Getting the police back on the beat

Police Minister Damian Green MP visited Cumbria a few days ago to support Richard Rhodes, the excellent Conservative candidate in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 15th November.

While here he told an interesting anecdote which indicates how much more needs to be done to cut bureaucracy and red tape so that our police can concentrate on fighting crime and making communities safer.

Since coming to power in 2010 the Coalition government has already scrapped forms and regulations which took police officers 4.5 million hours a year to complete, which is equivalent to putting 2,000 officers back on the beat. But this story indicates how much more there is to do.

Damian Green was out on a foot patrol with three police officers in his Ashford constituency. They called at a pub where an individual who had too much to drink was causing trouble. The officers ejected him from the pub and told him not to come back, but did not arrest him. Damian observed that the gentlemen had almost seemed to want to be arrested, and asked the officers if there was a particicular reason why he had not been.

The reply was that they were the one team of uniformed officers out on patrol in the town at that point, and if they had arrested that individual they would have had to take him back to the police station and spend an hour filling in forms about it: an hour during which there would have been no uniformed presence on the streets of the town.

It doesn't matter how many police officers you employ or how good they are, if you then tie their hands with rules which require them to spend vast amounts of time in a police station filling in forms they will only be able to provide limited protection for law-abiding members of the community.

The government is looking at further reductions in the number of forms to complete and at providing better electronic means to deal with them remotely, but there is obviously still a long way to go.


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