Select Committee on Home Affairs Seventh Report

4  Releasing resources

167. The assessments by the Audit Commission of police use of resources in 2006/07 found that all police authorities were performing at least adequately in use of resources, 16% were performing strongly and 79% were performing well or strongly.[194] In this section we examine some of the ways in which forces are, or could be, freeing up resources. First, we consider Sir Ronnie Flanagan's recommendations to save the service "not less than 5-7 million hours … equivalent to 2,500-3,500 officers" by reducing bureaucracy.[195] We then examine the use of technology to allow officers to return to the beat and to operate more efficiently; followed by efficiency savings gained by collaboration between forces at a regional level. Finally, we explore the scope for and appropriateness of using police staff to carry out tasks traditionally undertaken by sworn officers.

Reducing bureaucracy

168. We had previously raised concerns about the amount of time police officers spend completing paperwork at the station at the expense of time spent on patrol or investigating incidents. Statistics supplied by the Home Office to our Police Funding inquiry indicated that officers spent 20.1% of their total time on paperwork in 2003-4 (10.3% incident-related, 9.8% other); 18.4% in 2004-05 (9.9% incident-related, 8.5% other); and 19.3% in 2005-06 (10.8% incident-related, 8.5% other).[196]

169. We were therefore disappointed to learn that the situation does not appear to have improved. Sir Ronnie Flanagan admitted to us that in conducting his Review of Policing, he was "quite staggered at the bureaucratic burden" on officers, compared to 30 years ago. He told us that it was possible a police officer could spend 25-30% of his or her time on paperwork.[197] In Monmouth, Deputy Chief Constable Giannasi said the police had become a "crime-recording" rather than a "crime-fighting" force.[198] In 2005-06 the Metropolitan Police spent £122.2 million on 'non-incident linked paperwork' and £26.5 million on 'checking paper work' out of a total budget of £3.2 billion, compared with £76.6 million on robberies and £48.8 million on house burglaries.[199]


170. Deputy Chief Constable Paxton of Staffordshire Police told us that nationally the police recorded 5-6 million crimes a year, at an estimated cost of £91 million. Sir Ronnie recommended adopting a two-tiered approach to crime and incident recording, with serious offences, which would account for 20% of recorded crime, recorded fully, and local offences, which would account for 80%, recorded more concisely.[200] This approach is being piloted in Staffordshire, Leicestershire, Surrey and the West Midlands.

171. Staffordshire Police's crime-recording form, as demonstrated to us in an informal presentation, has been reduced from 14 pages to one. They estimate it saves officers 20-25 minutes per form in completion time. The Minister of State told us there would be a full assessment of the pilots in October or November 2008, six months after they started.[201]

172. Staffordshire is also one of seven forces piloting the streamlined justice process, which uses a simplified form and proportionate approach to case-file building for cases dealt with primarily in magistrates' courts. Chief Superintendent Mick Harrison emphasised that the investigation process itself was not streamlined, but the shorter form, completed after investigation, saved around an hour in completion per case. 78% of guilty cases in Staffordshire are now dealt with at first hearing, and there has been a 48% reduction in the requirements to take statements and a 15% reduction in officer-tasking.[202]

173. One media commentator expressed doubts that in Britain's adversarial system, where the defence can always fall back on demanding to see the paperwork, "canny coppers will feel obliged to spend time doing it properly, whatever ministers do".[203] Sir Ronnie rejected this, however, citing examples in London where many hours have been saved in case preparation without putting the success of the case in jeopardy.[204]

174. Sir Ronnie also recommended making full use of charging powers in order to reduce time spent waiting for decisions from the CPS, and extending charging powers to include all summary offences and additional offences subject to trial at magistrates or crown courts.[205] Sergeant Rooney explained why he believed this was necessary:

    If someone is arrested and is brought into custody, they are interviewed and may be decided that we are now going to go to see the CPS lawyer who is in the station during the day to get authority to charge. That is because the Attorney General Guidelines say that for these offences we have to go to the CPS. We cannot do that because I only have one CPS lawyer in Acton and we have 40 charging slots a month instead of 16; we should have two lawyers. As a custody sergeant, I then have to bail that person for nine weeks. We need to sort that out because that is not serving anybody. It is not serving the judicial system. The police officers have to complete all that paperwork. It is certainly not serving the victims of crime.[206]

