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Where Are All The Police? – An Analysis of Police Resources


• In 2008/09, 32 of the 43 police forces spent less than the previous year. But in ten of 16 forces visited for the joint report, the approach to efficiency was 'unlikely to address the emerging financial challenge'. HMIC's report shows that only one in five forces had made adequate preparations for budget cuts - one in three forces had made insufficient preparation.


• Although crime has allegedly reduced by 45 per cent since 1995, modern policing is more than tackling crime: it involves dealing with organised crime, anti-terrorism, antisocial behaviour, victim support and child protection. HMIC found that demands on today's police have changed considerably. Increased bureaucracy and specialisations have drawn officers away from the front line - at a time when the public have been clear about wanting more police visibility. Over the last four years, the number of warranted officers working in the community has fallen by 1,429 - despite the number of police officers rising.


HMIC warns that a total redesign of policing is required, providing a new framework that protects the current 11% of police available to the public.


The public associate the presence of policing with the absence of crime, which resonates with Peel’s first instruction to the police in 1829:


The absence of crime will be considered the best proof of the complete efficiency of the police.


• On average, only 11% of total police strength are visible and available to the general public at any one time; and in our sample, more police were available on a Monday morning than on a Friday night. There is scope to improve this by more closely matching shift patterns to demand, and through measures such as police patrolling on their own rather than in pairs. But, faced with large cuts, the actual number available to the general public looks at risk of being reduced further.


• In seeking to reduce every risk to the public and possibility of error, all police officers’ work has increasingly become controlled by rules of good practice or guidance. In 2009 alone 2,600 pages of guidance were issued to officers setting out how their work should be done; and there are now 100 processes in the criminal justice system, requiring 40 interventions by police officers, staff and specialists. The cost to policing is estimated at £2.2 billion per year. The effect has been to draw resources into investigation, intelligence and other specialist functions, and away from the public: the number of warranted officers working in these areas increased by 3,000 over the last four years, while the number working in the community declined by 1,400.


• This drift towards specialisation, combined with shift arrangements which mean some officers might only work 171 days a year, creates inefficiencies. To illustrate increased specialisation HMIC looked at a burglary case: 30 different officers and staff were involved in getting one case to court. For a rape, 24 people were involved in the first 12 hours.


Where are the police (again)


Visibility of policing is a key issue: this emerges every time HMIC talks to the public. They found, in a study of five forces, an inconsistent approach to ensuring police officers and staff are on duty at times when the public need them most (for example, responding to anti-social behaviour in the evenings). Some are alert to this demand; others less so. This is despite increases in investment and a commitment to neighbourhood policing teams over the last five to six years and very clear evidence that, for the public, anti-social behaviour is important. There has for a long time been an accepted wisdom that simple visible uniform presence and patrol has little impact on crime levels. However, recent research shows that may not be the case.


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