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Measuring the Performance of Drug
Law Enforcement
Katie Willis∗ and Peter Homel∗∗
Abstract Being able to describe and explain program effectiveness and impacts is integral to modern policing. The
primary tool for doing this–performance measurement–is the current mantra of modern public sector agencies around
the world. This is because measuring performance is fundamental to effective program management and has formed an
important part of the wider public sector reform movement over the past ten to fifteen years. Unsurprisingly, this general
trend has seen the development of a number of important Australian and international initiatives in law enforcement
performance measurement. These are described here. The paper then highlights and describes a model performance
measurement framework for drug law enforcement agencies. This framework was developed in an attempt to redress
some of the evident limitations of current systems available in Australia, although it is also suggested that potentially
this could be adapted to settings beyond Australia.
community safety and well-being. These sorts ofoutcomes are considered important DLE goals and Drug law enforcement (DLE) agencies around the are often described by police as significant work mo- world have used drug seizure and arrest data to mea- tivators (Willis et al., 2006).
sure the effectiveness of their work performance for DLE agencies have struggled to develop measures a long time. These measures of DLE effort are sim- that adequately capture and assess the extent and na- ple and well understood, although they really only ture of their work. This is due to a range of factors, demonstrate the extent to which law enforcement but is mostly because of an insufficient number of agencies engage in certain types of activities and al- underlying robust data sources and the illicit nature locate resources. They are not particularly useful for of the drugs market itself, which makes it difficult demonstrating the broader impacts of law enforce- to measure the size of the problem. For example, a ment work, such as explaining changes in levels of major review of drug data and research in the USA ∗Dr Katie Willis, Research Analyst, Australian Institute of Criminology and former senior performance auditor at the AustralianNational Audit Office. E-mail:∗∗Peter Homel, Manager, Crime Reduction and Review Programme, Australian Institute of Criminology. E-mail: This project was funded by, and prepared for, the National Drug Law Enforcement Fund by the Australian Institute ofCriminology in conjunction with the Australian Customs Service, NSW Police Service and NSW Bureau of Crime Statisticsand Research. The full report, Developing and implementing a performance measurement framework for drug law enforcement inAustralia, is available at, Volume 2, Number 3, pp. 311–321doi: 10.1093/police/pan047 C The Authors 2008. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of CSF Associates: Publius, Inc. All rights reserved.
For permissions please e-mail: in the early 2000s (Manski et al., 2001) found that systems available. It is argued that the framework existing sources of information and performance provides sufficient flexibility to be applied at na- measurement systems built around this informa- tional through to local levels of DLE in Australia.
tion were inadequate to assess the extent of the Potentially, it could also be adapted to settings be- illicit drug trade in that country. Similar difficulties yond Australia and could be incorporated into more were observed in the UK in the late 1990s (Newburn extensive evaluative processes. Although it is beyond and Elliott, 1998). Until recently there had also been the scope of this present paper to discuss applica- few attempts to develop more robust DLE perfor- tions of the framework beyond DLE, the authors mance measurement systems in Australia (Sutton consider that the overarching concept and develop- and James, 1996; Weatherburn, 2000; Willis et al., mental approach taken could also be applied within other specialist areas of law enforcement.
There are two basic tools for measuring the ef- fectiveness of any policy or program---performance Recent developments in law
measurement and evaluation. Each tool is a distinct enforcement performance
but related technique and both work from some measurement
common data sources. They both take as their fun-damental point of reference the logic model that un- Several significant developments in law enforcement derlies any policy or program. However, they differ performance measurement have occurred over the in their time horizons, their assumptions and their past few years that can be directly applied within the particular uses. Good performance measurement is DLE context. These have occurred in a number of primarily about the ‘here and now’ and is essen- countries, but primarily the UK, USA and Australia.
tially descriptive. It looks at where things are todayand asks ‘how well are we doing?’ (Schacter, 2002).
Evaluation takes a longer term perspective and looks In the UK, three important program-level develop- back over a period of years at the performance of a ments in performance management have occurred: the Police Performance Assessment Framework While performance measurement can provide in- (PPAF), Assessments of Policing and Commu- sight into whether a policy or program is likely to nity Safety (APACS) and the Scottish Policing achieve its objectives, evaluation is more emphatic.