175. The Minister of State was confident that the service would be able to meet, and perhaps even exceed, Sir Ronnie Flanagan's projections for bureaucracy reduction:

    Staffordshire carried out a sort of paperless policing model experiment that Sir Ronnie … was very taken with, and the Home Secretary said the results from that were very, very encouraging but, with respect to Staffordshire, it was one particular type of force and that we should spread that out a bit. So we got the West Midlands, Leicestershire and Surrey along with Staffordshire to work with the Staffordshire Police on that model of a move to paperless policing. Other forces are getting involved as well but not on a force-wide basis. Again, the results from that are hugely encouraging … his original estimate of 2,500 to 3,500 man-hours saved, or equivalent number of staff saved, will, hopefully, be a woeful underestimate.[207]

176. We are disappointed that police officers are still spending 25-30% of their time completing paperwork. However, we were impressed by Staffordshire Police's efforts to condense their crime-recording procedures and look forward to the results of the crime-recording and streamlined justice process pilots. Should they prove to be as successful as anticipated, we urge national implementation as soon as possible. In addition to the two-tier approach proposed for recording 'serious' and 'local' crimes, we consider there are a number of minor crimes which could be re-classified as 'incidents', with discretion as to whether they need be recorded.

177. Time spent waiting for CPS charging decisions means that officers are often forced to bail offenders before charges can be brought. Earlier this year, Sir Ronnie Flanagan recommended the issuing of guidance to enable forces to make full use of the charging powers that they currently hold, and extension of these powers to include all summary offences and additional offences subject to trial at magistrates or crown courts. In its reply to this Report, the Government should confirm that these recommendations are being implemented.


178. Following changes made in the wake of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, a manually-recorded system of Stop and Account now takes on average seven minutes per individual encounter, not including time spent logging, checking and countersigning. Sir Ronnie concluded that "the process has become bureaucratic rather than focusing on what I believe is most important in the one to one interactions between the police and members of the public—courtesy, respect and accountability".[208] His proposals to reform the Stop and Account procedure, so that officers record the details digitally rather than manually, and give the member of the public a record card denoting officer identity, place and time, have been widely welcomed.

179. Trevor Phillips, Chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, however, warned that "any increased use of stop and search powers without proper accountability is in danger of increasing community tensions and alienating the very people the police should be engaging with to reduce crime".[209] Sir Ronnie was confident this could be avoided:

    In my experience watching these processes, it took some seven minutes per person to complete but, more importantly for me, or as importantly for me, the person at the receiving end could not understand what was going on, became suspicious that their details were being recorded for some intelligence purposes and, however much the police officer took great pains to explain that this was for their protection and they were being given a copy of that, it actually adversely affected the quality of the one-to-one encounter. That is why it was important for me in conducting this review to have an advisory group which included, for example, Doreen Lawrence.[210]

180. Those with experience of policing or overseeing policing of diverse communities agreed. The former Mayor of London was "attracted" to Sir Ronnie's proposals:

    You have got to retain the essence of what the Macpherson Lawrence Inquiry did in terms of accountability. If we can have a small handheld computer and something is tapped in, or if each officer has got a named identity card that they can give with a phone contact point, that is fine.[211]

Sir Paul Stephenson, the Deputy Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, emphasised "everything in my professional background … tells me that with Stop and Search the issue is more often how you do it, not what you do".[212]

181. On the basis of the evidence we have heard, we conclude that Sir Ronnie Flanagan's proposals for Stop and Account incorporate the appropriate accountability mechanism and are unlikely to damage community relations. We therefore welcome the change of PACE Code A to allow the approach to be piloted in seven Basic Command Units across four forces over the summer. We await the results of the pilots, which will be presented to the House in due course.

182. On the basis of early evidence from the pilots, we are cautiously optimistic that current attempts to reduce bureaucracy may be more successful than previous efforts. It is essential that the service achieves the level of efficiency savings quantified by Sir Ronnie Flanagan.


