Commissioner to not understand basic policing philosophies.
A source of frustration for the CAA is the complete lack of understanding of Proactive policing and a failure to effectively engage with it by the Police administration.
The CAA argument, all the way along, has been, it is not how many Police you have, (within reason) it is how you use them.
It must now also be acknowledged that the much-lauded Victoria Police Capability Plan is seriously flawed because according to these statistics, VicPol lacks capability.
The ratio of Police to the population in Victoria is the highest in the country[iv] and arguably as a force, the worst-performing.
Victoria Police, as an organisation, in 2014 initiated the equivalent of 16.8 cases per annum for every sworn police officer, before the courts. A number floating around reasonable expectations, but when you step back and look at the performance of Victoria Police over the 2014 to 2019 period, the picture that emerges, it is not attractive.
In 2018/19 the force achieved an average of just 10 cases per sworn police member, at an average of less than one case per month per sworn member for the organisation and as a measure of productivity, this is a disaster. In spite of a rise of nearly 900 in the Non-Sworn police, allegedly to free up police for their core function.
We also checked New South Wales (NSW) and Queensland (QLD) case figures.
Compared against NSW, their sworn members achieve about twenty (20) cases per sworn member per annum, that is 50% greater output than their Victorian counterparts. That statistic is embarrassing.
Moreover, the cost must be a consideration; we are paying $23,000 as an average per case while in NSW it costs an average of $11,500 per case, again half what it cost in Victoria. That is a productivity issue and a job for the Auditor General.
In QLD, the picture is similar to NSW. A Police Force of 11880[ix] sworn Police with a budget of $2.6 Billion[x] managed 188706[xi] cases at a rate of 15 cases per annum per member. At nearly 33% better performance by cases than Victoria, at a cost of $13,700 per case, that is over 40% cheaper than Victoria.
Victoria Police’s performance as an organisation is nothing short of an embarrassing failure.
The CAA question is, who will take responsibility for this calamity.
Of the many apparent systemic failures, in our view, the most significant, aside from leadership, is the flawed administration of police operations.
Anecdotally we are aware of Police Stations who struggle in some cases not achieving the number of operational police on the street that they did twenty years ago, and that is just plain ridiculous, expecting members to function effectively with the resultant workloads is a recipe for staffing welfare issues.
It makes absolutely no sense to continue to throw more Police at the problem, (and ruin more Police lives) when clearly that will not work.
The additional Police provided to VicPol by the present Government will have no impact and will cost Victorians a poultice, for no return, and contrary to what the Police management may espouse, you just can’t arrest your way out, the data indicates this philosophy is a failure; it doesn’t, never has, and never will work.
We have argued for five years for an inquiry into the administration and function of Victoria Police as we have watched the organisation lurch from one catastrophe to another and goodness knows what is still ahead.
Ironically, it has taken that time for the statistics to surface to justify our calls.
These numbers point to an administrative failure of some significant magnitude that will be unfairly laid at the feet of the Government, and that is why the next Chief Commissioner cannot be drawn from those that formed part of the failed consecutive administrations of Nixon, Overland, Lay and Ashton.
To do that would be a Political folly and an own goal of epic proportions.
Like all failed organisations, the failures are unlikely to be confined to only one area, and so it is with VicPol, with two spectacular smack downs from the High Court of Australia and the looming findings from the Bourke Street Massacre Inquests unlikely to be complementary. The findings of the Royal Commission into Informers we suspect is also going to be very painful.
An inquiry into the numbers of police struck down with PTSD, and the number of suicides of serving and former Police would add weight to the assessment, that Victoria Police have a seriously flawed administration, and have had for some time.
[i] Victoria Police Annual; Report 2019 ‘Our Function’ page 1
[ii] Victoria Police Annual report page1
[iii] Magistrates Court of Victoria Annual Report.
[iv] Victoria Police Annual Repot 2019-Bureau of Statistics Aust.
[v] Victorian Magistrates Court Annual Report 2018/19
[vi] Includes cases from other agencies who have prosecutorial functions, but estimated to have minimal impact.
[vii] New South Wales Local Court Criminal Division Annual Report
[viii] Magistrates Court Victoria Annual Report
[ix] Queensland Police Annual Report 2018/2019
[x] Queensland Premier Press release June 2019
[xi] Queensland Magistrates Court Annual Report 2018/2019