30/03/2011

Police Face Front Line Cuts

New data published today identifies the 'front line' in each police force and opens their books so the public can see how police resources are deployed in their area in comparison with other forces.

Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary, Roger Baker, said: “The debate about protecting the front line has been frustrated by the absence of a definition. In this report we propose a working definition based on what the public view as the police front line.

“Not every person in a front line police role will be visible or available to the public. They may be at work but not in uniform or off-shift.

However, the public are interested in seeing the police in their community and so, alongside figures for the front line, HMIC is publishing comparative data on the proportion of officers and PCSOs that are visible and available at key times.”

The report revealed: A working definition of the police front line that comprises those who are in everyday contact with the public and directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law.

Drawing on a small public survey, views of police representatives and this definition, HMIC has quantified what is on the front line. There is a measure of agreement, but by no means complete agreement, that the front line amounts to around two thirds of the police workforce across England and Wales.

The front line comprises:
  • Officers and PCSOs in visible roles, for example, those responding to calls from the public and patrolling neighbourhoods
  • Officers and staff in specialist roles such as criminal investigation, forensics and surveillance
  • A proportion in “middle office” roles, including those who make very difficult decisions about safety and enforcing the law, managing or supporting police operations and processes such as holding prisoners in custody and answering calls from the public
The front line excludes:
  • Some middle office roles such as processing intelligence and preparing files for court
  • Back office roles such as training, finance and HR
  • Of the total number of police officers and PCSOs across England and Wales, 61% are in visible roles, for example, responding to calls from the public and patrolling neighbourhoods.

    But the proportion available at any one time will depend on shift patterns. On average, 12% of officers and PCSOs were in visible roles and available to the public at key times.

    The proportion of officers and PCSOs visible and available at key times varied between

    forces from 9% to 17%.

    A 24hr snapshot of police activity in three local areas reveals a rich mix of demands on the police, from ASB to stabbings that requires a range of police responses from visible patrols to specialist investigations.

    Sir Denis O’Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary said: “The purpose of this information is to help show in some detail where hard choices will have to be made, and inform that debate locally.”

    (BMcN)

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