Use of personal digital assistants to increase effectiveness

183. In our Report on Police Funding, we were critical of insufficient progress in introducing hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs), as a means to reduce time spent on paperwork at the station, and recommended that Chief Constables ensured that they were introduced in all forces as a matter of urgency.[213] This has not yet been achieved, but more funding has recently been made available by the Home Office.

184. Police forces can choose between the Airwave platform or a mobile phone platform to support use of PDAs. We took evidence from Research in Motion, the makers of Blackberry PDAs, who have deployed 14,000 devices across 28 forces, representing roughly three-quarter of all devices deployed in the UK.[214] Charmaine Eggberry explained their use:

    This device is used to access police national computers and all the databases … They can do everything from issuing warrants, looking up pictures of suspects while they are actually out on the street and are able to input the information that they gather directly onto the device …

    You have this device, it is small, unobtrusive, you are able to deal with the issue at hand right in front of you, you are able to look at those warrants, issue them if necessary, access the police networks, et cetera. For example, one of the police forces has told us that they have seen a five-times increase in the number of times that PCN networks are actually being accessed. [215]

185. Chief Constable Johnston of the British Transport Police described the benefits of PDAs for officers:

    An officer, under the old system, would write down a stop search in his book, would go back to the police station, type it into the computer—a very slow process—and would have to do the same with the intelligence report. Mobile data does this for him automatically. He taps it out on his mobile data terminal, John Smith gets typed in once, so every time he deals with a name John Smith, it will come up automatically on the key pad, the date of birth will come up automatically, so there are savings there in terms of paper work and also savings in terms of transferring the records from his on-the-street record back to the records of the organisation. That is done automatically, and so there are definite savings there.[216]

186. Bedfordshire Police worked with the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) to quantify the business benefits of using PDAs. Inspector Jim Hitch explained that prior to the introduction of PDAs in Bedfordshire, the amount of time spent by officers in the station had risen to 46%. After implementation, this figure fell very quickly to 36%, where it has remained. In addition, visible patrol time went up from 14% to 19%. The amount of time spent by officers dealing with incidents rose from 19% to 26%.[217]

187. However, 70% of the 349 officers surveyed by the Scottish Police Federation who had trialled PDAs said that they made them less efficient, around 25% said there was no change and less than 10% said they made them more efficient. Software problems meant that many electronic notes were corrupted, forcing officers to spend time re-entering evidence.[218]

188. When challenged by us, Ms Eggberry queried the technology used to support the devices in these instances and asserted that, on the contrary, Research in Motion receives "phenomenal reports" from police forces about ease of use.[219] This was supported by evidence from the British Transport Police and Bedfordshire police, including Inspector Hitch, who told us that "the actual devices and the system, the network, are very reliable".[220]

189. 75% of the Scottish officers surveyed also said they felt less safe using PDAs, owing to the concentration required to operate them during potentially confrontational situations. Chief Constable Johnston agreed his officers did have some concerns about entering data into PDAs as opposed to a notebook whilst dealing with suspects, but considered this would be overcome as officers become more comfortable with using the device. Staffordshire Police apply a policy whereby if an officer suspects that an offender may become violent, that officer should resort to communicating by radio rather than through the PDA.[221] The Police Federation argued for greater consideration of the practitioner's views as to what is workable and what is not in system design and implementation, as they are the end users of the technology.[222]

190. The total cost to a force of equipping a police officer with mobile IT is estimated to be between £3000 and £6500 per officer over five years.[223] Figures from Thames Valley, West Yorkshire and Bedfordshire forces show that the average cost is 80p-£1 per officer per day, which includes training, infrastructure and the device itself. Ms Eggberry estimated that it would cost £50 million to purchase and provide devices for all forces.[224]

191. Following publication of the Flanagan report, which promoted the use of PDAs, 19 forces in England (in addition to eight Scottish forces) won bids for 10,000 mobile data devices to be delivered between September 2008 and February 2009. The Government has since announced a further £25 million over the next two years so that by March 2010, 30,000 extra devices will have been delivered.[225]

192. Personal digital assistants can significantly increase the amount of time that police officers spend on visible patrol and dealing with incidents outside the station, and reduce the time they spend on paperwork. We welcome the Home Secretary's recent grant of £50 million to fund PDAs in 19 English forces and her promises of a further £25 million, but recognise that many forces were disappointed not to win funding bids. We recommend that sufficient funding is made available as soon as possible to enable all frontline officers to have access to a PDA.