Performance Framework (SPPF). Until PPAF, the Based on more detailed research and analysis, eval- UK police service was considered to have lagged uation attempts to develop firm conclusions about behind many other public services in terms of whether the initiative has achieved its intended out- the extent, robustness and transparency of their comes. It pushes the analysis more deeply, asking performance measurement. Both PPAF and APACS whether the high-level outcomes themselves were (which is set to replace PPAF shortly) are designed to well chosen. Performance measurement takes high- reflect the breadth of modern policing and include a range of measures that assess the contribution of Focusing on performance measurement rather local communities and other organizations, as well than evaluation, this paper provides a brief overview as the police service itself. SSPF, which was intro- of recent initiatives that have occurred internation- duced in early 2007, is also designed to capture the ally in law enforcement. It then goes on to describe breadth of policing activity and includes measures a model performance measurement framework for DLE that was recently co-developed by Australian researchers and law enforcement personnel in an ef- fort to address some of the limitations of current Measuring the Performance of Drug Law Enforcement have not traditionally been measured by law en- forcement agencies but that are important to under-standing what law enforcement agencies produce for Coupled with these program-level improvements, the Home Office has also developed a drug harm index (DHI) to assist assessment of the UK Gov- has also occurred at a local level in the USA. A num- ernment’s target to reduce the harm caused by il- ber of cities are addressing their drug use problems legal drugs (MacDonald et al., 2005). It was de- by combining strategic planning with performance signed to capture harms generated by problematic measurement to develop comprehensive, balanced use of any illegal drug by combining several na- plans to reduce drug use and its consequences. For tional indicators into a single figure time-series in- instance, Rochester city, New York, conceived its dex. The DHI is considered a useful step forward drug strategy in systemic terms by linking together in improving how police work is measured, but re- basic elements of local drug control activities to quires further development to overcome a number form a unified approach to combat local substance of limitations (MacDonald et al., 2005; Newcombe, abuse problems. Key community stakeholders (representing law enforcement, health and social ser- In addition to the above developments, the Home vice agencies and community-based organizations) Office has also produced a number of online toolkits came together to conduct needs assessments. They and other practical guides to assist law enforcement then devised strategies to address needs and imple- executives through to operational police improve ment programs, and developed measures to monitor their understanding of what performance measure- program performance (Carnevale Associates, 2005).
ment is, how it can be applied and what should bemeasured.1 Several key initiatives have occurred in Australia in the past few years to assist understanding of law Much effort has gone towards improving per- enforcement performance measurement and/or to formance measurement in the US law enforce- improve the types of performance metrics used by ment environment recently. This has occurred law enforcement agencies. Most of this work has at both national and local levels, with national focussed on improving DLE performance measure- agencies focussing their attention on producing ment. Important work to have emerged includes technical guides to aid improved performance man- r development of a DHI to provide a single mea- agement, while local-level police and other agen- sure that encapsulates the potential value to the cies have begun using methodologies such as sys- Australian community of Australian Federal Po- tems analysis and program logic models to develop more comprehensive approaches to performance drug modelling work to foster drug policy in- Important national initiatives in the USA include sights, ideas and interventions to improve re- two technical guides (Osnick Milligan and Fridell, sponses to illicit drug use (Ritter et al., 2007) 2006; Roberts, 2006) designed to assist police to de- r improving illicit drug indicators to increase velop and implement comprehensive performance standardization, quality, detail, timeliness and management systems. The guides attempt to focus comprehensiveness of data collected (Barker attention on the broad spectrum of activities that 1 For example, see
r development of ecstasy market indicators to personnel employed, legislation, agency resources improve Australian law enforcement’s under- and the character of the different markets for illicit standing of local ecstasy markets (Fowler et al., drugs themselves. There is often crossover between the various levels of Australian DLE so that collab- r development of a national performance mea- orations and partnerships are formed as the need surement framework to address limitations of arises (Willis et al., 2006).
