Sorry about the picture but I thought it was a timely reminder when talking about cuts that some of our colleagues are facing real cuts on the front line.
Like many Forces, Utopia is reviewing itself and all sorts of projects are underway to cut police officer and police staff numbers. We are also bracing ourselves for further cuts when the public spending axe will undoubtedly start swinging next year.
I don’t know about your Force, but in Utopia police officer numbers are reducing steadily while police staff are increasing quite dramatically. We keep being told that police staff are better value and we can get more of them for less. We all seem to have been brainwashed now to accept this view.
I decided to look at the numbers and I would urge you to do the same in your Force. Over the last ten years we have lost 235 police officer posts but we have gained over 1500 police staff posts. Now I only got a C in Maths at ‘O’ Level, but even I can tell that for 1500 police staff I can get about 1000 police officers. So are police staff really good value for money?
Whilst reflecting on where we are spending money and where we might make savings I started to think about some of the beasts that have been created to oversee and manage the police service. If further money needs to be saved in future, is there scope to make it among the quango monsters that seem to be the tail wagging the dog? I have excluded the Home Office, for now, but this is where the big bucks are spent and where we should perhaps be focusing most of our scrutiny.
The National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) was created in 2007. It employs 2327 staff and costs the taxpayer £700 million a year, enough to run two medium sized police forces. What do they actually deliver? They oversee some national products such as Airwave. (An expensive dogs mess!) In general it seems to be an expensive gravy train for lots of overpaid senior officers to provide advice, recommendations, support etc to Police forces that really takes us nowhere.
Look at some of the roles: Peter Neyroud, Chief Constable and Chief Executive £195 K p.a. plus perks. Angela O’Connor, Chief People Officer £145K p.a. plus perks Richard Earland Chief Information Officer £160 K plus perks Nice work if you can get it.
And some of the roles tell a tale about the pointless task that they perform: Planning Dependency Manager £32-39 K p.a. Transformation Change Analyst £43-53 K p.a.
I could go on but you get the picture. Would we miss it if it disappeared into the ether?
Next is Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary. Compared to the NPIA it is small fry. Home Office funded and only £12.34 million. But what do we actually get from the HMIC? They simply provide work for the bureaucratic machinery within each force, demanding statistics, reports, teams of officers preparing for inspections etc. Bugger off and leave us alone then we can save millions in bureaucracy and concentrate on the basics of policing and spend some money on filling the obvious gaps you so cleverly identify.
Next, the Independent Police Complaints Commission. £32 million at the last count. Is this value for money?
Finally, I wanted to mention ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers. Most people are under the impression that this is a staff association. It is not! There is a Chief Police Officer’s Staff Association. ACPO is a limited company funded by the Home Office to the tune of £15m last year and also by the Association of Police Authorities. Far from being an independent voice for the police service, it is a money making business funded to advise and influence but also to promulgate the views of the purse holders and masters. In bed with the NPIA; a very cosy nepotistic relationship providing lots of jobs for the boys and girls.
There is too much fat and too much overlap within all these organisations. When the public spending axe starts swinging next year I hope it cuts a swathe through these quangos and not within the Forces. As I first stated in this missive, left to the forces, they will cut front line staff rather than backroom police staff functions. God help us!
This is not the usual type of posting in this blog but I felt that this was of such importance that it was worth publishing and debate.
The following is a letter that the Police Federation of England and Wales have sent to the Prime Minister. I do realise there is a bigger picture here, but this just shows how far this Government is prepared to stoop to try and win some trade to try and help get us out of the crap they have dropped us in.
LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER 14th September 2009
Dear Prime Minister, Together with the 140,000 police officers throughout England and Wales that the Police Federation represents, I was shocked, appalled and disgusted at the revelations in the Sunday Times that the Libyan killer of PC Yvonne Fletcher will never be brought to justice in Britain following a deal struck by your government.
