Perverse incentives

The irascible Inspector Gadget reports on an unexpected consequence of the Winsor report, whereby response police officers who were intended to benefit from increased anti-social shift salaries are now directly incentivised to not arrest people.

While I'm sure Inspector Gadget talks his own book, the facts laid out are difficult to deny:

The only problem is, if you actually arrest someone, and then have to attend court to give evidence, your night shifts are replaced with day shifts.
So then we lose our night shifts to attend court and we lose pay along with it! This means that it now costs police officers money if they decide to arrest someone.
This also applies for attending or conducting training: any additional skill which requires annual training will directly impact the officer's pay packet due to the night shifts being missed.

This is what happens when you big-bang changes like this - the perverse incentives which are an inevitable result of any complex systems of rules will appear all over your organisation and make the regulation designers look like arses.

Of course, there is a school of thought that if the arresting officer has to attend court then he or she isn't suffering the hard work and anti-social hours of a night shift. This is true; however, if an officer has organised themselves a run of nights to avoid switching to and from daylight working hours, a court attendance in the middle of this run makes the subsequent night shift significantly harder for their body clock. On the other hand, if you pay night shift officers for daytime court appearances, you give them an incentive to arrest people left, right and centre so that they are attending court for half their shifts, even if the arrestees are subsequently released without a stain on their character. You can't win.

It may just be fairer to create a class of police officers who are normally expected to book on night shifts, pay them an annually fixed bonus for working in that role, and start clawing back the bonus if they don't work more than a certain fraction of night shifts. That's going to screw over officers who only work a small fraction of night shifts (no financial benefit) and officers who work nights most of the time (no additional benefit compared to regular nights officers) but I think it's clear there's no good solution, no matter what the Government, police or population believe.

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