existing DLE performance measurement sys- While Australian DLE action is chiefly directed at impacting on reducing the supply of drugs intoand within the country, discussions with a large The remainder of this paper will present an number and range of DLE personnel reveal that overview of the National Performance Measurement performance measures that merely seek to assess supply reduction outcomes are inadequate (Williset al., 2006; Ritter, 2007). In practice, DLE pol-icy in Australia reflects the tripartite goals of Aus- Background to the DLE
tralia’s National Drug Strategy: reductions in harm, performance measurement
supply and demand. Moreover, examination of the framework
various strategic and business plans used by na- Australia has a complex array of DLE agencies spread tional, state and territory DLE agencies discloses between the national and state/territory levels. Un- that expectations for the range of impacts and ef- like many other countries, Australia does not have fectiveness of DLE actions extend beyond supply any law enforcement agencies exclusively dedicated reduction and into goals associated with improv- to DLE. While many law enforcement agencies have ing community well-being (or public amenity) as specific units working exclusively on illicit drug is- well as the health and well-being of drug-involved sues, these responsibilities are handled as part of their broader law enforcement functions. This is the In developing and testing a viable performance measurement framework for Australian DLE, there needed to be a range of measures that addressed the federal system and associated legislative ar- the full scope of anticipated impacts---that is, across the areas of drug and drug-related crime, health and r variations in the production and distribution publicamenity. However,fourimportant challenges r local and regional variations in drug consump- r Mostofthedataavailableformeasuringtheper- formance of DLE action in achieving goals such as improvements in public health and amenity DLE work is undertaken at many levels in Aus- may not be readily available to law enforcement tralia, from general duty policing to drug unit and agencies and/or is poorly developed. Addition- command levels through to state and federal lev- ally, measures collected by other agencies reflect els, as well as across jurisdictions. Each level and the specific needs of these agencies and may not jurisdiction differs in terms of whether there is a dedicated or generalist organizational structure A need to avoid having too many performance and whether this is primarily centralized or regional- measures, as well as developing too many mea- ized in nature. They also differ according to preferred sures from ‘scratch’. The practical basis for using operational approaches, the number of specialized a small number of individual measures is that it Measuring the Performance of Drug Law Enforcement becomes easier to properly attribute cause and a detailed examination of the available DLE per- effect in terms of actions taken and outcomes formance measurement literature (both pub- r Performance measurement, when used as a However, much of the framework’s development tool for performance improvement, needs to be occurred through implementation trials undertaken based on familiar measures, that is, measures as part of the project in two field sites: a site with a that are understood and accepted by those en- national focus (the Australian Customs Service), and gaged in the work being examined. As such, a site with a local focus (New South Wales (NSW) identification of key measures that can be pro- Police). An in-depth examination of the appropri- moted and developed rather than introducing ateness and feasibility of each of the framework’s entirely new measures is preferable. It is recog- measures occurred at both of these sites. Key el- nized that not all data sources identified for use ements of the framework were further developed in the model framework are available in all set- and tested using field trials in two NSW Police Lo- tings and so it represents a model instrument cal Area Commands. These trials focused on the that needs to be adapted to suit different orga- development of a supplementary tool built on the experience and insights to emerge from the progres- r A need to develop a performance measure- sive implementation of the AIC’s Drug Use Moni- ment framework that is dynamic. The high- toring in Australia (DUMA) program (see Mouzos level outcomes identified for the framework are et al., 2007). This tool involved enhancement of a all directional; that is, they point to either im- standard offender debriefing process, currently ap- provements or reductions in drug-related con- plied to all arrestees in most Australian jurisdic- ditions. This means that the context in which tions for the purpose of gathering local crime intel- the performance measurement system operates ligence to include questions on illicit drug market is dynamic where change will constantly oc- cur (hopefully in the desired direction). Sig- One important finding from the trials was that nificant elements of the wider environment without strong executive commitment to the imple- will always be outside the direct control of mentation of the performance measurement frame- program managers and need to be accounted work, the system would fail. However, the measures for in any performance measurement system.
employed also needed to be meaningful and relevant This means that a performance measurement to those working at all levels of the DLE process.
