Paperwork keeping police off the streets

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The Independent Online

Police officers are spending less time on the beat and more on paperwork, official figures revealed today.

Dedicated patrol officers spend less than a fifth of their shift on the streets, the figures showed. They are also spending more time on bureaucracy.



The statistics emerged as Jan Berry, the former Police Federation chairman, prepared to publish her interim report to ministers on ways to cut police red tape.



She will recommend the creation of a panel of officers to analyse new policies and their impact on paperwork.



Shadow minister for police reform David Ruffley accused the Government of a "cover-up" for refusing to publish up-to-date data on the amount of time police spend on patrol.



And he said previous Labour announcements on cutting red tape had "failed".



He said: "As Jan Berry's report Reducing Bureaucracy is published, it is a disgrace that, after several years of publishing data on the amount of time that police officers spend on patrol, Home Office Ministers now refuse to publish these figures at all."



Home Office figures showed patrol officers spent 18% of their shift on patrol in 2006/7, a fall of nearly 1% from 2003/4.



Their paperwork burden rose from 16.4 per cent in 2004/5 to 17.1 per cent two years later.



For all officers the total amount of time spent on paperwork increased by 1.3 per cent over two years to 19.7 per cent in 2006/7. At the same time the total amount of time spent on patrol fell from 15.3 per cent to 13.6 per cent.



Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced today that she would scrap an annual police survey which requires around half of all officers to document every 15 minutes of their working day over a two-week period.



Officials estimate the change will free up nearly 150 police officers and staff.



Ms Smith said: "I have listened to frontline police officers who tell me they want to spend less time on paperwork and more time on the beat.



"These changes will halve the number of Home Office requests to the police for data and by scrapping this lengthy timesheet I hope to free up around 150 extra officers and staff.



"I challenge all police forces to make the most of these common-sense cuts and trust the expertise of their officers to get down to business focusing on the issues that matter most to communities - driving down crime and driving up public confidence."