193. Implementation of new technology poses significant challenges for the police. A recent article in Police Review, based on interviews with Hampshire Constabulary and the City of London Police, notes that forces are often forced to buy-in or develop their own solutions as they cannot afford to wait for roll-out of national systems.[226] The NPIA's Chief Executive, Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, agreed that the agency's major challenge is how to speed up the process of rolling out new technology, because "the constant tale is that it has taken so long. We are looking at ways in which we can speed things up by re-using what we have, by taking things off the shelf, and also by stopping the re-invention of the wheel".[227]

194. Sir Ronnie Flanagan noted in his Review of Policing that forces may also be unwilling to adopt common solutions. One of the key barriers to efficient purchase and implementation of new technologies is the historically fragmented approach taken across the service. Favourable conditions need to be in place at the same time in 43 force areas, which of course rarely happens.[228]

195. However, this results in unnecessary duplication of effort. One example of duplication that we discovered concerned the use of 999 call playbacks in interviews with those arrested for domestic violence, to assist with bringing charges. Staffordshire Police demonstrated their Webplayer 999 system, developed by a force inspector to circumvent the minimum four-week wait to receive a recording of the call. We wrote to the Home Secretary to request that this practice was implemented across forces, only to discover that Devon and Cornwall Police have developed a similar system.

196. Police systems do not link up across forces, necessitating a large amount of duplication in data entry: up to 70% of information is entered into police systems more than once.[229] Sergeant Rooney argued: "We need to be able to move it through the criminal justice system so that once I have put that information in, nobody else has to input the same information. At the moment, that does not happen".[230] The Police Federation agreed:

    Any new technology must come in the form of an integrated system that is fully compatible across all forces and the Criminal Justice System. We simply cannot afford to continue the current trend of multiple forces procuring multiple new technology solutions that are unique and not compatible in either resource or functionality across the force. This is a difficult challenge that will require investment in hardware and training—but it will be worth it in terms of how it could add real value to policing.[231]

197. In addition to the operational drawbacks, the Royal Academy of Engineering explained the negative financial impacts:

    The overheads and cost of transition to new systems can be significant, especially as individual police forces represent relatively small operations. In addition, many police forces operate in an autonomous manner. Implementing solutions on a force by force basis risks fragmentation, which would be a barrier to integration across police forces and wider emergency services. In addition, a fragmented approach may not attract the attention of the global technology companies who would implement new complex programmes.[232]

Mr Moonan described the experience of his company, G4S, when trying to win work from the police:

    It is more difficult. We are dealing with 43 customers who have got different specifications. It is harder for us to give economies of scale and to give a solution that will provide the optimum value for money for the police because we have to work with each one in turn and develop a solution just for their needs … When those people join together or when there is a framework agreement, there is more opportunity to provide a more efficient service, I would suggest.[233]

The Police Federation argued for more central control over the contracting of new systems to make it easier for forces in this regard.[234]

198. Some witnesses warned that complete centralisation would create its own problems. Ms Eggberry told us that Research in Motion work very closely with individual police forces, because each force has particular technology requirements based on the environment they are serving.[235] Inspector Hitch said:

    I think it is a mistake to centralise it and to have everybody doing exactly the same. There are different requirements in different parts of the country. For example, in parts of Scotland the Airwave coverage is the only coverage; there is hardly any mobile phone coverage in the Highlands. Airwaves is the only thing that can be used, whereas here mobile phone coverage is absolutely superb and there is no problem in using it … I think there needs to be retained some of the element of if we want to make a change to the system we can do it fairly quickly.[236]

199. Chief Constable Johnston argued it did not always make sense for an individual force to invest in new technology at a juncture that is decided centrally: "With the Airwave system, when I was with the Metropolitan Police, we had just bought a new radio system. So although for United Kingdom policing the business case stood up, for the Met, actually, it did not".[237]

