As the Police service prepares to implement cuts in line with budget reductions, some Police officers have been advised to make fewer arrests, deal with more crimes over the phone and not respond to as many incidents. The remarkable advice has been issued by senior officers at Staffordshire Police who paid £480,000 to consultancy firm KPMG to carry out an 18-week review. The new policy means ‘low-level’ anti-social behaviour and neighbour disputes will be handled by untrained council workers instead of police.

In addition more offenders will be given penalty notices rather than being arrested, in the new plans unveiled yesterday. Consultants KPMG was brought in to help Staffordshire Police cope with budget cuts of £38 million and the loss of 300 officers and civilian staff since April 2010. But Chief Constable Mike Cunningham told Staffordshire Police Authority: ‘This is about service improvement at a time of reduced resources.

‘If we lose the satisfaction of the people who contact us for help then we will have failed.
‘We need to make sure we can still live up to demands with significantly fewer people.
‘Both call handlers and response officers felt that many incidents were being attended inappropriately, for example matters which could be resolved over the phone, or by local authorities.’

The move has been blasted by county councillor Frank Chapman, who told the authority: ‘I don’t wish to devalue this, but there are deprived and challenging areas in the force area and a lot of vulnerable people. ‘We need to make sure we respond to incidents that sometimes might seem quite minor.’

Alan Joinson, chairman of East Bentilee Residents’ Association, said: ‘The police ought to be more visual to nip incidents in the bud.’

Deputy Chief Constable Douglas Paxton said the changes will achieve productivity gain the equivalent of £12.2 m every year.
He said: ‘Both call handlers and response officers felt that many incidents were being attended inappropriately, for example some matters could be resolved over the phone or by local authorities. He added: ‘The new crime recording process now takes on average 11 minutes less inputting time for the officer per crime. This equates to over 11,000 hours of reduced officer time per year spent inputting crime.’

The economics of this are simple. If Police are having their budgets cut by up to 20% over the coming four years then they simply can not carry on as they have in the past. They need to cut their cloth accordingly and therefore changes in how they work need to be made. By handing over responsibility for ‘low-level’ anti-social behaviour and neighbour disputes to ‘untrained council workers’ they are effectively passing that cost (and the buck) on to the council too but that isn’t their problem… it’s the Council’s. It’s the Council’s problem because they now need to incur the costs to train their staff to handle such matters and to deliver their new services. In addition the Council will need to bolster it’s legal department for all the new claims they will no doubt inherit that were formerly directed at the Police.

As budget cuts have been implemented on the Police over the years, then they have reduced their scope accordingly which is the very reason the private security industry continues to thrive. The Council may deliver their new responsibilities personally or they may well sub contract the work to a local security company. One thing is for sure, nothing is free and someone, somewhere has to pay for it.