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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 10:14 GMT
Is red-tape keeping the police off the streets?
Police officer
Nottinghamshire Constabulary is "struggling to cope" with a wave of murders because officers have too many clerical duties, its chief constable, Steve Green, has said.

Downing Street has defended the funding of the force and insisted reforms meant red-tape was being cut.

Home Office minister Hazel Blear said police funding had increased by 750 million to almost 12 billion for the coming financial year - a 21% increase since 1997, while there were now record numbers of officers.

Mr Green said that a lack of resources was forcing him to discuss "farming out" murder investigations to other forces.

Is red tape keeping the police off the streets?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

A great deal of the paperwork done by the police is there for the public's protection from undue police interference in their lives
Joe, Newcastle-Under-Lyme
What many people do not realise is that a great deal of the paperwork done by the police is there for the public's protection from undue police interference in their lives (such as unnecessary surveillance). In order to comply with legislation, such as the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, complicated forms are sometimes necessary to justify actions to taken by the police and to ensure full accountability. It can be a time-consuming job, but is often necessary to ensure that the police are using their powers properly
Joe, Newcastle-Under-Lyme

In other public sector services, such as the NHS, you have admin/clerical teams to deal with most paperwork and record keeping. You wouldn't get a doctor doing anything less than treating patients, so why expect police (as an equivalent safeguard to life and order) to do anything else but patrol the streets and target criminals? Surely that is the nature of that career and to make them do anything else is tantamount to neglect of public duty.
Michael, Barnet, UK

The county-based structure of local government in Britain is utterly obsolete and incapable of meeting the demands of the 21st century. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the police, where there are 43 different police authorities. Even without the desk-bound ethos of central government hobbling it, how can such a fragmented structure achieve any flexibility or economies of scale?
Mike Bettney, Long Eaton, UK

One man's red-tape is another man's accountability. I strongly suspect that complaints about red-tape are really whinges about the police being forced to account for their actions and prove their efficiency. Would you like to be arrested without that fact being properly recorded? It may also be the case that some officers simply aren't up to doing paperwork, and if so that is not the government's fault. The performance of everyone in the workplace is measured in some way or other nowadays, and I do not see any reason why the police should be exempt.
Steve, Bristol, UK

We do not see police on the streets
Alan Preddy, Epsom, England
Something is keeping the police off the streets. The government keep telling us that police numbers have increased dramatically during their reign but I, and many others, see very little evidence of it. Crime reduction figures are attributed to the lack of a markets for second-hand goods and still we do not see police on the streets so we are left with little alternative than to think they are at a desk filling in forms.
Alan Preddy, Epsom, England

I work as police support staff on a flagship government project. The only reason my post even exists is because we have to use 5 different systems to send 6 different lots of statistics to 3 different sections of the same Home Office department!!! I contribute nothing to the actual reduction of crime, I have no effect on community safety, but thanks to red tape I'm here anyway. These ridiculous levels of monitoring exist throughout the police. Let's get rid of them and put the money saved back into real frontline policing.
Anon, UK

Do you know how much a police authority clerical worker gets? The same as a civil servant - between 13K and 16K. That's why they have no clerical staff in the police force. Because you can't pay a mortgage, raise a family and actually live on that kind of money.
Richard, UK

Remove the lawyers from parliament and common sense will return
Ralph, Southend, Essex
It is hardly surprising that the police are snowed under with paperwork. The government, and parliament in general, is full of lawyers who love paperwork (it is what generates their incomes). Remove the lawyers from parliament and common sense will return as to what paperwork is really necessary and what is there simply to allow lawyers to allocate blame when mistakes are made.
Ralph, Southend, Essex

If the tasks of the police have increased such that the tasks outreach the resources, is it not time to re-evaluate the resources? In dealing with the motorists, which seems to be the main aim of many police authorities, too many resources are allocated to a single task - better to split traffic laws to a traffic police as a separate body to criminal police. The traffic police should be funded by the fines and penalties.

