Saturday, 7 August 2010


Following the recent publication of the HMIC report 'Valuing the Police', Policing in an Age of Austerity, revealing that at best, only 11% of the police are visibly available to the public, we have today launched an in depth analysis that delves deeper into the visibility numbers. To see the report now click here.

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.

If only 11% (at best) of warranted officers are engaged in visible policing, the question that screams out to be answered is "WHAT ARE THE OTHER 127,000 OFFICERS DOING?"

We went in search of the answers and can reveal them in our report today "Where are all the Police Officers?"

The findings found us asking more questions:
• “Where are our police officers?”
• “What are they doing?”
• “Why are they NOT on our streets?”

The answers cast doubt over the abilities of Senior Officers to effectively manage resources through times of austerity, ensuring that the safety of the public and officers remain a priority.

This report looks at the recent findings of HMIC, Audit Commission and Home Office, delving deeper into the numbers, revealing by force area, the numbers of officers assigned to each of the function categories.

For each of the 43 police forces of England & Wales, the HMIC produce a 90 page “Value For Money” profile. Here, for the first time, in our new report, we have extracted the totals by category from each of the profiles.

The report goes into great detail, listing all 43 forces and revealing the numbers of officers assigned to each of the 62 Home Office defined police functions. The results will be no big shock to front line officers and police bloggers, who have been telling us for many months now, that there are enough police officers to do the job, there are just too many of them tied up in 9-5 office roles.

What may suprise you, are the actual numbers within the forces assigned to the various job functions. To give some indication of the functions contained within each category, we have reproduced a table to help. Within the report, there is a full 62 function definition list.

We were staggered to discover just how many officers are engaged in non operational roles. From their first hand knowledge of their force resources, front line officers could undoubtedly identify areas within each function where departments are significantly overstaffed. Without such intimate knowledge of each force and its use of resources, we will stick to the glaringly obvious areas where staffing appears to have been misallocated.

It would be the responsibility of the respective management teams within each force to justify the number or resources allocated to each function. Undoubtedly among the diligent, industrious and committed officers, there will be a number who are what used to be called “Uniform Carriers”. The drive for value for money from forces, alongside the cuts being imposed on the public sector by the Government may force the management teams to look more critically at the way they use their resources.

We refer to the HMIC and Audit Commission findings in some detail in the report, where similar observations are made. The shift in 1429 officer numbers away from front line duties, and the surge in “specialist” numbers by 1526 is one example illustrated.

Police Officers reading the report will have an inside practical knowledge of the departments, but may not have been aware of the extent to which these empires have grown.


What must also be born in mind, is that within the 63,845 officers assigned to “Community” reflected in the national numbers in the table above, there will be a number whose role is classed as Operational Support. So, although they will appear under the “Community” heading, many of these officers provide operational support from an office base and are not therefore visible to the public. This lends greater weight to the argument that 63,845 is an overstated number for potential visible officers and that the reduced number of 56,542 (explained in the report) across all reliefs is more likely to be closer to the truth.


This global category contains 6,075 officers. Among these numbers are ACPO ranks, Crime and Incident Management, Operational Planning, Staff Officers & Departmental Heads. We have argued vociferously in previous reports that forces appear massively top heavy with senior management, with too many rank levels and a poor manager to officer ratio. There are massive savings in the many millions that could be achieved by rationalizing the rank structure, with much of that saving contributing to the Government cuts and preserving the frontline visible numbers. The Metropolitan Force is an excellent case in point.

Examination of their staffing levels begs the question “Why do they need a managerial structure that in addition to Senior Police Chiefs – A Commissioner, 4 Assistant Commissioners, 7 Deputy Assistant Commissioners and 26 Commanders, they also engage 49 DIRECTOR level managers, each of them being regarded as equivalent to Assistant Commissioner, Deputy Assistant Commissioner or Commander rank?"

The list of personnel and their roles is staggering. What is even more concerning, is the value they bring and the cost associated with their employment. Here is the list:

These personnel substantially outnumber the senior Met police officers - 4 ACs, 7 DACs and 26 Commanders. Source :


This function is heavily populated with some 2,382 officers and 9,262 police staff. Both from an Officer re-allocation and police staff requirement viewpoint, the growth of this department within the service has rocketed through the last ten years. 20 years ago, more officers were visible for longer hours, were man for man more effective and still managed to prepare their own court files and fulfill all of the other obligations listed. This suggests that a bureaucratic empire within an empire has arisen. Senior officers should be questioning whether more uniform officers could be redeployed and recruited and trained to complete their own prosecution files in their entirety freeing up much of the human and financial resource currently tied up in this area.


