Swedish Traffic Police

ProMES for a safe and secure Traffic Environment

In our experience the process of identifying objectives and indicators becomes clearer when one starts by developing a clear vision for the workgroup. A good example of this is how we designed ProMES for the traffic police in Örebro County some years ago.

The Implementation of ProMES was carried out with three Teams of Police Officers of the Traffic Division.

The officers in the three separate shifts were responsible for monitoring compliance with speed limits, investigating traffic accidents, checking for motorists' substance abuse and generally maintaining safety on the highways in their county. The most important outcomes for the traffic police are reducing traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities to create a safe and secure traffic environment. These objectives, however, are not easily controllable by the officers.

To deal with this issue, the design team specified objectives and indicators, which were under the control of the officers. They believed these objectives and indicators would subsequently lead to the ultimate goals of decreased accidents, injuries and fatalities. They agreed upon four overall objectives: Enforce Compliance with Speed Limits / Correct speed, Decrease Motorists’ Use of Alcohol or Other Drugs / Absence of drugs, Decrease Hazardous Driving Behaviour / Other particular hazardous behaviour and Increase the Time for Traffic Monitoring by effective administration. These objectives, however, were still not entirely under their control as officers. Therefore, they created indicators they believed they could control and take responsibility for. Indicators that would ultimately help them reach their objectives and subsequently the vision: A safe and secure traffic environment. For example, although they had no control over motorists’ actual drug or alcohol usage, they had control over how frequently they monitored specific roads at times when people were most likely to be driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This led to the development of controllable indicators, which they theorised would lead to the attainment of the overall objective of decreasing accidents, injuries and fatalities. The logic behind this is, that the ProMES system can only help make improvements on the things that can be influenced by the people involved. If they were able to improve on the measures under their control, and the ultimate outcomes of accidents, injuries and fatalities improved, this would tell them they were correct. In contrast, if they improved on the controllable measures, but the ultimate outcomes did not improve, it would indicate their theory was not correct and they would then need to change their strategy and the measurement system.

The three units received their first feedback reports in January 1997. Thus, data collected during 1996 is considered baseline data and data collected in 1997 and after is considered data under the feedback condition. The units used ProMES feedback for approximately five years until the end of 2001.

Large and Stable Increases in Performance

Before the implementation of ProMES feedback the average effectiveness was -44 % of max. With ProMES feedback the average effectiveness was +28 % of max.

This equals a total increase in effectiveness of 72 %. The horizontal axis is time, showing baseline data available for five months, from August 1996 to December 1996. Feedback started in January 1997 and data were available from then until October 2001.

Significant Influence on Numbers of Accidents and Injuries

We could also find that with overall effectiveness scores, external measures of accidents, injuries and fatalities also improved.
This result can be viewed as a percentage of baseline, which makes it easier to compare the baseline to feedback and the Örebro County results with the rest of Sweden. To compute this, the mean number of accidents during the two-year baseline (1995-96) was calculated. Then the values for each of the subsequent years were calculated as a percentage of this baseline. This was done separately for all the outcome measures for Örebro County and for the rest of Sweden (see figures below). Both the Örebro County units and the rest of Sweden start, by definition, with a value of 100 percent in the baseline years (i.e. the mean of the two years of baseline for both is set at 100 %).

By 1999, the ProMES units’ accident rate is 72 percent of baseline, while it is 87 percent for the rest of Sweden. This decrease in traffic injuries for Örebro County was significant (χ2 = 34.82, p < .001). Thus, Hypothesis 2 was supported in terms of an improvement in reported accidents.

Viewed as a percentage of baseline, Örebro County had fewer and fewer traffic injuries each year of feedback compared to their baseline and compared to the rest of Sweden. For injuries in 1999, the ProMES units in Örebro County are at 87 percent of their baseline values whereas the traffic units in the rest of Sweden are at 106 percent of their baseline values. This decrease in traffic injuries for Örebro County was significant (χ2 = 15.62, p < .001).

Policemen also improved their Team Climate

The ProMES Meetings was the first time these officers took the time to sit down and clarify their vision and which objectives were really important for doing their work. The combination of doing this and actually developing the measures was difficult and time-consuming. By the end of the process however the officers had quite a different idea of how to do their work. By pooling their knowledge and experience they realised that a better strategy would be to focus on those things that would have the greatest impact such as patrolling more frequently on some roads, at certain times and on certain days. They also saw the necessity for completing paper work accurately and minimising the time spent on administration.

They were quite surprised when the first feedback indicated that they were not actually doing these things very well. This led to many attempts to change the way they did their work. They were then able to assess how good the new strategies were by studying the subsequent feedback reports. Changes in strategy that led to improvements were kept, changes that did not have an effect were revised. This process led to large improvements in their feedback scores. The steadily increasing feedback scores led to considerable positive affect among the officers. Over time when it became clear that accidents, injuries and fatalities were going down, this produced further positive affect and increased their desire to perform well.

ProMES is an effective Intervention for Measuring and Improving Police Effectiveness

These results suggest that ProMES is an effective way of responding to the governmental requirements for measuring police effectiveness and also increasing performance in the face of reduced personnel. It also helps align the efforts of the officers with the broader goals of the organisation by the way the measurement system is developed. The objectives, indicators and contingencies are reviewed by higher levels of management and a key issue is how well they are aligned with broader organisational goals. Once the measurement system is approved, the resulting feedback system provides information on how to allocate resources so as to maximise contributions to the organisation.

This is an example of how ProMES has contributed to increased value creation within the police. We also have similar results from other police areas. We have successfully developed ProMES in criminal investigations and local policing and in a number of applications from the tax authority and other government agencies.

Literature on the Case Study

Agrell, A. & Malm, K. (2002). ProMES in a Swedish traffic police department and its effects on team climate. In R. D. Pritchard, H. Holling, F. Lammers, & B. D. Clark, (Eds.) Improving organisational performance with the Productivity Measurement and Enhancement System: An international collaboration. Huntington, New York: Nova Science, pp. 53-68.

Pritchard, R. D., Culbertson, S. S., Agrell, A., & Malm, K. (2009). Improving performance in a Swedish police traffic unit: Results of an intervention. Journal of Criminal Justice, 37, 85-97.