Of course it probably doesn't help when you're driving along a quiet street in town one morning and there are three officers tucked behind a hedge (some wearing high visibility clothing, not that you can tell as they're the ones sat way back off the road) pointing a speed camera down the road. Three officers wasting a couple of hours generating more paperwork.
Brian, Newbury, Berks

Could Mr Green tell us how much the eight vehicle convoy with helicopter support which has been taking someone to Nottingham Crown Court every day for the past week or so has cost? Obviously the officers are not trained detectives, but then Mr Green probably hasn't walked the beat for 20 years either!
Mark, Nottingham

People want more "bobbies on the beat" not filling in forms in police stations
Jonathan Sheppard, Worksop, Nottinghamshire
Steve Green has hit the nail on the head with his comments, and the government clearly don't like it. People want more "bobbies on the beat" not filling in forms in police stations.
Jonathan Sheppard, Worksop, Nottinghamshire

We have a government obsessed with setting 'measurable' targets for absolutely everything. Is it any wonder when police, hospitals and other public services then divert resources and change working practices to try to compile and manipulate these figures. After all, if they don't, they risk losing resources and risk demotion or losing jobs because they can't meet some figure plucked from the air by a politician.
David Priddy, Slough, UK

There is definitely too much red-tape in the way stopping police from doing their jobs, but this is not the only reason. There is also a lack of funds available to investigate crimes and get the equipment needed. There is also a lack of power with the police, they need more powers to keep people detained longer and based on less evidence. This means that they can catch criminals sooner and keep them longer while they make enquiries.
David Shears, Wisbech, England

Unfortunately the amount of paper work that needs to be done for one arrest will not change until there is a complete overhaul in the judiciary system requirements itself. When the system that processes criminals is altered then the paper work should decrease. I don't think this will ever happen though because the people who set the precedents are all milking the benefits from the antiquated system they installed.
J Neil, Peterborough

If our tax money is given to the police force then it should actually be spent on policeman
Mike, Croydon, Surrey
Just another example of how "New" Labour are allowed to ruin yet another public service with all their red-tape and political correctness. When are the voting people in this country going to wake up and realise that all their hard earned money is being effectively "stolen" via stealth taxes and wasted, as opposed to being put to the good use that it should be? If our tax money is given to the police force then it should actually be spent on policeman" and not Labour desk and paper jockeys!?
Mike, Croydon, Surrey

Any senior police officer will tell you what a difference new funding is making to their ability to police their areas (perhaps the funding formula for the increasingly urban Nottinghamshire needs looking at). Police officers who have been in the force under the Tories will also tell you who was responsible for all the paperwork imposed on the police before 1997. My understanding is that this government is the first in the last 50 years to take workable steps to reduce the paperwork of frontline police officers. Perhaps Howard thinks we have forgotten the declining situation his government left behind in the police and prison service in 1997. Similarly he hopes we have forgotten the way his government destroyed the matron driven ward system in hospitals and imposed so much red-tape and paperwork on teachers when his lot made a mess of introducing the national curriculum. First time voters need to check with their parents. They will have painful memories of the Tory years. Don't let Howard get away with it!
Vince, Coventry UK

As a resident of Notts I feel I have to stand up for Steve Green. I think some of the local politicians should be ashamed of themselves for the way they've sought to turn the blame back on him. They obviously care more about scoring points than getting crime off the streets of Notts. The police need some real support, and it sounds like a few extra admin staff wouldn't be a bad start.
Martin, Mansfield Woodhouse, Notts

What's wrong with paperwork? Without a record of an arrest, made when the circumstances are fresh in the mind of the officer, it would not be possible to try and convict criminals.
Amy, Hove, UK

Everybody working in the public sector has far too much red-tape and forms to fill in. It's ironic that these are systems put in place to make the public sector more measurable and therefore more efficient yet are actually having the very opposite effect.
Gerry , Scotland

