Police anger at paperwork mountain

THE outgoing Chief Constable of Suffolk has expressed his frustration over the amount of time officers spend tied up on paperwork.On his last day in the force's top job, Alastair McWhirter said officers were spending up to 50% of their time station-bound.

THE outgoing Chief Constable of Suffolk has expressed his frustration over the amount of time officers spend tied up on paperwork.

On his last day in the force's top job, Alastair McWhirter said officers were spending up to 50% of their time station-bound.

The paperwork they have to fill in includes forms for Government statistics and information they have to collate by law, with Mr McWhirter describing the level of detail needed to just take someone into custody as “phenomenal”.

While he said bureaucracy in the service was a “necessary evil”, he outlined the sheer scale of the undertaking and called for a “root and branch review” of processes.


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His comments yesterday came as statistics from the HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) showed that only one in 40 officers on duty in some unnamed forces were available to respond to 999 calls.

Mr McWhirter said: “Every Government tries to convince us that it will reduce bureaucracy and then increases it.”

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While he said the Government was “very concerned with statistics”, he said most of the paperwork the force now does is associated with legislation.

Despite fully supporting legislation designed to make the police more accountable, Mr McWhirter said the amount passed posed a challenge.

He said: “We did a study two years ago on the amount of paperwork that is completed when someone is arrested.

“With a simple assault case by the time it got to court there had been about 56 different people who handled that file and there were 128 bits of paper. And that was a simple assault in a domestic dwelling between a husband and wife.

“It included the police officer's initial enquiries, CID involvement, and then the criminal justice process - the criminal justice unit, the CPS and the courts added to that paper trail.

“They are all doing necessary jobs but the way legislation works at the present time, even if someone is just going into custody, the details that need to be taken are phenomenal. In case anything goes wrong you have to have a record of everything.

“I can see the logic in it but it means that police officers are spending 45 to 50% of their time in the station.

“I think they need to do a root and branch review of current processes.”

He said technology also needed to be harnessed to help with bureaucracy. Currently, even if cameras were used to film exchanges that need to be recorded by law officers would still have to make a paper record as well.

For Mr McWhiter retirement is not about taking a step back from public office - he is to become chairman of Suffolk Primary Care Trust, a part-time non-executive appointment.

His final message to the people of Suffolk while in the top job was to thank them for their support during the massive police operation surrounding the Ipswich prostitute killings.

He said he was also “extremely proud” of the way the constabulary had dealt with the major enquiry.

n Suffolk Police Authority has appointed three new independent members and re-appointed the current chair, Gulshan Kayembe.

The appointments are all for four-year terms and effective from tomorrow .

Joining the authority are Holden Cook, a senior manager for charity The Bridge Project, Elizabeth Harlaar, a tutor for the Open University Business School, and Gilllian Lewis, who is an NHS director with Suffolk Primary Care Trust and a non-executive director of the Independent Housing Ombudsman.

They replace Georgina Pharaoh, Terry Smith and John Higginson.

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