Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

Jack Straw 'sceptical' about overworked police

Jack Straw

Police have criticised comments by Jack Straw who said he was "sceptical" when officers claimed they were overworked or spent hours filling in forms.

He told the BBC some enjoyed being in the station "in the warm" while others finished forms quicker "because they want to get out and catch criminals".

The justice secretary said it was often due to leadership in different forces.

Police groups said the comments were "irresponsible and inflammatory" and "not constructive".

Mr Straw, who was home secretary between 1997 and 2001, was asked about "overworked" police forces asking people to register minor crimes online.

'Less efficient'

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm afraid I'm rather sceptical about the excuse that a public service, in this case the police, is overworked and therefore can't change.

"With a given level of resources, some police forces, or some parts of police forces do very much better than others.

"And it is the ones who are the less efficient and who have the wrong approach to the public who fall back on this 'Oh, I'm overworked' [argument]."

He said while some officers would claim it took four hours to fill in forms, "good police officers will take an hour to fill in the same forms because they want to get out and catch criminals".

He added: "Some police officers, whatever they say, actually quite enjoy being in the police station in the warm. We are dealing with human beings, but we are also dealing with the kind of discipline and culture in the police service."


Around the country, while some police forces were "up for it, getting crime down and really motoring" neighbouring forces had still "not got it together", he said.

"It is not about money, it is about leadership, organisation and culture."

His remarks were criticised by groups representing both rank-and-file officers and police chiefs.

These comments are not constructive and do not reflect the hard work and danger that many officers face day-to-day
Sir Hugh Orde

Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, described them as "irresponsible and inflammatory".

"It wasn't police officers who brought in 3,000 new laws, it wasn't police officers who brought in a 30-page prosecution file and it wasn't police officers who brought in multiple forms and authorities to use a pair of binoculars," he said.

"This was all done by politicians. Police officers are not the architects of bureaucracy, they and the public are the victims of it."

And Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) president Sir Hugh Orde said the "overwhelming majority" of police officers went to work to do a good job and keep the public safe.

"These comments are not constructive and do not reflect the hard work and danger that many officers face day-to-day," he said.

A Conservative Party spokesman said ministers were "utterly out of touch with what is really happening in policing".

"They heap more and more bureaucracy onto our police, leaving them filling in form after form, often with the same information on it, and then pretend that nothing is wrong," he said.

"It's not police officers who are sitting at their desks in the warm - it's ministers stuck in their ivory towers."

And for the Liberal Democrats, Chris Huhne said: "It is a cheap shot to blame individual police officers for the failings of their forces.

"Police forces vary enormously in their effectiveness even though they face the same unnecessary bureaucracy, and the way to improve laggard forces is through strong local accountability with elected police authorities."

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