Swedish Agency for Public Management’s commission
On 1 January 2015, the Swedish police force was reorganised into a coherent government agency in the form of the Swedish Police Authority. The Swedish Agency for Public Management has been commissioned by the Government to evaluate this reorganisation. The evaluation is to be conducted on the basis of the objectives the Government and the Riksdag have set out for this reform. The overall objectives are for the new organisation to create better conditions in which to improve results and to increase the quality of police operations.
Interim reports are to be submitted to the Government by 1 October 2016 and 1 October 2017. The final report is to be submitted by 1 October 2018. This is the first interim report.
The emphasis in this interim report is placed on how the reorganisation has been implemented and on whether the Police Authority has created the conditions that will allow the reform’s objectives to be achieved in the long term. As the reorganisation is still ongoing, it is too early to assess the reform’s impact on the Police Authorities operations. Our assessment is that it will only be possible towards the end of our evaluation to make any statements about the reform’s impact on performance and to see any trends that indicate how performance may develop in the long term. Our analysis will therefore focus in more detail on these areas in future reports.
Several important parts of the reorganisation have been completed
The Agency for Public Management’s overall assessment is that the Police Authority has thus far completed several important parts of the reorganisation, but that many challenges remain. In spite of the fact that several elements of the implementation process could have worked better, the reorganisation has, in certain respects, come as far as could reasonably be expected.
Enhanced national capacity and improved coordination
The Police Authority’s operational capacity at the national level has been enhanced by the new organisational structure. Resources can now be used more flexibly and the opportunities to coordinate activities have been improved.
There have been several cases in 2015 and 2016 in which the police have needed to mobilise nationally. These include external border controls, instances of serious violent crimes and terror threats. The fact that the conditions for collaboration have been improved is also evident at lower levels, for example when coordinating criminal investigations.
Heading towards a national police force
The Police Authority has built a foundation from which to govern and manage the police force as a single coherent agency. The earlier county police authorities differed in many ways. The Swedish Police Authority has established national forms of governance that in many respects were previously absent, for example a national operational unit with a strong mandate and a national operational management group. There is now also an established and adopted management philosophy and management model.
Steps have been taken to get closer to the general public
The Police Authority has implemented several initiatives that, in the long term, will enhance the contact between the police and the members of the public. One example of such an initiative is the introduction of “citizen pledges”. Collaboration with the municipalities has been reinforced through the introduction of special municipal police officers. Another initiative is the neighbourhood police officers, who are responsible for crime prevention efforts within a designated area. These functions and tools have already been largely integrated in the organisation.
Important and difficult challenges remain
Although several parts of the reorganisation are currently being implemented, a number of challenges remain.
Implementation of the reform has been delayed
One lesson learned from past major public-sector reforms, both in Sweden and elsewhere, is that the implementation process is often more complex and time-consuming than predicted. The reorganisation of the police force is one of the most extensive civil service reforms in Sweden in many years. It is therefore reasonable to expect some difficulties and delays in the implementation process.
One unforeseen circumstance is the increased scope of tasks relating to the reception of asylum-seekers and refugees. It has also taken longer than planned to appoint permanent managers and to provide the premises required and appropriate on-site operational support. These circumstances have contributed to the implementation of the new organisation being delayed.
Greater focus on staff engagement and building support
The emphasis in the implementation of the reform has thus far been on central management and on reinforcing the national structure. From this point on, the Police Authority also needs to put effort into enhancing staff engagement in the organisation. The new management philosophy and management model are based on a combination of increased uniformity and a greater focus on staff engagement.
In the initial stages, it has in many cases been necessary to place the emphasis on uniformity. At the same time, this has led to a gap between what many managers and employees have been expecting from the reform and the actual outcome. In this respect, the change process has been hindered by the fact that there have not been permanent managers in place throughout the entire organisation. Now that all managerial positions have been filled, the conditions should be in place to make a renewed effort in terms of communication, building support and leadership in the continued implementation of the reform.
The local police districts’ needs should be a higher priority
Local police work needs to be prioritised in future implementation efforts. Up to now, uniformity and reinforcing the national structure have taken priority over local adaptations and the work in the local police districts.
In order to achieve the objectives of this reorganisation, the local police districts should be provided with sufficient decision-making authority to be able to manage and plan their work. They need the appropriate resources to continue their work in local communities in the long term.
The Police Authority also needs to improve how it monitors their operations so that this reflects the new management philosophy and management model. This includes developing methods to monitor the results of local police work.
Investigative operations need to be reinforced
The Police Authority needs to increase the priority of investigative operations if the reform objective of improving results within investigation and prosecution is to be achieved. For a number of years now, there has been a continuous deterioration in the results of investigative operations. Rectifying this problem requires a long-term effort. This involves both reinforcing the investigative operations with resources and expertise, and developing and introducing new working practices.
Development initiatives should be coordinated and prioritised
In future development work, the Police Authority should prioritise and coordinate different initiatives to a greater degree than has been the case thus far. Developing operations is essential, as is increasing the level of ambition of both core and support operations. However, the lack of coordination has led to difficulties in adopting new working methods and tools within core operations.
This problem is particularly evident when it comes to initiatives by the new combined national departments. The needs of the core operations should be the point of departure for any future efforts to develop and streamline the support functions. One aspect of this process is to ensure that the ongoing streamlining does not result in the transfer of any administrative duties to managers and management support functions in core operations.