2,490 officers and almost 20,000 police staff are engaged in this area. The functions include complaints and discipline, corporate development, finance, IT, other admin, Personnel/HR, press and public relations, staff associations, operational planning and welfare. As the largest non operational group, it represents the largest drain on overall human and financial resources. Centralisation of many of the functions is being considered by HMIC and forces, and success in this area would release millions of financial resource back to frontline duties and contribute toward the required Government cuts.

We would be interested to hear observations on the numbers, particularly from serving, retired and former officers.

Visibility Numbers

When we heard the overall figure quoted that as little as 11% of warranted officer numbers are engaged in visible policing, we applied the percentages for smaller and larger forces to arrive at the average numbers of officers visibly policing for each force over three example shifts. Again, from within the forces, officers may be surprised to learn how precariously low these numbers are in their areas.

Taking the numbers from these reports. we identified that the workload of visible officers is 10 TIMES greater than previously published in crime statistics and population figures, with each frontline officer responsible for an average of 303 crimes (30 suggested in Home Office figures) and for 3,431 members of the public versus 300 or so previously reported. The table below illustrates the workload in terms of crime incidents and population per visible officer ratios. (Home Office statistics have previously chosen to display such ratios compared to the total warranted officer numbers. This was never a true reflection of workload, when such a large percentage of the policing community are not public facing).

The report contains many more revelations, observations and recommendations for reform and we would be pleased to hear any comments readers might have.

The report also refers to a number of other useful and related publications on police strength, efficiency and visbilty. Click the links below to view any or all of them.

Related reports & articles from Thin Blue Line UK and related documents referred to in this report.

Police Response Numbers In England & Wales 2010”
It’s Official – The Dangerously Thin Blue Line Is Now A Dot . . . .

Police Visible Strength Analysis – July 2010
HMIC 43 Police Force Value for Money profiles

HMIC Valuing The Police – Policing In Times Of Austerity
HMIC 43 Police Force Value for Money profiles
HMIC, Audit Commission & Wales Audit Office “Sustaining Value For Money In The Police Service”
Home Office Police Strength as at 31st March 2009

House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Police Strength (March 2010)
House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Report on Police Strength (January 2010)
Home Office “Policing in the 21st Century” July 2010
Home Office British Crime Survey Crime in England and Wales 2009/10
Policing for the People - Interim report of the Police Reform Taskforce
Home Office Diary of a police officer

Police Federation Views from the front line

Policing and the problems associated with it, is one of the most reported subjects at the moment. There are a plethora of official reports now in the public domain. We have taken extracts and contributions from the major reports and added our own thoughts, findings from our analysis and observations.

Within the many advisory and commissioned reports on policing, there are plenty of sensible, workable suggestions for reform. We believe that any change MUST start at the top and INCLUDE those at the top, namely thse who carry the responsibility of Governing the police. Of all the suggested requirements for reforms we have examined, these are what we believe should be given top priority.

GOVERNANCE. Sort out the Governance model of policing once and for all. The tripartite model of Home Office, Police Authority & Chief Constable is at best opaque with a mass confusion over roles and responsibilities.

Sort out the professional governance of the police service (the whole HMIC / ACPO / APA / HO / NPIA / HMIC / SOCA / 43CC / IPCC etc is a confused mess and needs a shake up). Elected Commissioners, phasing out of the NPIA and the changes to the SOCA model are an indication that the Coalition are treating the challenges seriously. There are far too many quangos and bureaucratic empires and fiefdoms. The expertise and skills contained within the various departments need identifying and consolidating, applying the value for money formulas for individuals and areas.

The status of ACPO, together with its 349 members needs to be remodeled and repositioned so that its accountability is increased and transparent. For confidence to return, it must start from the top, with a governance structure that makes it accountable to those who fund it, rather than the self perpetuating oligarchy that pervades at present.

