The Daily Telegraph: Bobbies on beat for less than one hour in seven

Wednesday, 12 December, 2007

Police officers spend more time filling in forms than they do patrolling the streets, new figures show.

The average time spent on patrol by all officers in England and Wales is now barely 13 per cent, while paperwork ties them up for nearly 20 per cent of their shifts.

Despite Government claims about reduced bureaucracy and more visible policing, the Home Office figures show that "incident-related paperwork'' - primarily forms relating to arrests or interventions such as stop and search - is keeping officers off the streets.

In 2006/2007, the average police officer in England and Wales - including beat Pcs, traffic officers and detectives - was out on the streets for 13.6 per cent of their time, while paperwork accounted for 19.7 per cent, with 11.4 per cent of that taken up with "incident-related'' forms.

The balance has deteriorated since 2004/2005, when patrol time was 15.3 per cent and paperwork was 18.4 per cent, including 9.9 per cent spent on incident-related bureaucracy.

The figures, released in answer to a question by the Tories, show the position is not much better for uniformed Pcs classed as patrol officers, who might be expected to spend most of their time on the beat.

In addition, they underline police concerns that, while the traditional bureaucracy of duplicate forms has been tackled, simple arrests generate even more paperwork.

David Ruffley , the shadow minister for police reform, said: "Police paperwork is on the increase but our police want to be crime fighters not form writers.

"Despite all the talk, the amount of time all police officers spend on incident-related paperwork has risen by 1.5 per cent.

"After 10 years, five Labour home secretaries and five red tape reviews, the police still spend more time on paperwork than on patrol.

"To the amazement of beat officers, ministers claim that they have abolished 9,000 forms. The Home Secretary refuses to list the forms that she has allegedly cut. These figures, which will depress police officers, show why.''

In giving the figures, Tony McNulty, the police minister, highlighted the Government's controversial "front-line policing measure'' as an indicator of its success on bureaucracy.

It suggests more time is spent on front-line duties, now at around 64 per cent. But the definition of "front-line'' includes attending court and incident-related paperwork.

He said: "Time spent on patrol refers only to time when an officer is patrolling but engaged in no other duty.

"It is therefore inappropriate to look at this element in isolation from other activities.

"The front-line policing measure provides a fuller picture of police officer activity because it assesses time spent on core duties such as patrol and responding to 999 calls.''