Perverse impact of performance measures on policing
It has long been recognised that performance measures can detrimentally affect behaviour, creating perverse incentives and causing gaming behaviours which serve to meet the letter, rather than the spirit, of any given policy. Drawing on data on the use of out of court disposals and stop and search from 2000–2020, and comparing police performance under the Best Use Of Stop and Search Scheme and the Offences Brought to Justice target, this publication uses (and extends) Patrick’s Perverse Policing Model to explore the different forms gaming can take and when/why the opportunities for gaming are, and are not, realised.
It is argued that all performance measures begin life as presentational rules, that is, their function is to present an acceptable image of the police to the public. Such rules have no necessary influence on behaviour. They either remain as such or become enabling (encouraging gaming) or inhibitory (encouraging compliance) depending on which response attracts the least ‘within the job’ trouble (i.e. negative attention from managers). Far from being a perverse or unintended consequence, it is argued then that gaming may be ‘baked in’ to performance management. The tools for (so-called) gaming may be developed alongside, or within, performance management frameworks, with gaming thus ‘baked in’ to the system.