Well, the headline may grab your attention. For once, I am not going to slate Virgin Media, nor any of my other usual topics.
Driving to work today one of the main stories I heard on Radio Five Live was regarding the police and the cuts they, like most public sector organisations, are having to make. They are having to find 20% cost reductions over the next four years. My employer is having to find 25% and other organisations more. These cuts were announced several months ago.
Police face big cuts challenge, Denis O’Connor says
The government says front-line police can be protected
Some of the 43 police forces in England and Wales face a “big challenge” to make cuts without taking officers from the front line, the chief inspector of constabulary has warned.
Sir Denis O’Connor said two-thirds of officers were part of the front line – defined as those directly protecting the public and enforcing the law.
Ministers say savings can and must be made while protecting the front line.
Police are losing a fifth of their central funding over four years.
The report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) sets out for the first time a definition of what constitutes front-line policing, amid a growing political debate about how chief constables should make cuts.
In the report, the HMIC says the front line comprises those who are “in everyday contact with the public and who directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law”.
Sir Denis said that two-thirds of officers in England and Wales were in such roles, but not all were visible. The HMIC estimates that 61% of police officers and community support officers work in visible front-line positions and that 12% of them are available at any given time.
Sir Denis said the front line was “not just what you notice, but what you also rely on”.
“Even if you imagine that the back office and middle office are ripe for reform… there are quite a lot of functions in the back and middle office that you cannot see as being redundant… and so [cutting] looks like a very big challenge to us,” he said.
“The cuts across England and Wales do not cut in the same way by force. For some it’s a much bigger challenge. It remains difficult for the front line to remain in its current form for a number of forces.”
Sir Denis said middle and back office roles were not “disposable assets that you can chuck away” and losing some of these posts has consequences for front-line officers.
Visible police officers available for duty, by force
- Most: Merseyside with 16.8%
- Least: Devon and Cornwall with 8.8%
- Average among 43 forces: 12%
But he added there were still parts of policing operations that could be made more efficient and that there was a wide variation in visible and available police officers among the 43 forces.
Greater Manchester chief constable Peter Fahy, who speaks for the Association of Chief Police Officers on the workforce, said: “Each force describes what their officers do in different ways and this explains some of the variation in the percentage of those available on the front line.
“Simplistic judgements about the value of the work our officers and staff do are not helpful.”
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The government is putting chief constables in an impossible position.
“Today’s HMIC report shows that 95% of police officers are either on the front line or working in important ‘middle office’ jobs in things like intelligence, planning major operations, burglary and drugs offences, or preparing cases for court.
“Cutting over 12,000 police officers and 15,000 police staff is inevitably hitting the front line. The home secretary needs to change course. She is cutting too far, too fast and it is local communities that will pay the price.”
Policing minister Nick Herbert said the report showed a third of human resources were not on the front line, meaning there was room for significant savings in back and middle offices.
“Front-line services can also be improved by more efficient use of resources. The report also reveals that some forces have twice the visibility and availability of policing as others, again showing that the issue is how resources are used,” he said.
He added the government would continue to support forces by scrapping bureaucracy and driving more efficient procurement
It seems that the police are not content to look at efficiency savings, they are spending time and money spinning the story in the media.
Firstly, let me start by saying this story refers to a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC). They are an “independent” body to the police. They are however very closely alligned to the police service. The Inspectors and chief inspector are mainly current police officers seconded to HMIC or ex police officers. “Independent” maybe in legal terms, but closely linked to the police still. Its a bit like calling a Manchester United fan independent of Manchester United and claiming anything he writes about the club is independent and unbiased.
However, on Radio Five Live, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has been wading into the “debate” as well. So what you say? Well, who and what are ACPO? The name suggests they are an Association of Chief Police Officers. Perhaps like some form of trade or professional body to represent its members? Would it surprise you to learn that ACPO is a limited company? To quote from Wikipedia:
“ACPO is not a staff association. It acts for the police service, not its members. The separate Chief Police Officers Staff Association acts for chief officers.”
“It also issues police certificates, for a fee, needed to obtain immigration visas for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA”
Hmm, so you are having to pay a private company to get a visa to emigrate. Now you may ask
a) why those fees are not going to the government?
b) why a private company has access to state records for commercial gain?
c) Why is my personal data allowed to sell my personal data/ records?
“Freedom of Information
ACPO has been criticised as being unaccountable to Parliament or the public by virtue of its limited company status. In October 2009 Sir Hugh Orde stated that ACPO would be “more than happy” to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act. On 30 March 2010, the Ministry of Justice announced that ACPO would be included under the FOI Act from October 2011. In its response, the organisation stated that “Although organisations cannot voluntarily comply with the Act, a large proportion of ACPO’s work is public already or available under FOI through any police force”. In January 2011 its website still said it: “is unable to do is to respond to requests for information under the Act. The organisation is too small and there are too few members of staff to be able to conduct the necessary research and to compile the responses.””
The February 2009 Mail on Sunday investigation also highlighted other activities of the ACPO including selling information from the Police National Computer for £70 despite it costing them only 60p to access it, marketing “police approval” logos to firms selling anti-theft devices and operating a separate private firm offering training to speed camera operators”
Reassured? Nope, neither am I? It seems that ACPO are creaming off fees that should in my view be going into policing, not into a private company.
There are however, some moves afoot to change things
As a result of The Guardian articles with regards the activities and accusations of PC Mark Kennedy of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit within the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit, and the collapse of the subsequent trial of six activists, a number of initiatives and changes were announced:
- Acknowledging that “something had gone very wrong” in the Kennedy case to the Home Affairs Select Committee, Home Office minister Nick Herbert stated that ACPO would lose control of three teams involved in tackling domestic extremism. Herbert announced that the units would be transferred to the Metropolitan Police, with acting commissioner Tim Godwin confirming that this would occur at the earliest possible timescale.
- The Association of Police Authorities said it was withdrawing its £850,000 annual grant from ACPO”
So, are you starting to get a flavour of an organisation that rather than being for and of the people is actually all about its own self interest?
Now, back to the cuts. The police claim that 83% of officers are “frontline” staff. That is a very interesting definition of “frontline staff. In Bedfordshire in 2009/2010, 307 out of the forces 1265 officers did not make an arrest. That is around 24% of police officers in the force. Now if you consider that some of those officers who have made arrests will be part of investigative teams, eg money laundering etc.- these are not what most people would call frontline. Makes you think about who are frontline officers doesn’t it?
Again from Wikipedia:
As of March 2010 police numbers in England and Wales were:
- Police officers: 143,734
- Other staff: 79,596
So, for every 2 police officers, there is more than 1 non police officer employed. Put another way 1 in 3 people employed by the police are not police officers or PCSOs. Now, I appreciate as I’m sure you do that all organisations need some administration staff, but 1/3 of your total staff?
What about police pay and benefits. I am aware from personal knowledge that some police officers when using their own vehicles e.g. to travel to course etc. are able to claim in excess of 60p per mile. The Inland Revenue rate is 45p. Most civil service roles allow 40p per mile. Not all police forces allow as much as 60p+, but what are any offering this much?
Are you starting to see ways the police can cut their costs/ raise more revenue without cutting front line services?
So, why are ACPO trotting out the lines about cutting front line officers? Could it be to preserve their own lucrative private company rather than out of concern for policing and the public?
I intend to return to this subject in the future.
This blog posting should not be construed as an attack on rank and file police officers who by and large do a good job in difficult circumstances, made worse by the inept bosses who seem to be running a side-line private company creaming off funds that should perhaps belong to the police force instead of ACPO.