Research conducted by the Liberal Democrats has revealed that the police spent a total of 56 million hours filling in paperwork last year. In a keynote speech to the Police Federation, Liberal Democrat Leader Menzies Campbell said:
“The police have been turned into bureau cops.
“The police should be allowed to get on with what they do best, fighting crime and catching criminals, not wasting millions of hours on paper work each year.
“When I speak to police officers I hear again and again that officers’ time is wasted re-entering the same information on multiple forms.
“Six years ago there was a promise to cut the bureaucracy in the Home Office Report Policing a New Century: a Blueprint for Reform. But last year police officers spent a fifth of their time on paperwork. Across the entire service, it’s a staggering 56 million hours.
“There should be a proper assessment of how IT systems, voice recognition technology and hand-held equipment can free police time from form-filling. And there should be a guarantee of the funding to make it happen.
“Civilian staff should also provide greater clerical support to relieve officers from that variety of work.
“We should cut bureaucracy. And in return encourage increased police visibility.”
Menzies Campbell called for the politics to be taken out of policing. He attacked the Labour party and its succession of home secretaries for talking tough and proposing headline grabbing gimmicks rather than focusing on practical measures that will cut crime. He said that it was the police that take the blame when gimmicks fail.
“When the right to protest is restricted, for example, it’s the police who have to enforce it.
“And when individuals choose to defy unpopular laws, it’s the police who must arrest them.
“Police officers are being used to enforce bad decisions made by government. This should stop. We must take the politics out of policing.”
Commenting on Conservative plans for elected chairs for police authorities, Menzies Campbell added:
“The Conservatives have proposed elected chairs for police authorities. I do not believe that this is the right way forward. How would such elections be conducted?
“And who would stand? Would parties put forward candidates of their own? We need our police to pursue criminals, not chase votes.
“We need local accountability, yes. But a political police service, no.”
Concluding Menzies Campbell said:
“Twenty-first century police services require reform. Politicians and police can work together in order to do that.
“By giving police the powers that they need, and removing those that they don’t.
“By lighting a bonfire of centralised targets, and establishing local accountability in their place.
“By banishing bureaucracy, and increasing police presence on the beat.
“By rewarding hard work, and ensuring a mixed skill set within our forces.
“And by defining police structures on the basis of local needs. In this way, we can take the politics out of policing and ensure a healthy future for a police service that is accountable, responsive and effective.”