The police have been fiddling the crime figures for some time (HMIC report) but in this they are no different to other parts of the public sector. This is what happens when performance targets become the measure of success and the means to promotion.
Performance data is suppose to help managers by prompting the right questions. What are the reasons for variances in performance either between teams in the same organisation or between organisation,whether that is police forces, hospital trusts, schools or social service departments. What are they doing different that allows them to jump higher? Where should we concentrate our efforts to get a quick and dramatic improvement in performance? Of course this comparison assumes the figures are reliable.
Once politicians become obsessed with league tables and performance targets become the measure of success management information is no longer a useful management tool it becomes an expression of confidence part of the image the organisation is seeking to promote. Everything is always improving, minor glitches are just that, management action will ensure year on year improvement, senior management encourage optimistic forecasts. The result can be unreasonable pressure to achieve unrealistic and over ambitious targets. Is it any wonder management bullying is a problem, the temptation to fiddle the figures becomes irresistible, the safety of whistle blowers becomes an issue and in some places the gap between reported performance and actual performance becomes dangerously wide until the inevitable scandal is exposed.
Of course all those directly implicated hope that before this happens they will have moved on.