Policing – it’s just like Baseball.

For those who don’t know, and until I read about it myself neither did I, baseball is a game where no-one scores a point until a runner passes the baseline, having completed a full circuit of the diamond. I was always under the impression that some credit was given for those runners who stole the intermediate bases. The fuss the crowd makes when someone just beats the fielder to the punch through one of those spectacular slides suggested some benefit for the effort expanded, but no. Until s/he gets all the way back, nothing.

Do you sometimes feel as though policing has it back to front? All the measures we dutifully record seem to be more about the smaller tasks than the bigger picture. How quickly the 999 phone was answered, how quickly the other call was completed, whether or not you submitted a crime report/NICHE entry on time, if the misper form was completed correctly. And we seldom seem to get credit for – taking the right action after the 999 call was received, taking time with a caller, submitting timely paperwork and finding the missing person quickly. Although to some degree that’s a jaded view, I suspect that you often feel that way – you’re badgered about minutiae but only ever complimented on a good job at relief/team level. And the plaudits always seem to go to the lucky ones who landed what I used to call a ‘spectacular’, both in terms of what happened and what they did about it.

The real test should be the final score – did you win? Was the result the one that you wanted?

There is a film starring Brad Pitt called Moneyball. It’s based on a  true story of a baseball manager/coach who recruited a statistician. The manager (Billy Beane) suffered from a lack of capital to back up his desire for wins. But he worked with a statistician named Alderson who identified that the big, expensive ‘hitters’ weren’t the ones winning the games. They did the spectaculars – home runs – but Alderson showed Beane how other measures predicted wins not by home runs from big hitters, but by inexorable, careful play in terms of bases stolen (from the batting perspective) and catches, interceptions and strikes from the bowling side.

They won lots.

This demonstrates how some measures predict success, even though they may not seem to be successes in their own right. Another way to look at this idea is, say, an effort to diet or get fitter. The end result may be spectacular, but it’s the daily measures that caused them – eating better and less, or building weights or distance by daily, incremental improvement. It was once suggested that a Grecian athlete from millennia ago used this method by lifting the same calf every day from its birth to its full maturity. The spectacular resulted from the smaller measures being planned and met.

In Beane’s case, home runs weren’t key. Getting batsmen onto bases was. And stopping the opposition doing the same was important. So he focused as much on short-length sprint speed, catching ability and brute strength of his fielders as much as he ever did his big hitters’ ability to smash the ball out of the ground. And those less spectacular players were cheaper, too.

So don’t knock all of the incessant measures with which you have to comply. Some certainly are unnecessary, serve managers and the Home Office rather than the public, and look pretty but don’t catch no bad guys.

But the odd submission of intel, the right question at the right time, the properly completed report or application – all can have a massive impact on whether your players get back to Home or just sit out there waiting for someone to do their bit so they can progress.

Your form might turn out to be the submission that solves a murder. I know that – because I saw it happen.

For more on police time management, go to http://policetimemanagement.com and get the book by the same name.

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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