Police Form Filling by Bury St Edmunds Bobbies Following an Arrest: Ruffley sees for himself how long it takes

Tuesday, 18 January, 2005

David Ruffley will see for himself just how much time police officers have to spend filling in forms following an arrest when he is given a personal presentation by Suffolk Constabulary officers on Friday, 21 January at Suffolk Constabulary Western Area Headquarters at Maynewater House, Maynewater Lane, Bury St Edmunds.

The session has been arranged by Superintendent Mark Cordell, Western Area Operations Manager. The presentation will be given by Inspector Caroline Miller. Also in attendance will be the new Bury St Edmunds Sector Commander, Chief Inspector Andy Henwood, and new Mid Suffolk Sector Commander, Inspector Les King. Several front line police officers will also be on hand as their duties permit during the session.

David Ruffley said: 'I want to see for myself the huge amount of paperwork that is keeping our hard working beat bobbies chained to the desk at the police station. Police officers should be freed from this burden so they can do what they most want to do- that is, fight crime on the streets.

Police officers are spending less than two thirds of their time actually on the beat fighting criminals. This is not the fault of our dedicated Suffolk policemen and women. Our police officers in Suffolk are working hard and have cut some crime but they are being dragged down by Whitehall bureaucracy that prevents them from patrolling the streets and catching criminals.

I want to see a greater emphasis on neighbourhood policing and a greater say for local people on how police forces are run. I want them to be backed up by more money to provide the extra 379 police officers across Suffolk that Michael Howard promises under a Conservative Government."

Currently police officers across the country find themselves filling in forms and meeting performance targets set in Whitehall. The Police Performance Assessment Framework (PPAF), for example, imposes top down assessment criteria on each police force. Through the PPAF, the Government has imposed 13 headline measures and 36 component measures on the police. Conservatives plan to cut back on this central control, for example the rule that said the police should measure the percentage of local people who think their police "do a good job" would go- the police could instead concentrate on effective policing, not PR.

According to Home Office research:

•Arresting someone- no matter whether they are a petty criminal or a serious offender- keeps officers off the beat for an average of 3.5 hours- often for far longer. At busy times there are bottlenecks in custody and frequent delays in carrying out finger-printing, photographing and criminal record checks. Delays are generally the same for a simple shop-lift as for a much more serious matter. Where a solicitor, appropriate adult or interpreter is required, this can trigger a further wait of on average an hour (Home Office, Diary of a Police Officer, November 2001)

•Police officers spend almost as much time in the police station (43.1 per cent of their time) as they do on the streets.

•For five hours a day, over 50 per cent of the officers on a shift are in the station.

•Only around 17% of police officer time is spent on reassurance patrol.

•When on patrol, most is conducted from a car, in part because officers need to be able to respond rapidly to priority incidents. It appears that foot patrol is a rarity.

•On patrol officers are often 'double crewed', particularly at night, rather than deployed singly. A shortage of vehicles and health and safety considerations in part explain the extent of double crewed patrols, but custom and practice play their part as well. The visibility of the police diminishes.