Young offenders and the Criminal Justice System : a systems science approach to evaluating and improving Metropolitan Police Service policy toward young offenders
The research reported here is concerned with a systems science approach to evaluating and improving Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) policy toward young offenders from 1992 to 1999. The MPS were concerned at the cost effectiveness of their policy and procedures toward young offenders, and the role of other agencies in the decision-making process. A multi-methodological approach was adopted to identify the problem situation and agree an agenda for change. Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) and a number of other methodological techniques were used to assist in identifying the problem situation. Archive data was gathered, interviews were conducted with representatives from a number of organisations and, questionnaires were designed to investigate policy and decision-making procedures for multi-agency youth liaison panels (MAPs) operating in the Metropolitan Police District. A number of MAPS were observed and identified as case studies to inform SSM. There were three objectives to this research: firstly to evaluate the problem situation; secondly to generate an agenda for change with those involved; and thirdly to evaluate any implementation that was likely to follow. The multi-methodological approach described above was used to evaluate the decision-making used by the MPS and MAPS involved in case disposal procedures. Secondly, this approach was also used to identify changes to the decision-making policy and procedures and to debate them with the MPS and MAPS. Thirdly, the same approach was used to obtain agreement to implement and evaluate the effects of those changes. The three objectives were achieved and lessons learned from the integration of multi-methodological techniques with SSM. This approach was considered to be an appropriate means for dealing with the complexity of the problem situation and in identifying improvements to police policy and procedures. The introduction of the `gravity factor' process has led to greater consistency in police and MAP decision-making.