Is there a need for 43 different separately governed forces within England and Wales? Make collaboration and mergers really work this time. Beyond a few notable projects - many of which were bank rolled by the Home Office - most of the rest are stuck in quagmire of details.  

The structure of the police must enable them to fight serious crime while enhancing and sustaining community policing. This means either the existing 43 forces co-operating much more effectively, or a new national force taking responsibility for serious crime while much more localised forces focus on volume crime in their areas.

COSTS AND CUTS. After years of growth the service is under increasing pressure to demonstrate they are more financially efficient. Shared service and shared procurement are becoming more essential.

Many of the proposed cuts and savings could be effectively delivered by smarter volume central purchasing arrangements and sharing of resources. HR is an example. Why do 43 forces have 43 HR departments when massive savings could be achieved with one central HR function?

The same principle should be applied for all areas of procurement. Equipment and services sourced centrally would deliver millions in savings. HMIC predict that £5billion could be saved by better procurement over a ten year period. The challenge is demonstrating that as a public service the police are strong on value and low on waste. Inspection bodies such as the HMIC and Audit Commission are creating more scrutiny on Forces and the Authorities that govern them.

STOP paying interim ICT consultants vast sums of money for doing maintenance work or else assembling cases for next piece of spend.

RESOURCES. The most effective application of human resources.

From the top down, forces must look at the roles occupied by senior officers right down to the management of the front line. Of 143,000 warranted officers, only 11% are at any one time visibly policing the streets.

How can ACPO justify 349 ACC ranks and above, when only 220 are engaged directly in force duties? A critical analysis of the rank structure is well overdue.

It has been suggested that the Chief Superintendent and Chief Inspector ranks are superfluous to operational needs. Why are there so many supervisory, rather than 'doing' ranks within the service? How many ACPO officers are really needed?

The police’s hands must be untied to give them the discretion they need and to release officers for front-line duties. Forms and processes which do not help the police to deliver a better service to the public MUST be eliminated. Any remaining Centrally imposed short term fixes, direction and targets should be replaced by locally accountable leadership and priority setting. Civilian staff or the private sector should be employed to do jobs which sworn officers do not need to do, and the police ‘family’ should be extended.

Civilianisation running at 82,000, costing £2.7billion (£62 million in non forecast overtime) people has clearly escalated out of kilter. Box ticking, flow chart creating departments and individuals, many of whom impede the delivery of common sense policing rather than support it, must be justified as truly necessary or not.

Assuming that 40'ish% of warranted officers (allowing for shift patterns and rest days) are assigned to front line roles, this raises the question, "What are the other 85,000 officers doing?" Accepted that some back office functions require a warranted officer, surely there are many thousands that should be redeployed back to directly policing and serving the community. This measure alone would increase visibility and start the process of restoring public confidence and cutting crime.

The PCSO V's Coppers debate. There are those that say this represents everything that is wrong with the system, soft, ill conceived politics playing numbers and lying to the public.

Get more coppers out on the street, get rid of 50% of the IT systems within police stations where they are not required and when that is done 50% less time will be spent on emails. Audit just one Force and see how many emails travel through their system each day and how many are work related and could have been performed by supervisors.

Inspectors and Sergeants must be freed up to go for a walk, in uniform, and meet with their Constables and do another thing that is lacking in the job today, talking and listening. Introduce far more job flexibility, trust and discretion - How much talent is lost to the service because of out dated and rigid working arrangements that pay little heed to a) public demand and b) preferences of frontline staff.

The complexity and demands of modern policing mean that the workforce must be reformed to ensure that it is flexible, well trained and highly motivated, with a diverse range of skills and expertise.

A key goal MUST be to enhance and monitor the ability of police chiefs to manage their workforces more effectively than they have to date.

The police must be made properly accountable for their performance as well as their conduct, and their performance management framework must only reward activity that delivers a better service, not activity which keeps officers busy ticking boxes or senior officers manipulating figures for self serving reasons.

The quid pro quo for reducing central intervention is strongly enhanced local accountability, with a new emphasis on more effective partnerships and the empowerment of communities to ensure their own safety.

CRIME AND DETECTIONS. Reducing crime and increasing detections.

The problem here has been the historic one. Set Senior Police Officers a target and hook or by crook they will show that they have achieved it.

