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Investigating Police Productivity: A Literature Review

This study provides a review of the literature on productivity in the police sector. Based on a consultation of over 250 works (both on the UK and international), the study is organised in four parts (following van Ark, 2022):

  • The police delivery chain – Developing an understanding of how police budgets and inputs are transformed into activities (outputs) which are then turned into societal outcomes
  • Measurement of police productivity – An overview of the data that is available for measuring police productivity.
  • Drivers of police productivity – An overview of the key factors (organisation, people, and technology) by which an organisation can improve its productivity.
  • Practical management of police productivity – How organisations should think about putting insights on productivity improvements into practice.

The study identified some key areas of attention to drive improvements in the productivity performance of the sector:

  • There is a need for clearly mapping of service delivery chains for each function in the police force. A better understanding of budgets, inputs, output and outcomes for each core and ancillary function will help to determine what success looks like and what the needs are to drive productivity.
  • Measurement of police productivity at both the aggregate level (where productivity growth is assumed to be zero as outputs equal deflated inputs) and the organisational level (where measures are sparse, difficult to aggregate and to compare) should be a major priority. However, such measurement efforts either require investment in new data collection or significant imputations.
  • Sustainable productivity growth is obtained through the nurturing of three drivers of productivity growth. The first factor is the “organisational driver”; success in this area will result in an adaptable organisational design. The second factor is the “technological driver”; success will result in digital transformation. The third is the “individual driver”; success in this regard will result in an agile workforce. Organisational learning is a key principle to unlock those key drivers of productivity, as a learning organisation will be able to continually identify and implement productivity improvements.
  • Practical management of productivity requires an integrated approach to change management as is common practice in large scale private-sector organisations. Change management and the prioritisation of new projects through the management constraints approach reduce risk of failure. Evidence-based management, transparent communication, and internal and external collaboration are key drivers to manage productivity on a consistent basis.

Authors: Bart van Ark, Joel Hoskins (The University of Manchester)


  • Productivity Studies




B. van Ark, J. Hoskins (2024) Investigating Police Productivity: A Literature Review The Productivity Institute.