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Back to Archives | Back to June 2010 Contents 

The Business of Policing: Managing for Value

Tony Veneziano, Chief Administrative Officer, Toronto, Canada, Police Service

ederal, state, provincial, regional, and local governments continue to be challenged by a serious financial crisis and limited monies for a number of competing priorities. Law enforcement agencies rely on governments for most of their financial requirements, and are therefore facing significant budgetary pressure as governments attempt to balance their overall budgets and keep tax increases to a minimum. In many local jurisdictions, policing represents the largest part of the municipal government’s budget. Police managers therefore have a responsibility to their funding providers, oversight bodies, and taxpayers to justify both the capital and operating funds needed to deliver public safety services and meet longer-term strategic objectives. But it doesn’t stop there. They must also be continuously mindful of the importance of using taxpayer money wisely and ensure they get the greatest return from every dollar spent. Not exceeding the approved budget is important. However, obtaining the greatest value from the money and assets they are entrusted with is equally important.

Managing for value means doing the right things, the right way. It is a collective responsibility, requiring all members of the organization to continuously think about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it, and how they’re doing it and ensure it’s the most effective way of achieving the things they want to achieve.

In delivering the various programs, operations, and services, police managers essentially manage people, assets, contracts, information, projects, and processes. While it is difficult to prescribe how to manage for value, key areas to consider follow:

People: the largest expenditure and most important resource. People and how they are managed are keys to an organization’s success. People represent the largest part of a law enforcement agency’s budget and are its most important resource. Consequently, it is essential that law enforcement agencies draw the greatest value from their human resources—both uniformed officers and civilians.

To this end, it is important that

  • quality and qualified people are hired, consistent with the organization’s values and objectives;

  • people clearly know the organization’s expectations, priorities, goals, and objectives;

  • people know their duties, responsibilities, and activities, and why they are important;

  • people have the skills, knowledge, and information to do their jobs and are provided with required and effective training on an ongoing basis;

  • absenteeism is managed so that people are at work as much as possible and are productive;

  • procedures and training programs are in place to ensure the safety of the organization’s people and the public they serve;

  • standards, objectives, and appraisal processes exist to measure and provide feedback on how well people are doing;

  • clear expectations exist with respect to how people should carry out their duties, and they are held accountable when their behavior, conduct, and performance do not meet the organization’s expectations, policies, and values; and

  • an environment of mutual respect is created, in which effective two-way communication exists, and members at all levels are comfortable bringing forward concerns or new ideas.

Effective supervision: usually the difference between success and failure. Proper supervision is vital to the health and success of any organization. Supervision is critical to managing risks; ensuring the organization’s objectives, services, and priorities are achieved; and obtaining maximum value from all employees.

Good supervisors ensure people carry out their duties effectively and efficiently and in compliance with policies, procedures, and directives. Supervisors can cause an organization to succeed or fail, and a breakdown or deficiency at this level can prove costly from a compliance, a financial, a liability, and an operational perspective. All too often, however, organizations do not invest the time and effort to make sure supervisory staff know their responsibilities and are given the tools and training to properly do their jobs. It is therefore critically important that organizations make it a priority to develop well-trained supervisors who understand and consistently carry out their roles and responsibilities.

Processes: it’s good to periodically challenge the status quo. Law enforcement agencies operate in a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Consequently, in order to be successful in day-to-day operations, police managers must continually review, analyze, and improve their processes and procedures to ensure they are up-to-date, efficient, effective, value-adding, and essentially contribute to the organization’s objectives and priorities. This means challenging the status quo and past practices from time to time and making changes to help managers better achieve their objectives. Police managers therefore need to ask themselves questions such as the following:

  • Are they deploying their uniformed officers efficiently and effectively?

  • Are they patrolling the right areas?

  • Are their enforcement activities effective and value-adding?

  • Are they partnering with the community and other stakeholders effectively?