Reduce the amount of paperwork undertaken, but be prepared for an increase in "not guilty" verdicts
John, England
The police have to gather and present evidence, document their activities, perform background checks, and countless other things, in order to maximise the chances of gaining convictions when criminals come to court. By all means reduce the amount of paperwork undertaken, but be prepared for an increase in "not guilty" verdicts as a direct result.
John, England

Red-tape and reduced powers, thank you Blair. He wants power to imprison anyone he chooses, but removes power from the police to imprison and punish muggers, burglars, thieves and murderers.
Chris, UK

No, lack of money is keeping police off the streets. I propose getting rid of all the "half jobs" i.e. community support officers, and ploughing the money into more real police officers. Nobody takes any notice of CSOs. The money saved, if used for police with real powers would help immensely.
Karen Smith, London, UK

The idea of replacing police officers with "support staff" to complete paperwork is a complete non-starter as this government is already in the throes of an exercise to make 104,000 civil servants redundant in order to cut "waste". It is indeed a strange definition of "waste" that forces trained and expensive police officers to do paperwork rather than employing much cheaper support staff. People should bear in mind that although they may applaud the decision to axe many thousands of civil servants, the work that they do will, for the most part, remain and as a result even more front line staff will need to be employed picking up the work previously done by support staff.
Trevor, Cambs, UK

There simply aren't enough police officers to patrol our streets
Jim, Nottingham, UK

Live in any of Nottingham's suburbs and you will know someone who has been either mugged, robbed or had their cars broken into - all 'low-level' crime that's increasing because there simply aren't enough police officers to patrol our streets. Even our schools are under regular attack from organised criminals who know there are no police around to stop them 'helping themselves' to thousands of pounds worth of equipment bought for our children - computers, musical instruments, etc. The local MP who fails to recognise these growing levels of lawlessness and support Steve Green in obtaining more resources is a disgrace.
Jim, Nottingham, UK

As someone who works at a police station, I see police officers run around trying to complete the paperwork after an arrest. Making an arrest is just 1/4 of the job.
Anonymous, London

I'm a software engineer and I'm currently working (or rather, not working) on a project to allow custody officers to use a barcode scanner to keep prisoner records (scan the prisoner's record sheet, then the action taken, such as "given a drink", "solicitor visit" etc. The barcode scanner then downloads the data to a database). The amount of obfuscation, resistance and petty-mindedness means that the project is months behind schedule, and man-weeks of time have been wasted laboriously filling in custody records by hand. The fault is NOT with the frontline police but their managers and, I suspect, their masters in Whitehall.
Anon, UK

I come from Nottinghamshire and know that the officers are being kept off the streets due to there being too much paperwork to fill in. We haven't had regular patrols in the areas of the county that I've lived in since I was born. These days it just seems to be demand-response policing, they only venture out from the stations if they have to. Increasing funding is only one part of the story, surely the Government should also review all rules and regulations and streamline the amount of paperwork that has to be completed by officers. It is unacceptable that any force should have to pass on work to other forces, who obviously have their own force areas to take care of.
Daniel Curwood, Annesley Woodhouse, UK

They are pulled from pillar to post by politicians and political correctness
The problem with the British police is that they are pulled from pillar to post by politicians and political correctness. The police today, particularly at the top, are more interested their image and their "sensitivity" rather than giving criminals a run for their (our) money.

