Demand management in police services: a survey of practices across forces

Research Institution / Organisation

The Open University

Level of Research

Professional / Work-based

Project Start Date

October 2018

Research Context

The Police Service in the UK has experienced similar financial pressures to other public services, with a steady real-terms cut in funding from 2015 and other changes to funding from 2009. In the period 2009-2016 the number of full-time equivalent officers fell by 14% according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (Disney and Simpson, 2017). At the same time the patterns of demand have been under considerable change (Vinod Kumar, 2014). Recorded crime fell by approximately 30% between 2002 and 2011, but has since stayed at similar levels, with a slight increase in 2015-16. One of the additional factors is the change in mix away from car theft, robbery and burglary towards “white-collar crime”, internet offences, sex crime and trafficking. This can change where resource is deployed within the service to meet demand. This has led to perceptions of demand and capacity imbalance that have not been fully supported by evidence (Elliott-Davies et al., 2016), leading to a call for more comprehensive assessment of demand and capacity within policing.

Demand management is now one of the most discussed topics in police forces in the UK. All forces have to address ways of reducing demand. A review of police peer support network POLKA reveals the police service’s breadth and extent of interest in the subject of Demand Management. Of the 45 geographical police forces, 19 had published or described initiatives on the subject of Demand Management within the last three years. Work undertaken at a national level via the NPCC is now developing a much more integrated strategy to demand management (NPCC, 2017). As a consequence of financial and demand pressures the National Police Chief’s Council Performance Management Coordination Committee (NPCC) has a very clear remit as part of its Delivery Plan: “to improve the way the service understands and manages demand”. This project is underway with lots of activity in a range of forces.

Research Methodology

After an initial survey of literature, including a survey of POLKA and contact with the NPCC, a methodology and interview schedule would be prepared with one of our partner forces, to develop the questions and survey instruments. Once the survey methodology is established the work would involve 1-day visits to every force with membership of CPRL. These visits would involve a series of structured interviews with officers and staff involved and affected by demand management activity. The visits would also produce requests for follow-up data, e.g. evidence about the effectiveness of attempts to reduce demand through project-based initiatives.
The overarching question is “how are forces addressing the apparent mismatch between demand and capacity through changes to policy and practice?”

Within this question there are sub-questions:

1. How well do forces and agencies understand their levels of demand?
2. Have they changed practices involving prioritisation and response?
3. Are they identifying and dealing with avoidable demand? If so, how?
4. What demand management practices are most commonly adopted across forces?
5. What evidence is there about the effectiveness of demand management practice? What seems to work best?
6. Are there centres of excellence, i.e. forces with conspicuously better achievements or demand capacity balance?
7. Are there issues of implementation or sustainability of changes to practice?
8. What are the implications for policy, in terms of the types of demand police are prepared to respond to or the ways in which the service is delivered (e.g. remote response)?
9. Is there evidence of collaborative working with other public bodies?

Interim reports and publications

​Not available

Date due for completion

February 2019
Return to Research Map