200. However, Mr Bobbett, of Airwave Solutions Ltd, considered it was possible to achieve a balance between a centralised and individual force approach:

    Making sure that you have a common platform does not deny localisation, because there are local issues that are needed to be dealt with, but I think starting with a standard and a standard platform enables you then to build the localisation that makes the most efficient use for those individual officers but gives you the comfort of common information and common sharing. I think we have already done it with the Airwave system and, hopefully, we can have many more examples of that right across policing.[238]

201. The Airwave radio network is a rare example of a technology that was centrally procured and implemented across all forces. Universal implementation of the platform, which is based on Terrestrial Trunked Radio (TETRA) digital technology and used primarily for secure voice communications, allows for consistent standards, economies of scale and operational efficiency:

    If you go back to the old days of the analogue systems that the police forces had, they did not have the ability to communicate across their police force boundaries, they did not have the ability to communicate with other services, so they were very restricted in the things they could do with their previous systems; so Airwave is clearly a major step forward for them.[239]

Sir Ronnie Flanagan observed that the Airwave project had met with considerable resistance: "the lack of ability to compel forces to adopt this new technology meant it took almost ten years to implement".[240]

202. The National Policing Improvement Agency is intensifying its efforts to establish a practice of purchasing one system and making the framework available to the rest of the forces. For example, forces that have not yet got a mobile data platform will be able to buy into the platform purchased by the NPIA. Chief Constable Neyroud, noting that the service as a whole spends around about £1 billion pounds on technology each year, agreed that "to make best use of the cash you have to start thinking about operating some functions as one rather than 43 [forces], and this is one of them".[241]

203. Collaboration across forces is one means of ensuring that forces do not have to 'reinvent the wheel'. For example, Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire forces, which have advanced plans for the use of mobile devices, are assisting Derbyshire, Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire to develop their ideas on the use of this technology.[242] Inspector Hitch noted that Bedfordshire works very closely with other forces who deploy Blackberries, specifically Thames Valley Police, West Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire, to share ideas, but:

    I do sometimes wish that people were more willing to do that, and that there was more of a national focus on that, because I think it would be quite beneficial. Some people are rather precious about their ideas and their little inventions, which I think is a shame.[243]

204. The fruitfulness of the collaborative approach is perhaps demonstrated by the fact that the forces bidding as part of the East Midlands and Yorkshire collaborations comprised nearly half of those forces in England who were awarded funding for PDAs.

205. Central procurement of new technology allows for economies of scale, consistent standards and integrated systems, and makes the police service a more attractive client for providers. In addition, while we commend individual innovations towards more effective policing on the part of individual forces, we query how much time is wasted in duplicated efforts. In our view, it is possible to achieve a balance with meeting the needs of individual forces by developing a common platform that can then be tailored to suit the local situation.

206. The National Policing Improvement Agency should take the lead in negotiating the purchase of PDAs and their supporting infrastructure on a uniform basis, in order to reduce costs and remove contractual burdens from individual forces. In doing so, they should give careful consideration to the supporting infrastructure to ensure ease of use and flexibility to adapt to future innovations. It is important that officers who will use the technology are involved in system design to ensure it meets their needs.


207. The British Transport Police (BTP) experiences difficulties in securing funding for new technology developed by the NPIA for Home Office forces. As a force that is financed by the rail industry rather than the Home Office, the BTP is not always included in the specification for new technology. Of particular concern is the Home Office's refusal to fund BTP access to the Police National Database. Its Chief Constable warned of the consequences should the force fail to gain access:

208. In response to the Home Office contention that access should be paid for by the railway companies, Chief Constable Johnston argued:

    The BTP's contribution to the national intelligence database is for the benefit of UK, not just for the railway companies, and there is a very clear rationale for the scope of the programme to be widened to include BTP and for it to be fully funded by government.[245]

He said it was inevitable that BTP access to the database would have to be funded at some point, but any delay would have a "dramatic impact" on the force's ability to operate.[246]

209. The British Transport Police play a key role in protecting against the threat of terrorism. It is therefore essential that the force is able to access the Police National Database on the same basis as Home Office forces, to enable intelligence to be shared fully across the service. We hope that, in its reply to this report, the Home Office can provide assurances that funding for this will be forthcoming.


