Althea Loderick.........................Mark Rowley
Mark Rowley, Chief Constable of Surrey has recently taken over as the ACPO Lead for Futures. This appears to be fitting as Surrey like to believe they lead the way with regard to innovation and changing the way we police this country. Together with Althea Loderick of the National Police Improvement Agency a report has been produced suggesting that police Forces throughout the country should reduce the number of officers by around 28,000 and replace these officers with cheaper police staff. Mr Rowley believes that all forces should aim for a 50/50 balance of police officers and police staff. Surrey has more police staff than police officers!
At the same time the Home Office have announced that they want to see a £70 million reduction in the police overtime bill. The police may have to face cuts as the public spending axe starts swinging, but is this a sensible way to do it?
Mark Rowley joined Surrey Police in 2000. Referring to Police Authority reports, at this time Surrey had 2100 police officers and 760 police staff. Looking at the latest Police Authority report Surrey has 1845 police officers and 2335 police staff. So, over the last ten years Surrey has lost 255 police officers and gained 1575 police staff. Now, I don't have a Cambridge degree like Mr Rowley, but my 'O' level maths tells me that 1575 police staff cost an awful lot more than 255 police officers.
Mr Rowley would undoubtedly point out that Surrey has invested in new police staff such as PCSO's, Contact Centre staff etc. Being very generous this is still less than 500 staff. So even allowing for this 255 police officers have been replaced by over 1000 police staff. Police staff cost around two thirds of a police officer not a quarter and so Mr Rowley's argument does not hold up. If all Forces follow the Surrey model spending will increase.
In my own Force I have seen police staff replace police officers for the last 25 years. Initially this is on a one for one basis. Invariably though, I have then seen the police staff doubled or even whole departments spring up with supervisors and deputy supervisors etc. doing the job one or two police officers used to do. Why is this? My own view is that most of the 'desk jobs' were carried out by the longer serving officers. They knew the job and organisation inside out, knew how everything worked and were incredibly efficient. A member of police staff was brought in, they didn't know the organisation or how to get things done. Nor were they prepared to fore go breaks and work on if required. Invariably they went under with the workload and more staff had to be put in.
Another factor that seems to have escaped this report is that some long serving police officers have picked up injuries, disabilities or illnesses and are unable to undertake fully operational duties. Placing them in key roles that help the organisation function has been beneficial to the efficient running of the Force. Many Forces, including my own have 'civilianised' all these roles. The average Force has about 8% of officers who cannot perform fully operational duties. Forces are now at a loss as to what they are going to do with these officers. This is a tragic waste and is costing Forces dearly. They must either employ these officers effectively or ill health retire them, which will be very expensive.
Finally, if you pare your police officers to the bone you have no resilience in the force. When a number of unexpected murders occur or you have to police a number of critical incidents such as the flooding and foot and mouth outbreak in 2007, where do you draw in your extra police officers from? There will be none left.
Regarding overtime, I am sure that with prudence and budgeting some overtime spending can be cut. What people need to realise though is that most overtime is spent on proactive policing. Reductions in overtime spending will see a reduction in performance.
My message to Mark Rowley and Althea Loderick is this. Our job is policing. The focus should be on police officers. It cannot be right that we need one member of staff for every police officer. This is like saying the National Health Service needs a member of support staff for every doctor and nurse. Try reducing your police staff and increasing your police officer numbers back to 2100 Mr Rowley. That is how you will save money and get more policing done.