Police availability for duty
The need to improve the way in which police availability and deployability are managed
The Netherlands Court of Audit has investigated whether the managers of the national police force have sufficient information to deploy officers effectively across organisational units and to set the right priorities.
National police managers have false picture of police strength
We conclude from our audit that national police managers do not have an adequate or clear understanding of whether there are sufficient and appropriately equipped personnel within the organisation to take effective deployment decisions. 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.
We recommend that the Minister of Justice and Security, who is responsible for the police force:
- Establish a system that provides clear and reliable planning information for the deployment of police officers. An information dashboard could be developed, for instance, that monitored operational deployability and supported targeted short-term interventions and long-term management. All levels of the police force should have a common and consistent understanding of the effect of planning on the performance of duties. We are aware that planning cannot be fully quantified and therefore also recommend that planning information be systematically supplemented with qualitative evaluations where necessary.
- Define deployability and planning ability in clear and consistent terms so that all levels and all regions use the same principles to calculate how many officers are available and appropriately equipped. The definition of deployability must be shared, operationalised and applied throughout the entire organisation.
- Calculate the minimum required deployment for the regional units and basic teams and respond to any weaknesses. Base any temporary or additional measures on this number.
- Use planning and deployability information to manage deployment more efficiently, for instance by sharing working modalities. The nine-hour working modality, for instance, is at odds with the eight-hour working shift. As a result available hours are not used efficiently or in full. Planning and deployment information should play a greater role in the assignment of officers to units and basic teams. This should also be reflected in the personnel policy, for example in recruitment, appointments and transfers.
- Have the deployment and planning of police officers play a greater role in decisions on tasks and priorities. Share the information with the Public Prosecution Service and mayors so that they, too, can take considered and informed decisions and are aware of the consequences for the deployment of officers elsewhere or later.
- Facilitate knowledge sharing of successful approaches (for instance regarding sickness absence and the allocation of fixed days’ leave) among managers, units and basic teams.
Why did we audit police strength?
The availability of sufficient police officers who are equipped to perform their duties is of great importance, especially in view of the growing pressure to tackle drug-related crime, cybercrime and subversive crime. The audit asked whether the national police managers had accurate information to balance personnel policy with the police force’s duties and priorities.
What audit methods did we use?
The audit was designed to answer the following questions:
- What is the staff establishment, availability and deployment of the police at all levels within the organisation?
- What role does information on staff availability and deployment play in the management of police deployment at all levels?
Our audit included an analysis of information provided by the police covering the period from mid-July 2018 to mid-July 2019. This data analysis enabled us to answer the first question (What is the staff establishment, availability and deployment of the police at all levels within the organisation?). The dataset included information on the staff establishment and availability, sickness absenteeism (short-term and long-term) and various forms of leave. We did not verify the reliability of the underlying data.
We interviewed a total of 91 people at various levels in the police organisation – force management, units and basic teams. We also requested documents on deployment policy from the various levels. We found that planning ability was not considered in deployment decisions but was a relevant concept that provided information on the number of police officers available and equipped to perform their duties.
At national level (force management) we interviewed 11 people, including staff from the HR directorate, its capacity management department and the finance and control directorate.
We also held interviews and requested documents from two regional units that served as case studies for the audit: the Limburg unit (18 respondents) and the Central Netherlands unit (25 respondents). Talks were held with the unit managers, district managers and six basic team managers at each unit. We also talked to staff from the capacity management and planning department and the control department.
The audit was published and presented to the House of Representatives at 18.00 hours on 18 February 2020.
The responses of the Minister of Justice and Security and the chief of the police force to our draft report are included in full in the final report a