framework needs to be regularly reviewed and This was a particular challenge given the different foci of DLE at the national, jurisdictional and locallevels. However, the basic principles and steps werestraightforward: r developmultiplehigh-leveloutcomesreflecting Developing the framework
The framework was a product of a number of dif- r identify adequate measures that aligned with r project meetings, workshops and over 100 in- r developmethodsfordealingwithoutcometime terviews held with personnel in DLE agencies lag (that is, some initiatives take longer than r discussionsheldduringtheproject’sregularad- r identify tools for attributing outcomes to inter- When developing a new performance measure- measures related to drug price, purity and availabil- ment system it is essential to establish a clearly ity, as well as measures concerned with drug traf- defined set of high-level outcomes from the out- ficking practices. The distinction in the framework set. This is especially important when working between drug crime and drug-related crime is de- with complex programs that have multiple strate- liberate and made because the latter is often used gic and operational players employing a mixture of loosely to describe both types of crime, when in fact interventions. A lack of clarity around high- their aetiologies are quite different (Makkai, 1999).
level outcomes renders performance measurement The second outcome, reducing organized crime, meaningless. What emerged during the framework’s includes measures specifically directed at address- development was that there was a great deal of clar- ing high-level drug crime. It is distinguished from ity of the objectives for DLE across the various lev- the framework’s first outcome because of the other els of DLE in Australia. This was strengthened by crimes that usually go hand-in-hand with organized the strong coincidence of DLE goals with those of criminal groups that traffic illicit drugs (such as Australia’s National Drug Strategy. As a conse- money laundering, extortion, corruption of public quence, the project was able to focus on the last three officers) and that have serious and far-reaching im- steps outlined above in the process for developing pacts on the community’s safety and welfare. Mea- sures for this outcome focus on elements concernedwith trafficking. As can be seen in the framework, a The framework
number of the same measures are also incorporatedunder the first outcome as they may also be applied Performance measures developed for the model framework underpin four high-level outcome areas The third outcome, improving public health, in- identified by DLE personnel during the project as cludes a range of measures for gauging the impact key outcomes of DLE effort. In turn, and as already of illicit drugs on the community’s health. For ex- described above, these outcomes support Australia’s ample, trends in illicit drug-related deaths and mor- National Drug Strategy goals to limit the supply of bidity and the health services underpinning these and demand for illicit drugs, while also minimizing The fourth outcome, improving public amenity, The model framework’s four high-level outcomes incorporates a small number of measures of com- r reducing drug crime and drug-related crime While separated for descriptive purposes, in prac- tice, the four high-level outcomes are interrelated, not discrete. The nature of this interrelationship is complex and varied, but how it can operate is illus- trated in Figure 1. For example, activities directed at The first outcome, reducing drug crime and reducing aggregate drug consumption and expendi- drug-related crime, includes measures directed at ad- ture are likely to impact on all four high-level out- dressing specific drug crimes (for instance, the im- comes. On the other hand, measures specifically tar- portation, supply and distribution of illicit drugs), geting crime problems associated with illicit drugs, measures for assessing drug market dynamics, as such as money laundering and extortion, are likely to well as a measure of the crime most reliably associ- have the most impact on reducing organized crime, ated with illicit drug use, particularly heroin use, in and so on. However, because of these linkages, it is Australia (robbery). For example, to assess changes likely that activities undertaken by DLE agencies to in drug markets, the framework includes a series of reduce drug crime and drug-related crime may also Measuring the Performance of Drug Law Enforcement Reducing
drug crime &
injury, lost productivity, poor parenting and other factors stemming from drug use Reducing
Figure 1: Relationship between High-Level Outcomes contribute to improving public health and/or public tially viable performance measurement framework amenity. In practice, this can be seen in moves both for DLE. Furthermore, the framework that was de- in Australia and overseas to link enforcement action veloped is sufficiently flexible to address the needs to treatment provision. This aims to ensure that any of Australian DLE agencies with a brief for bor- disruption or depletion of a drug market is sustained der protection and offshore operations as well as by providing treatment and support to drug users state and territory DLE agencies concerned with a if and when there is a decrease in the availability of mixture of responsibilities ranging from organized drugs.2 A further related issue is that each outcome crime suppression to street-level dealing and asso- is constrained by every other outcome. As such, ac- ciated local crime problems. However, because the tivities directed towards one outcome should not framework has deliberately been designed to be flex- adversely impact on the other outcomes. For in- ible, it should not be seen as a one size fits all stance, in Australia police do not generally target prescription for all DLE agencies. The framework clients in the vicinity of drug clinics and limit their is a model and starting point for the development attendance at overdoses as the priority in these cases of appropriate performance measures for specific agencies with specific briefs in different settings. Po-tentially, the approach taken to develop the frame-work could be applied within other specialist law Conclusion
The project from which the framework was devel- The framework’s major strength is that it incor- oped demonstrated that it was possible to apply porates a range of measures that are, among other the principles and tools of the modern performance things, clear in their purpose, useful in gauging the measurement field to the development of a poten- effectiveness of DLE policies and strategies, reliable 2 Scotland, Effective Interventions Unit, 2004.
