Crunch time for forces

Kevin Sheehy, head of the criminal justice practice at simulation modelling software specialists Lanner Group, talks to Police Professional about the role of simulation in tackling the credit crunch.

Nov 6, 2008
By Paul Jacques

Kevin Sheehy, head of the criminal justice practice at simulation modelling software specialists Lanner Group, talks to Police Professional about the role of simulation in tackling the credit crunch.

Phrases such as ‘credit crunch’, ‘economic slowdown’ and ‘recession’ are hard to escape right now. What started out as buzz words in the media have, in many cases, come to mean something more real with the majority of people now looking at ways to ease the current squeeze.

Hikes in the price of utilities, petrol, and food have taken their toll on people’s everyday lives and this has been supported by a plethora of case studies in local and national news items.

The public sector, unlike many private businesses, is at the mercy of strict budgets that don’t compensate for the current economic woes. Indeed many targets were set before many of today’s economic issues had even taken effect.

Chief decision-makers within police forces up and down the country are exploring more and more ways to cut back. After all, police cars need petrol, police officers need feeding and police stations need heating and light.

Set against a backdrop of strict government targets and squeezed budgets, forces already face an uphill struggle to meet their objectives, so how can they hope to cope with the added burden of escalating costs alongside the need to generate efficiencies?

UK forces may well enjoy a worldwide reputation for their ability to solve complex cases, but the credit crunch is a different challenge altogether. The current economic climate is an unwelcome trespasser which needs to be locked away, but this won’t happen overnight.

With no quick fixes on hand, one way to rebuff the punch of the crunch is to conduct a comprehensive review of all processes which impact on cost and productivity to evaluate potential opportunities for future savings. Even the most flawless-looking business processes will throw-up areas that are open to improvement.

Process change can dramatically improve the efficiency of police forces workflow, but committing investment to such projects can be a tricky decision for even the most astute decision makers. Indeed, many police forces are fully aware of the potential benefits of process change in driving efficiencies, but are also cautious about the ramifications of spending valuable funds which don’t generate a good return on investment.

This is especially true in the current climate where scrutiny over any spend is at an all-time high. So justifying an initial outlay of money on anything, regardless of proven benefits, is hard to achieve unless it is somehow guaranteed to drive benefits and cost savings.

Simulation technology is becoming increasingly popular as an approach to address this issue. In fact, simulation modelling technology has been used by all 43 police forces in England and Wales to build business cases which can prove an outcome prior to significant investment being made. These have spanned many areas including improving incident response times, calculating optimum shift patterns and speeding up forensic end-to-end processes.

Dynamic simulation modelling creates a virtual model of a particular scenario allowing users to identify bottlenecks in the system to then assess how these can be avoided. For example, simulation technology can recreate an existing process, identify inefficiencies and suggest scenarios which will minimise inefficiencies and improve productivity.

This empowers the user, arming them with a tool capable of predicting accurate forecasts. Indeed, by building a case for dynamic simulation technology, police chiefs who are tasked with making tough business decisions can benefit from the knowledge that they are putting their choices in proven scientific results rather than good faith.

One force that has benefitted from the use of simulation technology is Nottinghamshire Police.

Ernie Brummitt, head of performance analysis at Nottinghamshire Police, explained: “In a sect

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