Police managers have incomplete picture of police strength
The picture that the managers of the Dutch police force have of the number of police officers who can actually be deployed does not agree with the actual situation. There is no clear understanding of who is available and able to work. In practice, the ability to deploy and plan police officers varies from one regional unit to another and from one basic team to another. This exerts pressure on the police’s ability to perform their duties in certain regions.
As part of an audit of the deployability of police officers, the Netherlands Court of Audit analysed data available on the national police force in the period mid-July 2018 to mid-July 2019. The analysis revealed that on average police officers could be deployed for 71.4% of their time. Leave, sickness absence and training accounted for the remainder of the time. The figure varies from one basic team to another. The deployability of all basic teams ranges from 64.4% to 77.8%.
Deployability of basic teams within the units
Police duties under pressure
Far from all the theoretically deployable police officers can actually be deployed. Fixed days’ leave, four-day working weeks of nine hours per day, exemptions from night shifts, deployment elsewhere within the force, participation in the riot squad, training backlogs and injuries punch holes in staffing levels throughout the country, especially at night and on certain days. This creates a vicious circle in which too much is demanded of a small group of officers and puts pressure on essential police duties, such as providing help in emergencies, maintaining public order, community policing and the running and staffing of police stations.
Only the basic teams are aware of the actual situation
As this information is not recorded clearly and centrally, the managers of the national police force are largely ignorant of the situation. They have only a general awareness that police officers cannot be deployed on account of sickness, leave or training. The day-to-day reality is known only to the basic teams, which have to develop their own complicated spreadsheets to manage their work.
Police managers cannot function without this information
The Court of Audit believes the deployment of police officers boils down to having the right man or woman in the right place at the right time. It concludes that the national police managers cannot take strategic decisions and pan-regional measures without this information. Staff deployment and planning must be improved and information on deployability should be known at all levels of the organisation, including the national level.
The Court of Audit recommends that the minister of Justice and Security, who is responsible for the police, ensure that the police managers, regional units and basic teams can rely on good and clear information on the police force. This would prevent the various tiers of the police force misunderstanding the actual deployability of police officers.