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Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Sunday, 16 September 2007 00:13 UK

Wasting police time

PC Copperfield/Stuart Davidson  ©Monday Books
Stuart Davidson is leaving the UK to join the police in Canada
In tonight's Panorama the police officer whose online diary described the reality of modern-day policing, will reveal his identity and tell why he's quitting the force for a new life as a policeman in Canada.

For fear of getting sacked, Stuart Davidson wrote his blog anonymously under the name of PC David Copperfield, and not even his closest colleagues knew that he was responsible.

The Policeman's Blog recorded the daily life of a police officer with all the frustrations it entails.

He told Panorama: "I thought nobody else can be doing things that are so insane. But it transpires that there are thousands and thousands of other police officers out there doing exactly the same kinds of thing."

Panorama has spoken to other officers around the country who say they are finding it increasingly difficult to do their job effectively and claim they are being undermined by paperwork and pressure to meet government targets.

A police station in Canada
Other police forces are capitalising by recruiting British officers
Many of their concerns were reflected in the Chief Inspectorate of Policing's interim review into policing in England and Wales, that was published last week. In it, he describes the "staggering" burden of paperwork officers face, and says they spend too much time investigating minor crime.

Officers interviewed for the programme say they believed one of the foundations of policing - that of preventing crime - is being undermined.

Easy targets

Johnno Hills, a former officer who left the Sussex Police force after voicing his concerns said: "We are never there on the streets to provide reassurance, to provide a deterrent and to prevent people from becoming a victim of crime."

Amongst the problems officers describe are:

  • Paperwork and bureaucracy - it can take hours to process an arrest

  • Too little time to pro-actively patrol

  • Targets that skew how they do their job

    There is a temptation for officers to concentrate on easy targets.

    Police officers are like anyone else, they'll go for the easy option - the path of least resistance
    Police forces have a number of performance indicators - amongst them those that show how well they are dealing with crime.

    The number of detected crimes is measured force by force. Trivial crimes are counted alongside the more serious ones - and officers say there is a temptation to concentrate on easy targets.

    As Davidson explained: "We get exactly the same points for cautioning a girl for pulling another girl's hair as we would for domestic burglary. In terms of statistics they're exactly the same".

    Another officer told Panorama: "It is the human nature element that the management don't seem to factor into any of the decisions they make. Police officers are like anyone else, they'll go for the easy option - the path of least resistance."

    Leaving the force

    It's an experience that's echoed in responses to a questionnaire that was distributed for Panorama by the Police Federation to 2,000 beat officers across the country.

    Of the 700 officers that completed the questionnaire more than 500 said they had made arrests, issued cautions or fixed penalty notices purely in order to meet targets.

    This is not necessarily representative, and there are more than 140,000 officers in England and Wales.

    Police forces in Australia, New Zealand and Canada are capitalising - making up their force numbers by recruiting experienced British officers.

    There are no official figures available, but Panorama features a recruitment drive by the Western Australia Police force which is aiming to recruit around 500 officers on this trip alone.

    Stuart is soon to take up his place with the Edmonton Police force in Alberta, Canada. And he's not the only one. Nine former British officers originally planned to join the training course featured in the programme. However, since filming, this number has gone down to seven - one officer has left for another job, while another will join the next course.

    Panorama: Wasting Police Time can be seen on BBC One at 2030 BST on Monday 17 September 2007

    video and audio news
    Panorama: Wasting Police Time - short version

    Transcript - Wasting Police Time
    19 Sep 07 |  Panorama
    Career Disillusionment
    17 Sep 07 |  Panorama
    Writing the Policeman's Blog
    17 Sep 07 |  Panorama

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