Connecting performance to senior officer bonuses has whittled away any confidence the public and frontline officers may have had in the crime figures. This mistake MUST NOT be repeated by the new Government if public and front line confidence is to have any hope of being restored. The Coalition must beware of the accusation that the new broom is failing to sweep clean.

The practice of "Gaming" exposed by Dr Rodger Patrick, a former DCI with the West Midlands force revealed that Senior Officers either encourage or condone the practices associated with "Cooking the Books" and have done so for many years. Statistics may not be critical, but the deceitful manipulative practices are self serving and destructive.

The techniques of "Cuffing", "Stitching", "Skewing", and "Nodding" are known as gaming but police officers would call it fiddling the figures, massaging the books or, the current favourite term, 'good housekeeping'. Serving police officers confirm that the practice is rife across England and Wales and has badly eroded confidence. (The importance of eradicating this practice cannot be overstated - without doing so, any future success in the achievement of the Governments primary objective to "Cut Crime" will be treated with the same doubt, derision and suspicion as their predecessors.

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, which represents front line officers, said: "This practice demonstrates that senior officers are directing and controlling widespread manipulation of crime figures. The public are misled, politicians can claim crime is falling and chief officers are rewarded with performance-related bonuses."

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the Police Standards Unit have shown "general tendency to underplay the scale and nature" of gaming. They have failed to tackle the problem. Tere are no examples of chief police officers being publicly criticised by inspectors for this type of crime figure manipulation. Instead, HMIC tended privately to refer examples of widespread gaming to the Home Secretary or the police authority rather than "hold the chief constable to account" because of the risk of political embarrassment.

HMIC inspectors should be made accountable to Parliament rather than the Home Office, and should be drawn from other professions rather than solely from senior police ranks.

OPERATIONAL PRIORITIES. Refocus the priorities of policing back to the Peelian principles, the main emphasis should always be the protection of life and property, the prevention and detection of crime. Anything else is a distraction.

The founder of modern policing, Sir Robert Peel, famously said: “The police are the public and the public are the police”. Police forces grew out of the localities. Restoring the accountability of the police to local communities will not only improve the fight against volume crime; it will be an important counterbalance to the areas where more effective national co-ordination of policing will be required, notably in relation to the development of technology and the fight against serious crime.

Many of the proposals are challenging. But we are convinced that they offer a better future for both police officers and the public.

The police will be released to do the job they want to do, consistent with the key theme of trusting officers for the professionals they are. Central interference must be minimised, professional discretion must be restored, and committed officers rewarded transparently and legitimately for their success.

The empowerment of local communities in the fight against crime will be a substantial element of the renewal of civic life and the democratic process. Above all, it will be an essential step towards rebuilding the bridge between the police and the public – and delivering lasting and genuine, NOT MANIPULATED reductions in crime and increases in detections.

The public will benefit from localised policing which is more responsive to their concerns, giving them a real voice and control to ensure the safety of their communities. Police officers will be returned to the streets where the public want to see them and the question that forms the title of this article will no longer seem as relevant as it is today.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr G from for his invaluable contributions to this article. His site is well written with informed content and I would recommend visitors to pop over to his site and enjoy his musings opn police, justice and life in general.


Anonymous said...

Excellent points and comprehensive as usual. If only 50% of your points were taken onboard and effectivley actioned, it would make a significant difference. I would then be happy the job I was once so proud to be a part of was, heading towards the erstwhile public support and international respect it once had. My only hope is that I don't have to hold my breath for too long!

Crime Analyst said...

Daniel Goodey is a Special at Tayside Police, Dundee. Daniel posted the comment below in response to this article posted in police groups on Linked In.

"Although I agree that there are a lot of areas where restructuring and rethinking the matrix would create a more productive police service and a greater visible presence, I also think the article is misleading in terms of what it is identifying as "visible policing". The report actually states that 44% are assigned to community policing and 4% are assigned to traffic, which by my calculations equals 48%. Another 4% working in "specialist" functions, will include dog handlers, boats, helicopters, motorcycles, etc., which are primarily uniformed and out in public. (What is more visibly public than armed officers at the airport?) Add to this the 2% identified as working in the control room and 2% in business support, which will include working the front desk where the public seek police contact and responding to emergency calls that are also "visible policing" when understood that "visible" includes the public's ability to locate and communicate with police officers on an initial call basis. At this stage, I believe that a strong argument can be made that "visible policing" is well above 50%. Further, I think that it is somewhat spurious to somehow disassociate the roles of the 6% who are working in national roles such as combined narcotics enforcement actions from "visible policing", given the high profile that such task forces achieve when a major operation is brought to a successful conclusion; and perhaps a similar argument could be made for the 18% in investigations. In any event, I do not accept that only 11% of police forces are publicly visible.