and easy to interpret. They are also easy to adapt to has already been undertaken to refine the frame- different settings and, importantly, are aligned with work’s measures and explore potential gaps in a na- Australia’s wider drugs policy environment. How- tional workshop, in which experts working in DLE ever, the most important aspect of the framework is and performance measurement from the police and that the measures, especially those relating to drug health sectors were involved. In-depth developmen- crime and drug-related crime, mark an important tal work has also commenced---this is being achieved shift in emphasis away from viewing drug seizure through working directly with DLE personnel in and arrest measures as the chief means for assessing four field locations and testing the rigour of each DLE work performance. Instead, this new suite of indicator. A major part of this testing includes as- measures should permit the monitoring of changes sessing the availability and accessibility of underly- in the international and domestic drug markets, pro- ing data sources, but also applying both qualitative viding a more powerful tool for assessing the real and time-series analytical techniques to the data. It is impact of DLE on illicit drug market activity.
hoped that this implementation phase identifies the The framework is now undergoing further devel- true practical value of the model framework and its opment in an implementation phase that is designed developmental processes and that it reconfirms the to assess how the framework can work in practice in model as appropriate across all levels of Australian national through to local-level DLE settings. Work Measuring the Performance of Drug Law Enforcement Appendix A: Model drug law enforcement performance measurement
High-level outcome: reduced drug crime and drug-related crime Number of illicit drug detection/seizures by drug type Average median weight of illicit drug detections/seizures by Number of illicit drug traffic/supply arrests by drug type Number of illicit drug possession/use arrests by drug type Average median street price of illicit drugs by drug type Number of people who perceive the purity of illicit drugs to be high, medium, low or to fluctuate by drug type Number of people who perceive the availability of illicit drugs to be very easy, easy, difficult or very difficult by drug type Number of users who sourced their illicit drugs the last time from a house/flat; a public building; an abandoned building; Number of users who contacted their drug supplier the last time by email/the internet; calling them on a mobile; callingthem on the telephone; visiting a house/flat; paging them on abeeper; approaching them in public; obtaining drugs througha third party; being with them already Number of users who got their drugs the last time from a regular source; an occasional source; a new source Number of users who got their drugs the last time from a location different from the arrest location Number and weight of illicit drug detections/seizures (by drug type) that were trafficked via cargo; air passengers/crew; postal services; car; private transport company; on the person Number of illicit drug traffickers who are categorized by Customs as ’business’, ’professional’, ’amateur’ or Number of people arrested for armed and unarmed robbery (ABS) recorded crime,victims data collection High-level outcome: reduced organized crime Median weight of illicit drug detections/seizures by drug type Number and weight of illicit drug detections/seizures (by drug type) that were trafficked via cargo; air passengers/crew; postal services; car; private transport company; on the person(not including air passengers/crew) Appendix A: Model drug law enforcement performance measurement
framework (continued)
Number of illicit drug traffickers who are categorized by Customs as ‘business’, ‘professional’, ‘amateur’ or High-level outcome: improved public health Number of people who used illicit drugs in the past month by Number of people who used illicit drugs in the past month who used at least once a day; at least once a week (not daily);less than weekly for Alcohol and Other DrugTreatment (NMDS) Number of people with positive status of HCV/HIV Number of drug-related deaths by drug type Number of drug-related emergency department presentations Number of ambulance attendances at overdose by drug type Number of clients in detoxification; in a rehabilitation program/therapeutic community; in outpatient/counselling; in a support group; in methadone maintenance; inbuprenorphine treatment; in naltrexone treatment; seeing ageneral practitioner High-level outcome: improved public amenity Number and proportion of people who feel very unsafe, unsafe, Number and proportion of people who are very concerned, concerned, unconcerned about the drug problem in their localarea and state Source: Willis et al. (2006).
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