  • Are they conducting investigations effectively?

  • Are they taking full advantage of intelligence and other information and sharing it strategically and effectively?

  • Are their hiring procedures efficient, effective, and conducive to recruiting and promoting the best and most qualified people?

  • Do their organizational structures make sense from a functional, operations, service-delivery, and management perspective?

  • Are their support services effectively and efficiently enabling the achievement of their core policing objectives?

The Toronto Police Service recently established business analysis teams to map and analyze key business processes to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the processes and to recommend improvements that take advantage of opportunities, mitigate risks, and essentially increase the overall value of the people deployed to the process or activity. The business analysis teams are comprised of frontline officers who have been trained in business analysis. Technology is used, as appropriate, to facilitate key functionalities and information requirements and to further streamline the process and increase efficiencies.

Recognizing the importance of offender management in crime reduction, the Toronto Police Service decided to examine the offender bail compliance process. The result of this review was the establishment of a dedicated Bail Compliance Unit (BCU) in each police division. The Toronto Police Service’s BCU consists of officers trained and dedicated to perform frequent but random bail compliance checks on violent offenders. The establishment of these units enables heightened offender management, including the location and apprehension of serious offenders who are wanted on warrants. To assist the officers, a Web-based bail compliance program was designed in conjunction with the Toronto Police Service’s information technology division. This program contains automated features designed to meet the key information requirements of the BCU.

Projects: doing the right things, the right way. Many law enforcement agencies have capital budgets to provide funding—usually from the issuance of debt—for large facility, equipment, and information technology projects that provide long-term benefits to the organization. Because governments have many competing infrastructure priorities, and at the same time are trying to keep their level of debt at a fiscally responsible and affordable level, capital funds are also very limited.

Law enforcement agencies must move forward on the right projects that will help meet their most critical priorities and key strategic objectives and that will provide the greatest return on their capital-budget investment. To this end, a comprehensive business case should be completed for each project outlining both one-time and ongoing costs, benefits, expected outcomes, and how the project is consistent with and will help achieve the organization’s strategic plan and objectives. Also included should be the impacts of not moving forward on the project and alternatives considered to achieve the same outcomes and objectives. Developing a good cost estimate for the project and documenting the assumptions made in developing the estimate are very important from a transparency and accountability perspective and are an essential reference point if the cost estimate, scope, or schedule changes during the project life cycle. A thorough analysis of capital project requests is crucial to ensuring decision makers approve the projects that will provide the greatest value to the organization and that the limited capital funds are used wisely.

Once a project is approved, mechanisms must be put in place to ensure deliverables are achieved and that the project is completed on time and on budget. Proper planning; clear objectives and deliverables; and including people with the necessary expertise, knowledge, and skills to manage and work on the project are all critical to success. These mechanisms and strategies must be put in place through a well-thought-out project charter before the project is started.

In Toronto, effective project management is a priority for the police service, which has established a formal project management framework. All major facility and information technology projects have steering committees comprised of command and senior staff that oversee and provide guidance to project teams. A project charter is developed for each project, outlining the scope, deliverables, timelines, and budget, as well as relevant risks, dependencies, and assumptions. The charter also designates the executive sponsor, project sponsor, project manager, and key project team members and stakeholders and sets out the roles and responsibilities for each. Regular meetings are held by the project team and steering committee to ensure the project is on track and to identify any significant issues, so corrective action can be taken. Project management training has been provided to appropriate uniform and civilian members as well as to command and senior officers to ensure all levels of the organization understand key project management principles, risks, and success factors.

Assets: make optimal use and ensure they are safeguarded. It is important that police agencies make optimal use of their assets, which include vehicles, facilities, computers, radios, firearms, and other equipment, so that the agencies obtain the greatest value from these assets and keep waste to a minimum. Appropriate action must be taken to protect assets by implementing effective preventive maintenance and state-of-good-repair programs. This will help reduce asset downtime, keep repair costs down, and assist in extending the life of the asset. In addition, it is important that effective procedures and mechanisms exist to safeguard assets from loss or damage.

