Police to spend more time on the beat

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Police officers will spend 80 per cent of their time on the beat under plans to be set out today by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

Following criticism of the burden of red tape facing officers, she will promise an overhaul of community policing. According to a leaked copy of the plans last night, the public will be guaranteed that only 20 per cent of neighbourhood officers' time is taken up with form-filling.

A Home Office Green Paper on the future of policing will promise that visible patrols are on the streets at all times, with a particular emphasis on potential trouble-spots.

A "policing pledge" will guarantee that officers attend emergency calls within 15 minutes and "much sooner if possible". They will respond to priority calls within an hour and less urgent calls within 48 hours.

The long forms filled in by officers every time they stop a passer-by and ask them to account for their movements will be replaced by radio technology enabling them to phone details to the local station.

Commenting on the leak, David Ruffley, the shadow policing minister, claimed many of the promises were "statements of the obvious or are already implemented by police forces".