19 Jan 2020

Thought of the Day

There is no question that in our age there is a good deal of turmoil about the manner in which society is run. Probably at no point in the history of man has there been so much discussion about the rights and wrongs of the policy makers…[Citizens have] begun to suspect that the people who make the major decisions that affect our lives don't know what they are doing… They don't know what they are doing simply because they have no adequate basis to judge the effects of their decisions. To many it must seem that we live in an age of moronic decision making.

C. West Churchman

4 Jan 2020

When you have no Rights!

This post is about when people do find that they do not have rights that can be enforced, or that bodies responsible for protecting their rights take no action. I'm not focusing on individuals as such - but more on groups of people.

What happens when you have no Rights? By 'Rights' I mean things that can be enforced legally.

You don't under existing local and international law have rights to food, water, and heath care. But you have rights to life. How strange? Don't argue with me - argue with the United Nations.

Think of this situation: You are roused from sleep in the middle of the night by 'the authorities' and you and your family are told "leave now, else we'll move you!" You are not given time to pack anything. With the heavy muscle and ammunition around, you move fearing being manhandled and a getting a beating. On the way you feel confused and angry, because you've lived in your own home, purchased with your own money for years - and you have left all your possessions behind. That was your land and your country You are taken to another country you know nothing off and have never lived there.  You start back from scratch. Over the next few years you and others treated similarly fight in the courts but lose repeatedly. Human Rights seem not to matter.

Some think the above is totally hypothetical. It isn't. It has happened before! Really? Yes - see here.

There are thousands if not millions of people around the world who for a number of crazy reasons do not have a means or method to have their rights enforced. This has always played on my mind. A few weeks ago, I came across organisations and Tribunals that provide some help. Unfortunately they have no legal muscle - but it's better than nothing.

As this is not mean to be a lecture, what I've found is summarised in the mindmap (click this). There are clickable links that take readers to various piece of interesting information.

2 Jan 2020

Systems Thinking and Policing

Dear Gary Griffith,

Rather than ‘fight tooth and nail’ with your critics, who are obviously aware that you are failing in your responsibilities as Commissioner of Police (CoP) and as the top ‘crimefighter’, won’t it be better for you to ‘man up’ and recognise the nature of the beast you face? There is no need for you to reinvent the wheel – most of the work has been done for you already.

Police work is what is known as a ‘wicked problem’. Rittel& Webber (1973) identified the following 10 characteristics of a wicked problem:

  1. No definitive formulation.
  2. No stopping rules.
  3. Solutions are not true or false, but better or worse.
  4. No immediate and no ultimate test of a solution.
  5. Solution is a “one-shot operation’; no opportunity to learn by trial and error, every attempt counts significantly.
  6. Do not have a fixed number (or describable) of potential solutions, no set of permissible operations to employ.
  7. Every wicked problem is essentially unique.
  8. Every wicked problem can be a symptom of another problem (introducing complexity).
  9. Wicked problems can be explained in numerous ways. Choice of explanation determines the nature of the problem’s solution (More on this later).
  10. No right to be wrong (planners are liable for consequences of actions).

This brings me to the current problem-solving culture within the police service:

1.   there is a historical predominance of traditional hard systems thinking (HST) for problem solving.

2.   A culture of evidence-based decisions which place emphasis on numerical data and statistical validity such as randomised controlled trials (RCT).

3.   Often impossible to define problems, their causes and effects in absolute terms required.

4.   Police managers are increasingly required to respond to high variety, complex problem contexts.

5.   Low variety problem-solving approaches such as HST may not be sufficient in new environments.

6.   There needs to be greater understanding of systems’ contexts.

7.    Whole-systems approaches seek to balance HST, with appropriate emphasis on ‘softer’ problem structuring method e.g. SSM and VSM.

(Adapted from Newsome and Wiggett (2014)).

Crime fighting requires ‘systems thinking’: the ability to view the interconnectedness of the entire “criminal system” inclusive of the police force, in a holistic manner, and looking to see where applying leverage can have the most effect upon the entire system. It means taking into consideration different perspectives, from different stakeholders, applying methodology instead of methods and recognising the limitations imposed by the system itself and that sometimes there are no solutions.

Newsome and Wiggett (2014) identified 10 characteristics of systems thinking force:

1.   has clarity of purpose, derived from the service users’ perspectives (i.e. the public)

2.   adopts a whole systems approach, where interdependencies are understood.

3.   Has staff that understand the purpose, and their service responses are flexible to help achieve that purpose.

4.   understand that the greatest influences on performance and service are determined by the system.

5.   Understand the implications of setting boundaries within a system, and seeks to engage the whole system and make an improvement.

6.   Uses a variety of measurement and information to understand system performance, so as to identify learning and secure improvement.

7.   Understand the variety of its demand and how services can be optimised to satisfy this.

8.   Trust staff to apply informed professional judgement in support of achieving purpose.

9.   Has a culture of learning and continuous improvement where staff are empowered and equipped to understand and improve performance.

10.Respects and encourages the staff’s sense of vocation, and recognises the value of this in improving their well-being, commitment and whole system performance.

Traditional policing methods will have a high probability of failure in a modern society. That is not to say that they don’t have their place. But the police force must evolve, from the perceived “brute squad” to a highly effective thinking and performing unit. It will take a lot to make these changes – systems have a way of resisting change. You may want to investigate Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and Viable Systems Model (VSM), a combination of which has been identified by Kinloch et al (2008) as a more effective tool.

If you want to succeed, rather than further alienating your detractors, identify the core problem you face, which is that your current police force is not effective in its present form and drastic changes are needed. Begin there.

Letter to CoP Gary Griffith

Dear Mr Griffith,

Before you respond, I ask you to consider some words first said at the end of World War II:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice.

One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force.

Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease.

Against stupidity we are defenceless.

    • Neither protests nor the use of force accomplishes anything here;
    • reasons fall on deaf ears;
    • facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed
    • – in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical –
    • and when facts are irrefutable, they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental.

In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack.

For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one.

Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.” [Dietrich Bonhoeffer]

Consider the murder rate in Trinidad and Tobago – which has already reached 535 as of today 31 December 2019, with one day left to go – I put the following questions to you, as the person responsible for the keeping of the peace (control, prevention , and detection of crime) in Trinidad and Tobago.

1.   What percentage of all homicides in the last 5 years have been successfully prosecuted?

2.   Does the police service have sufficient manpower and resources to effectively investigate all cases on record and those to come?

3.   In its current configuration to date, is the police service effective in controlling or deterring serious crime? [A straight yes or no would do].

4.   If ‘yes’ to the above, what percentage reduction in the homicide rate can the public expect to see – per annum – averaged over the next 5 years? [Using the average annual rate over the preceding 5 years].

5.   Is the country being held to ransom by criminals?

6.   Can we expect the detection rate for crime, especially murders, to rise above 6% (as cited by the USA)?

Now, I have asked these questions before, in February 2018. As expected, no answers were supplied. Not that I expected any differently. I also noted – with utter dread, I might add – that you used words to the effect that we (the public) should be grateful that the murder total is not higher [Daily Express, 28 December 2019).

Over to you, Mr Griffith. Ordinary people will await your sensible answers to my questions. I ask you to lead your flock away from stupidity. You are invited to prove Bonhoeffer wrong.

31 Dec 2019

Thought of the Day

“By three methods we may learn wisdom:

First, by reflection, which is noblest;

Second, by imitation, which is easiest;

and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

― Confucious