I recently read the excellent blog by Sir Robert Peel on Police Use of Taser which considers decision making and conflict management through the National Decision Making Model (NDM). This links nicely to my own recent blog Use of Force, which examined the Force Continuum. In this blog, I will try and draw together the force continuum and NDM, examining how they compliment each other and assist in decision making in circumstances where force may be used.
The National Decision Making Model
This model has been introduced recently to replace the conflict management model (CMM), although there is not much difference between them. ACPO felt that the CMM was an excellent decision making model, but that the name discouraged it use for wider decision making. An ACPO guidance paper explaining the model is available on their website.
The NDM has five stages each of which is a step in the decision making process, it is cyclic allowing decisions to be reassessed and debriefed in light of new information. The only major differences between the NDM and the CMM are that the NDM has a pentagon in the centre that links to each step and the direction of the cycle was changed, the CMM cycled anti-clockwise while the NDM is clockwise.
Step 1 – Information/Intelligence
In this stage, the officer will identify what they know and how they know it. I think of this as assessing
1. Known knowns – information and intelligence that is known (intelligence is information that has been assessed and given a rating based on how it is known and the source.)
2. Known unknowns – information that the officers doesn’t know, but which they know they don’t know. The officer then needs to assess whether they can find the information and whether they need to act before they can obtain the information.
3. Unknown unknowns – the low bowlers that catch people out, it’s easy to say there shouldn’t be any, but it is worth being prepared for the unexpected.
Step 2 – Threat and Risk
The officer then assess the threat and risk to the victim, to the subject, to police officers and to the wider community; this threat is then assigned a probability (risk) either low, medium, high or unknown. Any unknown risk should be treated as high. The officer should also consider whether immediate action is required to mitigate the risks.
During this step, the officer considers the known unknowns because these can impact upon the risk assessment and judges whether these gaps can be filled.
Following these assessments a working strategy will be developed, basically stating what is to be achieved; this would normally be along the lines of maximising safety of officers, reducing risk to victim and public and apprehending the offender.
Step 3 – Powers and Policy
Now the officer considers what police powers are needed, what his duty as a police officer requires (e.g. s17(1)(a) Police (Scotland) Act 1967), what legal powers will be needed or may be used (for instance power of arrest, power of entry) and what local or national guidance is available.
Step 4 – Tactical Options
This is where the force continuum comes into play,
The officer identifies tactical options from the continuum, remembering to account for the special factors that can impact upon the desired tactic. It must be remembered that the option to disengage and tactically withdraw is important, many officers find this a difficult step to take; however, it is not retreating, but removing yourself from danger and maintaining vigilance until appropriate resources can attend.
The options should be assessed in terms of the Human Rights of the victim, the subject, the police officer and the wider community and finally tested against the question, is this option reasonable considering all the circumstances?
It is also important to consider contingencies for when the unknown unknowns rear their head.
Step 5 – Action
It is now the time to take the action; put the decision into practice.
Since the model is cyclic, it doesn’t stop at Step 5, but returns to Step 1, either to identify further options in light of a changed situation or to debrief the action and identify future learning opportunities. This is known in policing as ‘spinning the model.’
Mission and values are not a step in the wheel, but rather the axle on which it spins
Many officers find this confusing but, put simply, when using the NDM every step in the process should be assessed against the very simple questions
1. Is what I am doing consistent with my duty as a police officer to act with integrity, be willing to take risks and protect the human rights of all?
2. What would the police expect of me in this situation?
3. What would the victim, the affected community and the wider public expect of me in this situation?
The NDM appears complicated when explained in a step by step way like this, however that is a result of mapping processes. Think about the steps involved in brewing coffee, there are about 10 steps and it would take a lengthy blog to detail them, however, I can make a cup of coffee very quickly despite the lengthy process; it is the same with the NDM, police officers trained to use it make almost instant decisions following its principles and it provides the ability to rationalise decisions.
The following example will hopefully illustrate this.
A police officer gets called to a report of shouting from an address. Whilst attending they spin the model, they have no real information or intelligence, they cannot make an accurate assessment of the threat and risk so the working strategy is to get more information, the officer has a duty to prevent disorder and keep the peace, but cannot make a full assessment of powers required until more information is available, the options are to get more information by tasking the control room to develop this and by making their way to the address to assess and gather information. This is reasonable and human rights compliant, so the officer undertakes these actions. This process takes about 100 words to explain, but an officer would make this assessment in the blink of an eye.
On attending at the address, they see a man in the street with his shirt off swinging a large block of wood, while on route to the address, research has revealed that the subject is known to police for violence and alcohol abuse. The model is spun again with this new information, the threat/risk to the subject, police and wider public is assessed as high. There is unknown factors (is there anyone in the house?) The working strategy is now based around maximising the safety of the community, minimising the risk to police, identifying potential victims and apprehending the subject. The subject has committed a crime and can be arrested, the assessment of options, looking at the force continuum includes use of incapacitant spray or taser, particularly given the special circumstances of the subject (known to abuse alcohol and be violent) however, if there is no immediate danger, then speaking to the subject would be considered along with tactical withdrawal. The officer would then act according to the options considered.
The model would be spun numerous times during a situation like this every time a new piece of information or intelligence became available until the situation was resolved and debriefed. As a supervisor attending an incident like this, I would expect to be briefed by the attending officers using this model.