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Following last year’s HMIC Report into Police Governance in a time of Austerity, Govtoday Editor, Scott Buckler sat down with HMIC Lead Inspector on value for money, Roger Baker, to discuss last week’s report, Police Workforce Comparisons and what front line policing actually means


Why was the HMIC asked to define front line Policing by the Minister, Nick Herbert?

In a nutshell there was an absence of a working definition of what front line meant to policing. The public are interested in front line policing and to date there is no real definition of what that actually means. For the HMIC we felt it was important to highlight how policing is carried out and what resources are being used in different roles.

Has front line Policing fallen, if so why has this been?

We are currently preparing a report on the official figures which will be published in July, the statistics in this report were compiled using police force data which ran up to last March. The actual breakdown in the report will probably be out of date as many forces froze recruitment a few months ago. The HMIC report in July will look at how many numbers the police service will fall by - it will clearly fall as 85% of revenue budget is spent on people. So the ‘form’ of policing will be affected but we will want to see that the quality of the service to the public has not been diminished.

Do you believe there have been more demands put on the Police in the past decade?

Yes, I believe there have been significant changes in many areas. There are now many frontline services from the street to the internet. If you take a look at how counter terrorism has changed since the London suicide bombings in 2005 and the growing complexity of organised crime you can see demands have increased. That said the public are keen to know where police are and what they are doing. The core issues concerning local policing have not changed in the public’s view. They still want visible policing and a sense of security. This has not changed since the 1880’s.

Do you believe the public are aware of the many police roles?

The public are very interested in the police but there is a difference between interest and technical knowledge of the different roles and functions. For example, I do not understand how my local hospital functions but I would be concerned about a reduction in services which would affect me. So whilst I believe the public understand about their bobby on the beat and police presence they are not fully aware of what defines front line policing and what work goes on behind the scenes. This is one of the reasons why the report has been published. It enables the public to better understand how their police resources are being used in the different roles.

What are the most significant findings from the report?

This report is one of a series that looks at policing services in a modern society. We started to look last year at how police resources are being deployed and utilised, this was highlighted within our ‘Valuing the Police’ report. This report, entitled ‘Demanding Times- The front line and police visibility’  is presented in three parts. Firstly, to provide a working definition of front line and, whilst there is not complete consensus, it does enable the public and professionals to compare and contrast how resources are being used. Secondly, the public have told us that they are interested in the visibility and availability of the police. It is important to inform the public of when and where their officers are being deployed, it can also help chief constables to make informed decisions when addressing shift patterns and numbers of officers and PCSOs in visible roles. Thirdly, we are trying to communicate that policing is a team effort, we are not saying that those staff who work in back and middle office functions are not important. The case studies within the report highlight the importance of both front and back office. The public have a right to know about decisions made by their chief constables - it is after all the public who are paying for the service. We have been working with police forces to understand how they will be implementing the cuts to their budgets and the impact to the service provided. The findings from this work will be compiled in a report due to be published in July which will give an insight into what police services will look like after cuts have been made and what it means to crime, justice and the overall effectiveness of your Force.



HMIC will be publishing in May a report on the potential to cut crime recording bureaucracy

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Written by Roger Baker   
Friday, 08 April 2011 08:31
Last Updated on Friday, 08 April 2011 08:53


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