Reliable information: it’s difficult to operate effectively without it. Law enforcement agencies require and rely on information in conducting their day-to-day business and operations. Information technology and systems are business enablers that exist to process and provide accurate, reliable, and timely information for operations, decision making, and other purposes. It is therefore important that information systems meet the police agency’s business needs, support administrative and frontline operations, and provide the information required in a timely, efficient, and cost-effective manner. The investment required to purchase and implement information systems is usually significant, so it is essential that the right systems are carried out in the right way and fit into the organization’s computing environment and infrastructure.

Contracts: get the best value and hold vendors accountable. In addition to internal support resources, law enforcement agencies use external companies to provide various goods and services required in day-to-day operations. It is important that the organization’s procurement processes are effective in getting the goods and the services they need, when they need them and result in the best price or value to the organization. Good contracts that are properly managed and that protect the organization’s interests must be put in place so that vendors can be held accountable for delivering the goods and the services requested at the cost to which all parties have agreed.

Performance indicators: measuring outcomes and outputs. As public sector organizations with no real bottom line, police agencies must have indicators in place that help measure how well they are doing. In this regard, outputs cannot be confused with outcomes. For example, increasing the number of contact cards, charges, or arrests are outputs. Achieving a lower homicide rate and decreases in other major crime categories are outcomes, as they show they are contributing and making a difference to the police service’s overall objective of making its respective jurisdiction safer. Police agencies must have and use both output and outcome indicators to measure the performance of their operational and support functions, so corrective action can be taken if and as required.

Risk: must be managed, but it’s not always a bad thing. Risk in a law enforcement agency can come in many forms, from the behavior or conduct of frontline officers to legal, operational, technological, and financial risks. Risk is usually heightened during times of transition or change, both in an organization’s internal and external environment. Decentralized operations without proper supervision can also increase risk. In addition, a lack of clarity regarding roles and responsibilities in operations or processes, and weak ethical values and practices, can contribute to a higher level of adverse risk in an organization.

It is therefore important that all key risks are identified and properly managed; failure to do so can adversely impact the operations of the organization; expose it to unnecessary financial and legal liability; and erode the confidence that elected officials, oversight bodies, and the public have in its police agency.

Risk management activities typically tend to focus on negative events and rely on diligent corporate compliance programs and control mechanisms for mitigation. However, being unable or unwilling to take advantage of opportunities is also a risk that could impact the value that police agencies achieve from their resources and operations.

Consequently, it is important to recognize that not all risks are necessarily bad, and that with proper analysis, controls, and tolerances, some level of risk is healthy and can actually result in a positive impact on the organization and on staff morale.

Managing for value: every police manager’s responsibility. As governments struggle with a serious financial crisis, law enforcement agencies face significant budgetary pressures that impact and challenge police managers’ ability to effectively deliver public safety services. It is therefore incumbent that police managers prepare budgets that focus on priorities and that result in the best value for every dollar that is spent. Most law enforcement agencies practice managing for value without really thinking about it. However, it is important that more rigor and thought is brought to the process so that police managers can justify their actions and activities and effectively demonstrate how they contribute to the achievement of the organization’s objectives, priorities, and outcomes.

It is each police manager’s responsibility to ensure that each respective organization achieves the greatest value from the budget and people they manage by setting clear expectations; measuring performance; identifying and eliminating waste and inefficiencies; and continuously looking for ways to improve the performance of the unit, division, district, or command. Managers should also be constantly promoting and reinforcing value for money and risk-management thinking among all their staff.

It is important to always keep in mind that any waste, inefficiency, or project cost overrun in one area prevents a valuable activity or project from being done in another area, thereby reducing the overall return provided to taxpayers on their public safety investment. ■



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVII, no. 6, June 2010. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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