210. In addition to the operational benefits of collaborating to provide protective services, which we explore in the next chapter, the Government has encouraged shared support services as a means of achieving economies of scale and therefore saving money. This means forces pooling back-office functions, such as payroll and pensions, and human resources management. The Audit Commission has cited collaboration as a key factor in efficient use of resources by police authorities.[247]

211. We heard evidence of good practice in such work, particularly in Wales and the East Midlands, with the latter area pursuing the following shared services:[248]
Efficiency projects  
Tape summarising
Authorities bureau
Forensics and Identification
Prisoner Processing and File Prep

Workforce Modernisation

Demand Management
Resource Management
Crime Investigation
Force strength and resilience assessments
Regional Police and procedure alignment

212. The Policy Exchange recently concluded, however, that "the process of instilling a culture of co-operation and collaboration between forces is moving at an unacceptably slow pace".[249] Sir Ronnie Flanagan agreed:[250]

    While we can point to good operational collaboration, I think there are savings and efficiencies to be brought about by administrative collaboration in the whole area of procurement, be it of air support, information technology, fleet, issues like that. There is a lot of good, positive work going on but there is a lot more to be done.[251]

213. Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison explained why this might be the case:

    It is patchy and there are some obstacles, some barriers, to collaboration, and those barriers are the tight fiscal environment which means that a lot of forces are drawing in their belts which means they are not raising their gaze. Secondly, there is that sort of sense in both chief constables and police authorities of sovereignty and the fear—which I have come across as I did some work around collaboration—of being a net donor … So there is this very real sense, and it is difficult to break down other than by the Home Secretary using her powers, which she has.[252]

214. The Home Office does have the power to mandate shared services, but it has not previously exercised this power out of a desire to maintain positive working relationships with forces. While this is understandable, we recommended last year that the Home Office should keep under review its policy of not mandating police forces to share services should forces continue to be reluctant to initiate such co-operation themselves.[253]

215. Collaboration between forces at a regional level to share support services enables forces to operate more efficiently. While there is a range of good practice throughout England and Wales, it appears that many forces are not collaborating to the extent that they could be. We recommended last year in our Police Funding report that the Home Office should keep under review its policy of not mandating forces to share services. Given the lack of progress in this area, we recommend the Home Secretary should now use her powers to mandate those forces who are not doing so voluntarily to share support services.

Use of police staff

216. There has been a steady increase in the number of staff support roles within the police service, with the proportion of non-warranted personnel rising from 30% in 1997 to 37% in 2006.[254] The Institute for Public Policy Reform (IPPR) noted that around half of this increase was due to the introduction of PCSOs, with the remainder largely due to the transfer of back-office functions from warranted officers to non-warranted staff, mainly at lower levels of the organisation. There is also an increasing number of experienced professionals moving into senior IT, HR and finance roles from outside the service.[255]

217. One of Sir Ronnie Flanagan's proposals to release resources was for staff to undertake more police tasks, such as taking statements, and more generally by matching skills and aptitudes to roles and tasks. According to his report, evidence from the workforce modernisation pilots suggests that only a small proportion of the tasks carried out by the police require sworn officer powers and, when staff are trained specifically to carry out such a role, they can do so more effectively than an officer trained in a wider range of more general competencies.[256] The Policy Exchange cites findings that non-sworn personnel "are equally capable of [gathering evidence], and at a reduced cost". In Bexley, for example, the use of Civilian Investigators cut the time spent in dealing with cases by an average of 50%.[257]

218. Brian Paddick, formerly of the Metropolitan Police, agreed that police staff can be an effective means of releasing police officer capacity:

    I think we can make police officers far more effective in the job they do: we can raise their moral and motivation, if we get civilian support to do the mundane paper work for them. For example, if we allow police officers to radio in or telephone in their crime reports whilst they are at the scene of a crime to a professional keyboard operator in the police station, rather than making the police officer go back to the police station and use two fingers to make up the crime report.[258]

219. G4S Justice Services has five contracts in England and Wales to provide custody services, whereby custody suites are managed by civilians. Its Managing Director claimed that they could provide a service that was around 30% cheaper, and an improvement on the standard at which custody suites are currently run:

