Let’s have more of these…
and fewer of these…
The President of the Association of Chief Police Officers has told us that current police numbers are not sustainable, with budget pressures as they are.
With 83% of the police budget being people, sadly we will lose people in my prediction over the next few years.
In the next breath he said:
Some services will have to be reduced – I think I am very clear on that. Our role is to make sure they are the less critical ones, the nice-to-do things rather than the essential-to-do things.
Note all the non-sequiturs in that.
First, the blurring of the distinction between police numbers and the numbers of people employed by police forces. In fact, around a third of the people employed are not police officers. So cuts in numbers doesn’t have to mean cuts in the numbers of police officers. It could mean cuts in back-office staff.
And second, the hoary old public sector lie that cuts in spending must always mean cuts in services. The alternative of course, is increased efficiency. In the private sector, it is common for budgets to be cut by 5 percent every year, year in year out, but for the services provided to be expected to stay the same or improve. But in the public sector, efficiency is anathema, because success is measured by getting more staff.
Increased efficiency isn’t the plan. Astonishingly, even in these straightened times, the plan seems to be to employ more back office staff and less police.
The Policing Minister, Nick Herbert, said:
In the back office, it may well make sense, as some forces have done, to give those tasks to civilians and in that way, get sworn officers out on the streets.
Ministers need to be more robust with our police forces. They need to make it clear to the bureaucrats who run them that cutting police numbers is not an option. If cuts are needed in staff numbers, those cuts must fall on back-office staff, and they must not be allowed to affect the services provided. It is the job of the managers who are paid large salaries to run our police forces to find ways to achieve that.
In every other area of government, we talk about protecting services by cutting back office staff instead of front line staff. In the police forces, they talk about protecting services by cutting police officers and “giving their duties to civilians” instead.
You don’t protect the service provided by the police by having fewer police. You protect that service by giving our police officers less stupid pointless work to do and letting them get on with their real job. And giving them less pointless stupid work to do means having fewer buraucrats to give them that work.