Wednesday, 21 July 2010

IT'S OFFICIAL : THE DANGEROUSLY THIN BLUE LINE OF POLICE IS NOW A DOT . . . .

Readers will be aware that HMIC together wiuth the Audit Commission, have issued two reports this week, confirming what front line response officers have know for a long time, that regardless of the increase in police strength over recent years, that the civilian and support staff to frontline officer ratio is completely out of kilter.

The frontline numbers have progressively reduced to a point where it risks the safety of those visible officers and the general public too.

Our latest report, takes the HMIC and Audit Commission reports much further, exploring the officer to population and officer to recorded crime ratios, which have previously been massively understated by the Home Office under the previous administration. 

The consequences are dire to say the least, with officers dealing with ten times the population size and ten times the crime incidents previously disclosed. To see our report click here.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary's report 'Valuing the Police', Policing in an Age of Austerity, published yesterday, shows that only 11% of the police are visibly available to the public. HMIC warns that with looming budget cuts, the availability of the police to the public will be even further reduced, unless there is a total redesign of the police. Also yesterday, the Audit Commission and the Wales Audit Office published a joint report with HMIC - 'Sustaining value for money in the police service'.

In our previous reports on response numbers part 1, part 2 and part 3 we have warned about the low frontline officer numbers. Now that the HMIC & Audit commission reports have confirmed that the actual “Visual” officers available for frontline policing is as low as 10% of the total warranted officer numbers, we have taken the percentages provided by HMIC and applied them to population and crime incidents to arrive at the real picture of police officers available to respond to public calls for assistance.

The findings are alarming.

To see our latest report, taking the HMIC and Audit Commission report further click here.

The report looks at each of the 43 police forces, the population within their area, the policing strngth and latest recorded crime figures.

Previous Home Office publications have suggested that each police officer is reposbile for 376 members of the public (on a national basis) and deals with 30 recorded crimes. Multiply these numbers by ten and you would be closer to the real story revealed in this report. Applying the "visible" officer numbers to the population and recorded crimes reveals the frightening true picture of policing in the UK in July 2010.

HMIC must have had notice of this information well in advance and observers may question the timing of the release shortly after the departure of the out of favour Labour administration, and that its release at this time is intended to curry favour with the Conservative/Liberal Government.

In truth, there is no problem with that providing the new Government do something about protecting the frontline numbers. Provided they do, it will be job done.

We published a report a few months ago after we issued Freedom of Information requests to all forces asking for frontline response numbers. Some of the replies were unbelievable, with one force even categorising their Assistant Chief Constable as a “response reource” because he’d been involved in an arrest during the year! Clearly officers not available for frontline visual response duties as part of their normal tour of duty are not usually available to deal with calls from the public.

The 42% of warranted officers for the frontline number we arrived at initially, matched that released by the HMIC a month or so later. The 42% was overstated though, including posts not normally associated with response duty. We whittled it down, giving forces the benefit in some cases to around 20%. So to see that only 10% of warranted officers are “visible” was a heck of a drop, yet more in line with what frontline officers and police bloggers had been saying all along.

The implications for public and officer safety at these numbers are serious and frightening on a national level.

Having taken the HMIC numbers a stage further the conclusions reflect what a shambles of a legacy the NuLabour and Senior Officer coalition have left to clear up.

The consequences of the low “visible officer” numbers are a perfect example of what front line officers have been saying, that the way the numbers have been presented have misled the public and the media for years.

What this illustrates most clearly, and is alluded to by Sir Denis O’Connor, Chief Inspector of Constabulary is that the quality of senior management must be reviewed with urgency. That Senior Officers, knowing their resources and results, sat back and let it happen is a disgraceful example of how out of touch, oblivious, self serving and reckless they have been, in allowing officer and public safety to be compromised to these frightening levels.

Times are changing thankfully, and regardless of HMIC timing, the can is slowly being prized off the can of worms. Senior Officers clinging on to the threads of hope they believe the pledge contains for them is an example of how they will defend their previous actions and strategies. The lid will well and truly be off once the scandal of SMT bonuses hits the press properly and subject to the coalition Government holding its nerve in exposing the rot.


A few highlights from our previous report about the cuts are increasingly relevant:- 
  • Police Force Governance – consolidating ACPO, APA & NPIA SAVE ??? Millions
  • Police Force Mergers – saving predicted by HMIC £2.25billion (over 10 years)
  • Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of ACPO ranks SAVE £11million
  • Chief Officer Restructuring – consolidation of SMT ranks SAVE £80million
  • Remove Chief Supt & Chief Inspector ranks (alternative to mergers) SAVE £12million
  • Increase constable to manager ratio (recruitment cost savings) SAVE £169million
  • Increase sergeant to inspector ratio SAVE £178million
  • If ratio of 1 frontline staff to every officer of management rank SAVE £1billion
  • Police staff levels halved through mergers SAVE £1.3billion
  • Police staff overtime halved by mergers or tighter control SAVE £31million
  • Return 25% of office based police officers to frontline (recruitment savings) SAVE £670million
  • 25% reduction in police staff support numbers SAVE £500million
Any one or combination of these measures are achievable WITHOUT touching front line resources. Any one of them would return hundreds if not thousands of officers to the front line where they are needed most.

Yes there will be pain, but far better that than continue to risk the lives and safety of over stretched officers and members of the public who actually deserve a better quality of service.