    When G4S provides a custody suite service, we train people in the specific roles for that particular area of police work, and what the police have found is that we provide a better service because our training is consolidated into the key things that are required for that environment and our people are very used to working in that environment.[259]

220. The benefits then, are in the form of cost and, arguably, effectiveness. The drawbacks can relate to resilience and trust. Chief Constable Sir Norman Bettison told us he believed that the scope for using support staff is "almost limitless", yet "the public facing role of policing demands that many of our people in those roles are … police men and police women".[260]

221. The Police Federation shared this concern:

    There is certainly a role for support staff within the Police Service … What we do not want to see is for those support staff to be taking police officers away from the softer contact that we have with the public and, thereby, seeing police officers only coming into contact over the hard, confrontational aspects of policing. That cannot be good … They need to have that contact and reassurance with the police in other areas too for them to trust and to actually want the police to come and deal with their problems.[261]

222. Deputy Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson urged caution in ensuring that an increase in police staff did not result in any significant reduction in police officers, who are the only police personnel with the authority and training required to make arrests and carry out duties such as public order policing:

    We are very positive about that [workforce modernisation] but I think all forces would say, but particularly in London, that we need to be bearing in mind the resilience of police officers, because when something happens we need to put fully trained police officers on the street. So there has to be a balance between modernisation and the retention of visible, skilled police officers who can do the business when the business needs to be done.

223. Sir Ronnie Flanagan was not convinced that the proposal made by the Policy Exchange for transferable temporary powers of arrest, search and seizure to police staff would be an appropriate means of safeguarding against a potential loss in resilience.[262] He sought to reassure us about the implications of his proposals for the role of constable:

    I am talking about … support being provided by what some people called non-sworn colleagues to do those routine tasks so as to relieve constables to be able to divert all their energy, their expertise and to give the benefit of their experience where it really matters. I am certainly not threatening the office of constable at all; quite the opposite. I am trying to free up constables so that they can give the public the benefit of their professionalism where it really counts and where they can really make a difference.[263]

224. The Committee took evidence specifically on sections 120 and 121 of the Serious and Organised Crime Act 2005, which have not yet been enacted. These allow chief constables to designate a member of police staff as a custody officer at grade A (with the same powers as a sergeant apart from power of arrest) or grade B (with fewer powers but still able to authorise detention).

225. Sergeant Rooney, from his personal experience as Custody Sergeant at Acton Police Station, was sceptical about the ability of a civilian to perform the role:

    You can train somebody to input the information into a computer system. You ask the person their name, date of birth, address and what they have been arrested for and you input what the officer has told you. However, whilst the person is there in front of me, I am making an assessment of them. That is my risk assessment of how I think they are going to behave during their time in custody. I can benefit from the short time I have been dealing with custody and my 16 plus years of dealing with people on the street … That is at one end of the scale. At the other end of the scale is somebody who is drunk, antagonistic and wants to fight and still continue to fight. How does a non-sworn officer deal with that person? That is not an easy thing to do because you have to try and reason with the person but you still have to try to get their details out of them. There does come a point when, unfortunately, you end up having to use force to put them in a cell.[264]

226. This view was echoed by Sir Norman Bettison:

    My personal—but professional—view is it is a mistake. The custody sergeant has a distinct role; the distinct role is champion of PACE on behalf of the accused and the detained; but he or she also has another role and that is to ensure that the investigation that is triggered by an arrest gets off to the right sort of start, so the custody sergeant is in an incredibly dynamic and complex working situation. The amount of money that it would cost to recruit somebody that could take on that level of complexity would be probably more expensive than a custody sergeant.[265]

227. When we put our concerns to the Minister of State, he told us:

    I will be looking in the future for a suitable opportunity to repeal that statutory provision because I do think the work done over the last year has taught me that it probably is a step too far and I would effectively confirm that PACE sergeants should remain in custody suites.[266]

228. We accept that the use of experienced professionals from outside the police service in administrative roles such as finance and human resources, and the transfer of back-office functions to police staff, allows for a more professional service to be delivered in a more cost- effective way and facilitates the deployment of more police officers on the frontline.

