As those who drop by from time to time will have realised; I’m no great fan of the massive administrative machine which often blights the financial efficiency of British policing. Having said that, I also know the police aren’t alone in this malaise which also impacts upon other public sector functions however for this post, I’ll stick with what I know.
I can understand and appreciate there is in fact a process need for many of these so-called back office functions in modern-day policing however, many could be removed or at least made more efficient. I have concerns arround the issues of; (1) their actual worth to the policing process, (2) their propensity for exponential growth over recent years and (3) their productivity, efficiency and accountability. Far too often, many of these ‘support’ type functions actually present themselves as the raison d’être of the policing process. A clear-cut case of the proverbial tail wagging the dog!
The first thing to understand is; a great deal of this monster has actually been forced on the police by organisations and influences external to the policing process. As many have resulted out of governmental direction, we can also assume that much of it is in fact politically motivated. Some of the admin burden may be little more than simple process guidance however; Chief Officers often clamor to compete against their peers in the compliance stakes, irrespective of the capability of resources they command… Could performance bonus payments for senior officers have anything to do with this factor I wonder?
Items like the Home Office directed National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS), the National Call Handling Standards (NCHS) and the National Standard for Incident Recording (NSIR) have all had an impact however; some of these impacts are also pieces of legislation… Laws which the police service must comply with.
Items of legislation such as the Data Protection Act (DPA), the Management of Police Information (MoPI), the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FoI) to name but a few, have all created ‘new’ work within policing. Consequently, meeting their requirements and remaining compliant also requires all manner of functions like data input operators, audit teams and data managers etc.
We should also remember that much of this ‘new’ law, mostly created within the last decade or so, has placed additional impacts upon the service which weren’t there previously. Much of this ‘new’ interference within the policing process has been born out of political agenda, and/or the blame and retribution culture that predominates within our society today.
There are many other administrative functions which I haven’t even touched upon, ones that exist in any large organisations i.e. finance, procurement, estates and HR functions etc and, contrary to the beliefs of many, I have always believed there are actually many savings to be found and achieved… Just not in the manner reflected in much of the political rhetoric of our government or the Senior Management methodology within many police forces.
Perhaps politicians should have been a little more receptive to advice from (and negotiations with) police practitioners about cuts. But no, politicians always know best… Irrespective of how far they may be removed from the realities of the actual or perceived problems they wish to address. In continuing to hammer through their original policing reform proposals and budget cuts, they are now desperate to save face and prevent any u-turn from their policy, especially in light of the recent riots.
Recent events have helped to prove the value of police numbers, in addition it also highlighted that in general, the public still hold the police in high esteem. Public support for the policing function is enhanced during times of dire need and the government know this. Is it any wonder that the public are now asking similar questions of the Government, that have
A little realised consequence of current events has been the raft of ruling parliamentarians scrabbling for items to justify their ethics and policies. The recent (mostly pointless) FoI request from the Conservative Dominic Raab MP (Honorable member for Esher & Walton) is a case in point. Raab suggests that…
“Millions of pounds of public money is being squandered on union activities in our police forces and the Home Office.” (Dominic Raab MP)
Rightly and succinctly, Mark Botham the Chairman of our local Police Federation branch, challenged and countered Raab’s claims (see here), ones which I suspect were made in a simple and vain effort to detract from the debacle surrounding the current policy and proposals of our government.
Perhaps all this blame shifting, and the continual search for feeble explanations, subsequently dressed up as ‘reasons’ for the previous waste of our money or excuses for current policy, are to be (partly) expected… After all, isn’t this the type of action we have actually come to expect from our political clowns?
Contrary to much of the political and senior management arguments, there are still many ways to save much of the money that is so undoubtedly required in policing. And without major negative impacts upon the visible policing required by the public.
Our country’s political leadership must revisit their plans for policing budgets. In addition, many of the self-serving Chiefs could do with an injection of humility… It’s time they showed some genuine desire to implement change for the greater good of the service!