The first challenge for the new Home Secretary and her team, is to root out those senior officers who have been singing off their own self serving hymn sheets for far too long.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

The report also pushes shared service back offices.

There is evidence that sharing services into back offices reduces the quality of services at the same time as it increases costs.

Back office services are based upon economies of scale thinking. Professor John Seddon here questions the validity of sale thinking here:

http://www.thesystemsthinkingreview.co.uk/index.php?pg=18&backto=1&utwkstoryid=266

Anonymous said...

We at a subdivision of force '23' operate a minimum staffing level of 6+1 (1 being a Sgt).

Last tour (reactive) we had 4+0 which refelcted the tour before that.

However, we had 2 of these on 'Constant Watch' along with 4 other officers from within that shift's subdivision. 6 fully trained police officers sitting in custody outside open cell doors for 11 hours each watching people that 'may' have had suicidal tendancies and self harm issues at sometime in their life.

There was no questioning the 'Constant Watch'. Out of 12 operating cells 6 were considered to be 'Constant's, 50%.

The knock on effect is simple....2 officers were left to 'police' the subdivision.

Arrests could not be made because these remaining officers could not be taken off the street.

If someone 'looked like' a possible constant they were not being arrested.

How can 'we police' when officers are being taken off to watch the criminals they arrest?

Why are the police held to a higher standard of care than any other organisation in the UK?

If you are on life support in a critical condition in an NHS hospital tonight you will get observed every fifteen minutes at most.

If you get arrested for kicking someones skull in and mention you feel a little bit down, depressed and have had suicidal thoughts in the past you are bedded down, given whatever food you like, orange juice and coffee and an 'officer' 'to watch you' and 'wait' on you for your entire stay..?

How can this be effecive management of resources...how can this system possible be reasonable, fair or fiscally responsible?

The public would be horrified that while their houses are being broken into and the people they love are being attacked or abused the very officers they entrust to keep them safe are sat on their arses outside the cell door of someone that least deserves their help and support.

Just a comment but it amazes me that 'someone' allows it to continue.

Crime Analyst said...

Thanks for that. Excellent real life example of what's really going on out there. From what we're told, this is far from an isolated example. The safety of our officers and the general public will continue to be at risk until the powers that be within each force grasp the nettle and accept the vital importance of the frontline. We are participating in the Police Reform Debate that is ongoing at the moment and I would like to use this example as one of many illustrations of where the service should be prioritising its effort and resources.
Many thanks
Steve - Crime Analyst at Thin Blue Line

Anonymous said...

Just found this site, why isn't this information more widely reported, because it's obviously the truth! Police Cuts-The Government pledge not to affect the 'frontline' but then leave the cuts to be made to individual chief officers, some of whom we know to be ruthless in their treatment of the 24/7 frontline officers, and contemptable in their 'take' on our pay & conditions. Police cuts? our Force says it hasn't decided where to make cuts as yet, but there has been a blanket ban on overtime for months, with some supervisors bullying subordinates in to 'staying on' with no re-imbursement for overtime worked, in order to complete 'Handover packages', refreshment allowances/mileage not being authorised in contravention of regs. Inspectors bullying staff in to staying for their first four 'free half hours' a week, in case there is trouble, and not for any legitimate reasons. We know that whistleblowers or officers who stand up for themselves are targeted by supervisors as 'troublemakers' sometimes by whole management teams. The Federation in some Forces are strong, but in others very weak. They buy £50,000 + cars for civilian bosses/senior officers, call them Police cars to fiddle the company car tax rules and V.E.L whilst council tax payers cover their fuel/tyres, and most of these people are already on between £60-£130k a year, none of whom have been deemed expendable in these cuts, but frontline officer recruitment is frozen!! The Chief and his staff officer visit the U.S. for a 3 day course-cost £14,000, and the chief is on a Monthly contract, & most certainly due to retire before next April, else his lump sum will fall foul of the Governments plans to tax pension pay outs, where is the sense in that. Rumours are rife that a £300,000 interest free loan has been made to an ACPO ranking officer to buy a house, whilst the Force accountant (who incidentally classes his rank in ACPO linked to 80% of the chief constables pay)awards himself a 6% payrise. Then they have the gaul to state the force is seeking Legal advice as to whether it has to honour Spp's to Officers that were on the List(a list that is frowned upon by some to begin with) to receive them, and even if they are deemed liable to 'pay up' they won't pay until the New year. They spend it's rumoured 1.5 million to re-locate the Force Helicopter, the new facilities haven't been in use a year yet, and they are discussing axing the chopper! I could go on, but you couldn't make this stuff up!!!!It really is almost unbelievable.........It wouldn't surprise me if PSD were dispatched to obtain the ip address this is posted from, well we'll see, what Library that takes them to? (without cctv).

Crime Analyst said...

Well said that man!
That's what this site is all about, unearthing the true conditions that frontliners have to put up with. ACPO are rapidly becoming the enemy within, with one rule for one etc...
We have a Q & A lined up with Nick Herbert over the next week or so and we have some pretty searching questions that he promises to try and answer honestly. Wtach this space.

Oh and thanks for the kind words. The word is spreading and more and more officers are dropping by and sites like these will help to raise awareness about the real picture.

Kind regards
Steve B
Retired West Mids

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