229. However, we urge caution when it comes to allowing police staff to undertake investigative tasks. Despite evidence suggesting that staff can undertake tasks such as taking statements in a cheaper and potentially more effective way, we are concerned about the implications for resilience in dealing with emergency situations, should officer numbers fall significantly; and for public consent for policing, should officers only be seen to undertake confrontational roles.

230. In particular, we do not consider the role of custody sergeant suitable for a non-sworn officer, owing to the complexity of the role and the need for a police officer's training and experience. Therefore, we welcomed the assurances we received from the Minister of State that he would seek to repeal Sections 120 and 121 of the Serious and Organised Crime Act.

194   Audit Commission, Police use of resources 2006/07, December 2007 Back

195   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 64 Back

196   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2006-07, Police Funding, HC 553, Ev 36 Back

197   Qq 2, 35  Back

198   Committee visit to Monmouth, 16 June 2008 Back

199   Harriet Sergeant, The Public and the Police, London: Civitas, 2008, p 17 Back

200   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 55 Back

201   Q 799 Back

202   Ev 292 Back

203   "The plodding pace of change", Guardian Unlimited, 8 February 2008, Back

204   Q 38 Back

205   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, pp 60-1 Back

206   Q 238 Back

207   Q 798 Back

208   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 63 Back

209   Equality and Human Rights Commission press release, 7 February 2008 Back

210   Q 43 Back

211   Q 71 Back

212   Q 150 Back

213   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2006-07, Police Funding, HC 553 para 98 Back

214   Q 499 Back

215   Qq 501, 520 Back

216   Q 567 Back

217   Q 582. Figures derived from Activity-Based Costing. Back

218   "Police get PCs to cut the burden of red tape", Daily Telegraph, 27 May 2008, p 11, "High tech trial leaves cops feeling unsafe", Police Review, 25 April 2008, p 6 Back

219   Q 511 Back

220   Q 591 Back

221   Informal presentation from Staffordshire Police to the Committee, 15 July 2008 Back

222   Q 614 Back

223   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 36 Back

224   Qq 506, 508 Back

225   Home Office, From the Neighbourhood to the National: Policing our Communities Together, July 2008, p 42 Back

226   "IT's time to change", Police Review, 7 March 2008, pp 35-36 Back

227   Q 182  Back

228   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 37 Back

229   Ibid., pp 23-24, 35-38, 51-61 Back

230   Q 221 Back

231   Ev 207 Back

232   Ev 246 Back

233   Qq 555-556 Back

234   Q 613 Back

235   Q 499 Back

236   Qq 594-5 Back

237   Q 606 Back

238   Q 557 Back

239   Q 521 Back

240   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 38 Back

241   Q 182 Back

242   Ev 225-6 Back

243   Q 600 Back

244   Q 604 Back

245   Q 579 Back

246   Q 604 Back

247   Audit Commission, Police use of resources 2006/07, December 2007, pp 3-4 Back

248   Ev 227 Back

249   B. Loveday & J. McClory, Footing the bill: Reforming the police service, Policy Exchange, 2007, pp 20-21 Back

250   Q 11 Back

251   Q 12 Back

252   Q 180  Back

253   Home Affairs Committee, Fourth Report of Session 2006-07, Police Funding, HC 553, para 93 Back

254   Ibid., para 5 Back

255   T. Gash, The New Bill: Modernising the police workforce, IPPR, February 2008, p 26  Back

256   Sir Ronnie Flanagan, The Review of Policing: Final Report, February 2008, p 40 Back

257   B. Loveday & J. McClory, Footing the bill: Reforming the police service, Policy Exchange, 2007, p 23, B. Loveday, "Workforce Modernisation in the Police Service", International Journal of Police Science and Management, 2008, 10, 2, pp 136-144 Back

258   Q 116 Back

259   Qq 547-8 Back

260   Q 187 Back

261   Qq 621, 624 Back

262   B. Loveday & J. McClory, Footing the bill: Reforming the police service, Policy Exchange, 2007, p 38; Q 27 Back

263   Q 26 Back

264   Q 230  Back

265   Q 188 Back

266   Q 808 Back

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