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Where Are All The Police? – An Analysis of Police Resources What police officers spend their time doing (OFFICER FEEDBACK IN 2001)


• Attending incidents was the most time-consuming activity, ranging from 18% on early shift to 31% on late shift.


• Time spent on patrol accounted for 17% of average officer time, ranging from 14% on the late shift to 19% on night shift. (COMPARED TO 13% AVERAGE IN 2009).


• Of the total time spent in the police station, 41% of police officer time is spent on paperwork. Two-thirds of the alarm calls in the sample were false. Many police officers stated that the typical number of false alarms was much higher.


What should the police be responsible for?


Agency of last resort Key to releasing officers to spend more time on operational policing outside the station is an assessment of the appropriateness of officers continuing to perform a range of functions that currently fall to them; for example, filling gaps in service provision for other agencies and being expected to respond to non- criminal community disputes. One officer summarised the impact:


“The problem with the police service at the moment is that we are asked to do too much that really doesn’t concern us.”


Because of the round the clock cover they provide and the fact that they are perceived as the agency of last resort, the police are frequently involved in resolving incidents or situations that should be the responsibility of other public agencies or, indeed, private organisations.


Non-criminal incidents Our research suggests that police officers become involved in dealing with a wide range of activities which essentially have little to do with their primary purpose. This may be the result of the following:


Limits to the powers of other agencies to intervene. For example, if psychiatric patients are deemed to have ‘untreatable personality disorders’, the psychiatric establishment has no powers to confine them pending a formal determination by a GP, social worker and psychiatrist. In this case they will refuse to take an individual into a psychiatric ward but the individual may be behaving in a manner requiring intervention which then falls to the police. Social workers do not have the powers to intervene physically when children or young people who have gone missing and are found by the police try to run off on leaving the station. The result is that after a protracted process to find and process the individual they can run off again the moment they leave the station.


Inadequacies of other agencies. For example, the police may be called in to deal with noisy neighbours despite the fact that they have no legal powers to intervene because local authorities may not be fielding adequate Noise Prevention Teams from their environmental health departments.


Missing persons enquiries fall to the police even when this is a recurrent issue with an individual disappearing from ‘secure units’ that are not really secured by the relevant service provider. During one of our visits a number of officers were busy searching for a 12-year-old who was in local authority care and who absconded on a frequent, often weekly, basis. The local authority had not taken action to find a resolution to the child’s problems that were resulting in the disappearances.


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