The point I am trying to make is that there are undoubtedly areas where restructuring and remodelling will improve policing and the public perception of policing, the implication that the report makes that police departments have simply become bloated with ineffective and unnecessary roles and functions is misleading and unhelpful".

Crime Analyst said...

Thanks for the reply Daniel. The full report we have presented, runs to 80+ pages, drawing on information and data provided by the HMIC, Audit Commission, Home Office and individual police force responses to our FOI requests.

The initial table you are quoting from shows for example, community (officer) numbers at 63,845, representing 44% of the 43 force officer workforce number of 143,849. 63,845 is the total number of officers engaged within that function. The 11% declared by the HMIC relates to the percentage of officers "visible" during any one eight hour tour of duty. So taking into account, shift patterns, annual leave, rest days and other abstractions, the 11% is easier to accept.

Taking it further, as we show later in the report, HMIC reviewed the visible availability of officers and PCSOs in forces at three periods during the week: Friday night (with a night-time economy), Monday morning (regarded as a quiet time) and Wednesday evening (a potential time for anti-social behaviour). Larger forces returned percentages of 6.4% 11.3% and 10.9% respectively. In the smaller forces the returns were 10.4, 11.7 and 10% respectively for the three shifts.

They were able to show shows the reduction of police resource from 100% (the total
‘establishment’, or workforce) to the relatively small percentage available for front-line
publicly visible duties, as the result of: the organisation of resources (workforce
allocated to functions other than response and neighbourhood, for example,
investigation and intelligence); shift systems to meet 24/7 needs; and the inevitable
attrition through annual leave, sickness absence, restricted duties, court attendance
and training arrangements.

Furthermore, as explained later in the report, each of the functions contain a split of resources between "Operational" "Operational Support" and "Organisational Support". Many of the latter two sub categories are back office functions that, whilst important, are not counted in the visibility rating.

Add to this the bureaucratic process that the Home Office concede that officers spend as little as 1.1 hours per 8 hour shift on patrol and the evidence in support of the lower percentage being visibile becomes overwhelming.

Your comment : "The implication that the report makes that police departments have simply become bloated with ineffective and unnecessary roles and functions is misleading and unhelpful". On our site and directly via e mail and police forums, we have a daily dialogue with thousands of police officers from all forces, the police federation and police media sources, as well as policing ministers and officials. The reports we write are in support of all police personnel, front line, visible or otherwise.

The frequent starting poiint for our research are the complaints from officers about the obstructions placed in their path to providing the effective policing they want. Hundreds of officers comment daily on police sites about the disproportionate resource split between support and operational response policing. Their comments and complaints are now being heard and re iterated by supervisory officers who are revisiting the prioritisation of resources. A multitude of police officers combined operational experiences support the contents of our report and those that fed it, and that it is an accurate representation assisting police officers to raise awareness about the issues that pervade with modern policing.

We leave it to serving police officers to comment about the usefulness or otherwise of the various departments and functions within the service. Undoubtedly the majority perform a valued and essential service. The point our report makes is that the numbers of officers and staff contained within each function should be subject to scrutiny.

Retired West Midlands Police Officer

Anonymous said...

I also disagree with Daniel's point about the report being 'missleading'. There may be some different ways of interpreting the issues (one of the major reasons we are at the position we are today) however, the crux of that issue is... The ability of the police to 'respond' effectivley to the 24/7 demands of the public has been seriously compromised and is currently poor! There are many areas where money can b saved, without considering attacking the already 'thin blue line' and making the situation worse.

Anonymous said...

I suspect, underneath figures that look dire, that a small number of officers work extremely hard and a lot are not working but just turning up. I'd guess 50% of resource goes missing, but we need to get inside a number of CJS organisations to know.

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