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

Calls for Service and Control Centres Members of the focus groups argued that the discretionary decisions of Control Centre staff influence the number of incidents response officers have to attend and determine the pace at which they have to work. Our findings supported those of previous studies which highlighted how Control Centre staff had the ability to control the workload of response officers and how the pressure to clear calls and ‘cover their backs’ could lead to increased pressure on those officers. Even though the Control Centres were set up and run differently in the various forces we visited, identical issues were brought up by officers in focus group discussions.

The consensus was that Call Centres exert considerable influence over the total volume of calls handled by 24/7 response officers; the intensity of call attendance work; and the legacy of the calls they are sent to (the way that calls are logged determining the amount of investigative work an officer subsequently has to do). The distinction between effective call management vs. effective incident management was also made. We acknowledge that solutions to problems with call management have been suggested by government organisations but their success in reducing pressure on 24/7 officers relies on how comprehensively they are embraced by individual forces. We therefore advocate that HMIC and the Police Standards Unit have an important part to play in assisting and monitoring the implementation process.

Incident follow-up and post-attendance enquiries: Crime work We discovered evidence to support the view that post-attendance work of 24/7 officers has been increased by such factors as the new standards of incident recording and crime reporting; force intelligence requirements and the bedding in of the National Intelligence Model; the drive to increase detections; force preferences for formal law enforcement outcomes rather than informal resolution and the influence of the CPS in directing criminal investigation. As a consequence the amount of time 24/7 response officers now have to spend in the police station on paperwork, report writing, file preparation etc has increased, as has the number of crimes they are required to investigate.

Whilst we acknowledge that these reforms are intended to produce better quality policing and criminal justice outcomes, we argue that the cost of such reforms, in terms of 24/7 response officer time, has not been taken into account and has not been matched by an increase in the number of 24/7 officers on the reliefs.

In every group, members spoke about the pressure placed upon all officers to achieve detections and particularly sanction detections. Despite their responsibility for call attendance, the 24/7 response officers were not exempt from this requirement. This was bitterly resented by members of some of the groups we met. The increased Home Office pressure for sanction detections also means that minor crimes that would have previously been written off are now the subject of extended investigation with the subsequent increase in the number of reports and statements that 24/7 officers must submit and the amount of information these now have to contain.

Our research has encountered numerous examples confirming that the potential consequence of focussing heavily on detection rates to skew the focus of police activity has in fact been realised. It has not only led to a concentration of effort on minor crimes but to their ‘creation’ by encouraging and requiring officers to categorise as crimes, incidents that would previously have been dealt with informally and classified differently. Officers were also concerned about the effect on their integrity and how pressure to obtain their target of sanction detections was tempting either them or their colleagues to engage in inappropriate, if not unethical, conduct.

Incident follow-up and post-attendance enquiries: The Demands of the Crown Prosecution Service Officers who took part in all the focus groups were unanimous in their view that since the CPS has taken over responsibility for making most of the key decisions in relation to the charging of suspects, their work load and the time spent on prisoner processing and case building have greatly increased. The improved


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