This is an absolute disgrace. PC Fletcher was gunned down in cold blood 25 years ago by a cowardly and callous killer who managed to flee to Libya. Now we discover your government rolled over three years ago abandoning any attempt to bring Yvonne’s killer to face the UK courts and justice. Only you and your colleagues know the true reasons why such an arrangement was agreed but for those I represent and for a large number of the public the timing of the agreement would suggest your government was prepared to sell its soul for trade deals being negotiated at the time.
This case is particularly close to my heart, not least because I attended the same school as Yvonne, albeit a few years ahead of her, and then our lives took a similar track again as we both joined the Metropolitan Police. Yvonne was an absolute professional with a promising policing career ahead; her untimely and tragic murder whilst serving this country needs proper resolution for her family, friends and past colleagues.
I appreciate that this deal was secured under the watch of the previous Prime Minister, but police officers throughout this country need to know that the dangers they face are understood by the government of the day and, if tragedy strikes, that political leaders will do everything in their power to ensure that justice is served.
I look forward to hearing what assurances you can give and what actions your government will undertake to bring Yvonne’s killer to face a jury in a UK court.
Chairman, The Police Federation of England and Wales
Policing in the Utopian Force is taking a worrying turn.
I am a great fan of neighbourhood policing and the idea of local officers tackling problem people and places in their communities with the help of partners and public is something I have worked with and supported for many years.
I am sure many of you remember the bad old days (sic) when performance was measured largely by crime and detection rates. Now, one thing the police service is good at is meeting targets. Set us almost any target and it will be met by hook or by crook. Some Forces didn't bother recording crime and most massaged the detection rates. Catching the teenage graffiti artist and getting them to clear up 100 other offences bumped the detection rate up a couple of percent. It was easier to focus on minor crime and get detections rather than spend a lot of resources trying to detect one burglary.
OK, I am not naive and I know that detection rates are still a performance measure in many forces, but now the focus is all about public confidence and satisfaction. The Home Office were convinced that focusing the efforts of the police on a number of specific measures was skewing resources towards those areas. Policing is such a vast portfolio, it is impossible to measure all activity and results effectively. What we needed was the one target of public confidence and satisfaction. This would ensure that we were providing a good all round service to the public. Sold! To the mug in charge of the Home Office.
What everyone hoped to see was a steady rise in public confidence and satisfaction as crime rates dropped, more offences were detected and problem people and places were eliminated. The problem is that senior managers are not prepared to wait five or ten years for the investment in neighbourhoods and elsewhere to take effect. The next career progression is measured in much shorter terms.
So, in Utopia, what is happening now is that we have droves of staff monitoring and collecting data regarding confidence and satisfaction. We have project teams dreaming up new ways of pushing up levels of public confidence and satisfaction. It is not all bad and there have been some useful improvements around keeping victims of crime updated. In neighbourhoods we are asking our teams to spend their days knocking on peoples doors to introduce themselves and ask what the local problems are. When they are not doing that they are holding 'surgeries' throughout their areas. Tackling the problems in the community is not a priority and not getting done. This might result in short term gains in confidence as the public gets to see their local officer, but in the medium term it will fall. Next time they knock on someones door they will be told that there is no point anyone telling them who is doing what as they do nothing with the information they already have.
I wish that instead of wasting resources on projects and promoting neighbourhood policing, instead we put those resources into the front line and produced real long term results. Short term gains to help careers progress are not sustainable and will result in a drop in confidence and satisfaction rates in the medium to long term. Never fear, I guess that will be the opportunity for the next tranche of senior managers wishing to move ever onwards and upwards.
The opinions and views expressed here are mine, and mine alone. They do not necessarily reflect the policies and views of the Utopian Police Force nor the City of Utopia.
The stories I tell here are all true but my purpose is not technical accuracy. My purpose is to illustrate the nature of policing in an educational and entertaining way.
I have tried to respect the privacy of the citizens of the city and to relate specific facts without identifying individuals. I believe I succeed in this but if you do recognize yourself and believe others will too, please contact me and I shall rectify it.