Society Magazine

Economies of Fail – Part 1

Posted on the 09 March 2015 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

Talking about how things really are within the Policing machine has always been a bit of a taboo subject. ‘Public confidence’ was always the phrase rolled out by the senior management whenever things got a little difficult and it seemed there was a degree of discontent within the rank and file. Woe betide any officer who posted their concerns in a public forum or explained the real reason it took three hours to get to a domestic dispute…

Recently though, things have finally got to the point where people need to know what is happening as the alternative is simply an unexplained absence which is even more damaging to that magical confidence percentage figure than a few grumpy cops ranting on Facebook about how they were off late again last night.

In particular a number of Police Federations have released written and, even more dramatically, video messages into the public domain to try to illustrate how thin the blue line is getting.

Essex Police Federation have even gone to the length of creating a dedicated website – – which hosts their own video on the subject as well as highlighting the financial and operational difficulties they currently face. This is an unprecedented step toward public information sharing and has been a long time coming. I have added a direct link to their site on my front page.

We have nationally cut officer numbers by a significant percentage through recruitment freezes, which no longer off-set natural processes such as retirements and resignations. The remaining officers are still battling against 10-year-old levels of expectation from the public and this is unsustainable. There are things that we have always done, and things we still do which have to give way to our core responsibilities – protecting life and property and bringing offenders to justice.

Over the last set of shifts my team worked a total of 39 hours of overtime. Not gucci-double-time-pre-planned-operation overtime, but should-be-at-home-with-the-family-or-picking-the-kids-up-from-school flat-rate overtime including 30 minutes for the Queen which receives absolutely no payment at all – how many unsalaried employees in other organisations would work up to three hours every week for free!
This wasn’t done by choice or because there was a few hundred pounds in the bosses bank account which needed using up. This was done out of pure necessity.

Because there are now just over half the officers on a team that there used to be, those that remain are trying to deal with completely unmanageable demand. They are being badgered by the dispatchers as soon as they walk in the door and only get left alone once the next team walk into the building and take the car keys off them. The list on the CAD screens almost never gets emptied any more – except maybe in the wee small hours on a week night.

As a result of this, they end up having to do all the admin associated with their days work at the end of the day. This isn’t just a case of scribbling a few notes in a pocket-book, but the process of producing detailed and critical reports such as Risk Referrals for children and adults, Domestic Abuse files and evidential files for prisoners in custody.
These aren’t things that can just be put off. They could contain the information required by social services to protect the life of a child, or the information needed to safeguard a victim of violent domestic abuse. We work on after the end of the shift because we have to. There just isn’t the opportunity to get this stuff done at any other time unless the other urgent work gets left unattended.

This amount of over time equates to a full weeks work for one officer. If you replicate this across the rest of an average force (limiting it to those exposed to such events) you can easily find enough hours to pay the annual salary for another fifty officers. If we added back in all the time we could spend on incidents that currently receive no response you could probably add half of that again.

That’s a cost of £1,800,000 which would pay for eight or ten complete shifts of extra officers based on current numbers at some stations!

How much more could we achieve with fifty additional bobbies. We could re-stock the dog section, mounted section, or roads policing teams. We could do something proactive and prevent some crime rather than picking up the pieces a few hours later. Or we could just get some of our people home on time a little more often so they can spend time with the kids before bed time or do the school run in the morning, or just be there for dinner for once. How nice would that be!

Economics has dictated the budget reductions, but economics are not always right. Sometimes saving money costs money and where’s the sense in that…

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