The Sun: Cop jobs axe

Friday, 8 February, 2008

Thousands to go as police replaced by civilians, spy cameras and computers

Thousands of police jobs will be axed as more civilians and high-tech equipment are used in the war against crime.

Routine tasks done by cops will be taken on by civilian staff in a huge shake up of the service.

And spy cameras and computer wizardry will be used more to capture crooks.

The huge changes were announced in the Commons by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith yesterday and spelt out in detail in a review of policing by top cop Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

He refused to say how many of the 141,000 police jobs in England and Wales would go - but warned staffing levels were "unsustainable" and the number would have to fall.

Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Ronnie predicted funding would be tight over the next three years - and pointed out that 80p in every pound goes on wages.

But he claimed the job losses could be offset by stripping back red tape and using more support workers.

He said: "There is widespread recognition among the leadership of the service that maintaining police numbers at their current level is not sustainable."

Sir Ronnie vowed to slash police paperwork to give officers who are left on the force more time to patrol the streets.

Jobs such as manning the front desk at police stations, processing suspects in cells and taping off crime scenes would be done by non-police officers.

Stop and search rules will be overhauled so suspects are given just a "receipt" instead of a 90-point questionnaire. Crime reporting will be streamlined with shorter, simpler forms for eight out of ten offences.

Cops currently have to fill in the same amount of paperwork for a broken window as a murder.

The Tories accused the Government of using the review to mask massive cuts. Shadow police reform minister David Ruffley said: "Labour sees slashing red tape solely as a means to cut police officer numbers."

Cops' leaders claimed hiring more civilian workers would lead to a "de skilled" force. Police Federation boss Jan Berry warned the role of officers would be more "confrontational" if they spent more time on the streets. She said: "We have to be careful before we fall into that type of police service."

But Ben Priestley, of union Unison, which has 40,000 civilian police members, welcomed the changes.