I think the Nottinghamshire chief constable's comments are fair enough, given that a week or so ago someone was trying to blame the police themselves for doing too much paperwork and not solving enough crimes. We all know where paperwork comes from: those bureaucrats in Whitehall who have nothing better to occupy themselves with. But the police aren't alone: anyone running a business in this country is facing exactly the same (and increasing) torrent of paperwork from this government's paperwork machine.
David Hazel, Fareham, UK

While the police are having a daily battle with red tape, they are not battling crime. Also they are out earning revenue from motorists rather than policing the beat.
Ashley, Didcot, UK

Police officers should be allowed to do their duty on the streets without too much government interference. I can see the sense in a small amount of paperwork - after all, if it wasn't there the system would be a mess - but not to let it interfere with their main job of catching criminals.
Emily, Manchester, UK

When will the government realise that hampering our public services by expecting them to produce quantities of paperwork to justify their existence just isn't working? You hear the same complaints from people working in education, the NHS as well as the police. The only result is poorer front-line services! Just let people get on with their work, and forget about asking for paper "proof" of everything that happens.
Josie, Leeds

This is what happens when you put trade unionists in charge of the country. Police and other public sector frontline staff get better pay and enjoy less frontline work, and the real work gets done by volunteers or less trained persons on the minimum wage. New Labour have not delivered value for the billions they have wasted on public spending. The bureaucracy has expanded to meet the greater budgets afforded to it.
Liam Coughlan, Banja Luka, Bosnia

I see Michael Howard is now trying to blame New Labour for police paperwork. I think that this all started in earnest under the Tories, with the birth of the Crown Prosecution Service didn't it?
Andrew M, Walsall, UK

The proper place for Police Officers is on the streets
David, Cornwall, UK
So it seems. The proper place for Police Officers is on the streets. Paperwork should be carried out by support staff. A Police Officer cannot use his status and powers in a police station. It may be that we have enough Police Officers already. If support staff were employed to take care of the paperwork, all uniformed Police could spend much more time patrolling.
David, Cornwall, UK

Red tape is keeping officers off the streets, thanks to the CPS and the Government, who require loads of stats etc, police officers spend at least 60% of their time writing up files. Everything in the Police Force revolves around paper work. The government boasts of giving Nottinghamshire 300 odd extra officers, at any one time its unlikely more than 30 would be on duty on any particular day, when rest days, court, annual leave, are taken into account. The country as a whole requires at least another 50,000 officers to make much difference, plus a reduction of 80% in paper work.
Lester Stenner, UK

Where else can they be, because they are not on the streets. Surely it is cheaper to prevent crime happening in the first place by having a police presence on the ground. It is an absolutely ludicrous to state that more money is being poured into policing, when they are fewer police on the streets than eight years ago.
Chris Kisch, Milton Keynes, UK

It is totally ludicrous that a police officer has to spend hours completing paper work for minor incident
Anon, UK
Yes. There are record numbers of police, mainly "Special Constables", but since Labour came to power they have quadrupled the amount of paper work a police officer has to complete. It is totally ludicrous that a police officer has to spend hours completing paper work for minor incidents. Much the same has happened in the NHS and Teaching profession.
Anon, UK,

The police are "struggling to cope" with murders. Odd that they always have enough coppers to deal with minor traffic offences and to be at football matches. Maybe, instead of whining about red tape, Chief Constable Steve Green could sensibly reallocate resources so that the police concentrate on serious crime rather than people who drive at 31mph in a 30mph zone.
Graham, Southampton

Graham, Southampton, The vast majority of officers policing football matches are doing so on their rest days with their wages being paid by the football clubs. They are there purely to earn a bit of overtime and there are no abstractions from the shifts that patrol the streets. As a police officer I would like to be able to spend more time on patrol, but it is a sad fact that if I arrest someone then I will spend 4 to 5 hours completing paperwork and other custody procedures. In a 9 or 10 hour shift this doesn't leave much time for visible policing.

Also, for those who moan about targeting motorists. Speed and other car crime is as much a priority as any other crime. Would you like to explain to the parents of a child who has been killed by a speeding motorist that we shouldn't punish speeders? We do a difficult enough job as it is without being criticised unjustly by the people we serve.
Jim, Portsmouth, UK

No doubt Steve Green would also oppose replacing a few officers with more efficient admin staff to handle some duties, or even modernisation to free up officers time. I accept that there may be too much red tape in public services, but we must maintain standards and accountability at the same time.
Martin, Sheffield, UK

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