Headlines: November 5th, 2001

The main thrust of police reform will be to allow officers to concentrate on their core functions of reducing crime and catching criminals. Measures are now being launched that will allow police officers to make the best use of their professional training, skills, and wide-ranging powers. The latest measure should be seen against the background of extending the police family by appointing street wardens and auxiliaries to deal with anti-social behaviour and extending the powers of the British Transport police to assist with crowd control.The proposals include transferring some responsibilities to other agencies and greater use of support staff. Tasks which could be transferred include missing persons, lost property and lost pets. A trend towards ‘civilianisation’ has already started, with the Metropolitan Police in the lead. Support staff will now be used for custody duties and for preparing the paperwork needed to bring about a prosecution. UNISON, the trade union which represents police support staff believes that there is still some way to go to break down the old barriers and prejudices over the status of support staff. It argues that its members work with the day to day reality and that old demarcation lines are being increasingly blurred, as they take on more traditional police work.

The new measures have been devised as a result of an independent study into the daily routine of an average police constable. The “Diary of a Police Officer” summarises the findings. It reveals that officers spend almost as much time in the police station as they were on the street. Of the 43.1%of time spent in the station, two-fifths of this (41%) is spent on paperwork. Only 17% of police officer time was spent on patrol. Taking a prisoner into custody could take between two and eight hours. In one force there were 105 different forms in regular use.

Other measures that have resulted from the study include introduction of video ID parades, deterring repeated false intruder alarms and making greater use of new technology. The findings of the study will be taken forward by a Task Force, to include rank and file officers, which will start work in the new year.

Link: www.policereform.gov.uk   <http://www.policereform.gov.uk>

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