Scrutiny and oversight

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were introduced in 2012 across most of England and Wales. Their role is one of oversight and scrutiny: their aim is to ensure that a police force is running effectively, and to cut crime as a result. A key part of their remit is to increase public trust in police forces and hold them to account; this means that PCCs have a democratic mandate to respond to the concerns of local people. Certain among them encompass fire services as well, which is the case in Northamptonshire County.

Northamptonshire Police Force’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (PFCC) is Stephen Mold, who was elected in 2017. He’s determined to build trust in Northamptonshire and ensure that the force operates efficiently and effectively.

Building trust

In 2018, a report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Rescue Services (HMICFRS) concluded that the Northamptonshire police force ‘needed improvement’. The PFCC needed to reassure the public that they were working hard to put these improvements into place, and that their processes for doing so were transparent and open.

Simulator was an ideal way for the Commissioner’s office to gauge Northants citizens’ opinion of the force and what it should focus on moving forward. They used Points Simulator to engage with the public; a tool which enables an organisation to gather citizens’ priorities on things that are less concrete than budget figures, like time and existing resources such as officers and focus areas. Service groups such as “answering telephone emergency (999) calls” and “speaking to and hearing from communities” were put forward and participants could allocate points to the services they valued the most.

A powerful prioritisation tool

Simulator works by providing sliders that participants can move left or right to allocate or remove points from a service or focus area. It’s built in a way that demonstrates the tradeoffs that are involved with complex decision-making, as well as providing a platform for the public to share their views. This means that, rather than saying they’d like to increase resources in all areas of policing, which wouldn’t be particularly meaningful for the PFCC, respondents are only given a limited number of points to work with. If there’s a particular service that they think is most important, they may have to take points away from another to balance it out. Consequences that appear with each move of a slider inform the respondent about the impact of their change.

At the end of every Simulator is the option to include a set of demographics questions. Northants went a step further with this section and included a set of questions related to how the public felt about the police force, and whether or not they trusted them to address crime effectively in the area.

The result was clear, informed and valuable feedback that provided a real insight into the things that citizens valued the most. And by consulting with the public on the direction of Northants police, the Commissioner’s office demonstrated that they took respondents’ views seriously and were committed to leading change and improvement.

Want to find out more about what Simulator can do for your organisation? Book a free demo and we’ll walk you through it.

More like this? Fostering understanding in Edinburgh with Simulator; Rethinking Policing: Police Service of Northern Ireland