One Good Way To Reduce Your Establishment……..

Or is it?

It cannot have escaped your notice that Warwickshire Constabulary are actively recruiting Civilian Investigators to investigate serious crimes.

Yesterday, Fraser Pithie, the Conservative candidate for Warwickshire, wrote an article  on the subject amusingly called Fighting Crime Not Playing Politics.  Well I think we all know that PCC candidates are all doing exactly that, playing politics.  On his website he makes mention of the fact that he used to be a Special Constable and presumably feels that this qualifies him to not only to become the Warwickshire PCC (if elected) but endows him with great vision regarding the problems of Warwickshire and for that reason we should listen to him.  Well pardon me if I’m wrong but I have known many Special Constables over the years, none of whom have I ever felt would have made a good Chairman of the Local Police Authority, which is basically what the PCCs will replace I believe.  Not that I am saying that there is anything wrong with Special Constables, but if I can try and put it in perspective, I wouldn’t consider that I was a suitable PCC candidate because I lack certain experiences for that role, and on that basis I would extend it to Special Constables.  However, I digress, Mr Pithie thinks that it’s a good idea for Warwickshire Police to recruit Civilian Investigators, and he makes the point that they do not need the powers of a warranted officer.  As I understand it, and please correct me if I’ve got it wrong, these Civilian Investigators, if recruited, will be given the same, limited, powers as PCSOs.  The Home Office last night issued a statement that they will definitely “not have any powers above the limited powers awarded by the previous government”

I have to say at this point that wording of the advert causes me considerable disquiet, but the paragraph that I like the least is this one

Provide professional specialist advice and knowledge to all colleagues within the organisation in relation to all aspects of crime investigation and case file management. Commensurate with the use of ‘designated powers’ (Police Reform Act 2002).

How can it be the place of a (temporary allegedly) civilian investigator to advise the warranted officers on the best way to do their job, or maybe we’re saving even more money by cancelling training courses and having on the job training supplied by these civilian investigators.

But to get back to the point, Mr Pithie suggests that having a number of Civilian Investigators on the Force will release other officers to “focus even more on those criminals who commit acquisitive crime, which includes house burglary, car crime and robbery.”

So, if I get back to my point, the Civilian Investigators will free up a certain number of warranted officers to get out there and proactively target the villains.  It’s a pretty well established principle that the majority of crime is committed by the minority of offenders.  Modern intelligence analysis enables us to identify the prolific, recidivist offenders and conduct proactive, intelligence-led operations against them.  They may even be successful.   So far, so good.

Where this all has the potential to go belly-up is two fold.

  1. When police conduct target operations to arrest offenders, or engage in crime reduction activities, it is not unknown to experience displacement.  Simply put this means that it is highly likely that you will be successful in the area you are operating but you will merely drive the offenders to another area, or, heaven forbid, to another county.  However, we can contend with this and I know at least one Chief Constable who would classify this as a ‘Result’.
  2. The other issue is more insidious.   If you assume for one moment that we have been successful in our operations, we have arrested the offenders and locked them up (do they still do that?) and crime has been reduced and public tranquility restored,  there is a huge temptation that Chief Constables, HMIC, Home Office, whoever will decide that your county no longer need s the number of Police Officers that it had before because the crime figures don’t justify it.  So this could be a good way to reduce your establishment and keep Mrs May happy.

Or is it?  Your PCC will be happy, Theresa May will certainly be happy because she has told you that your only target is to reduce crime and you’ve done it, well done lads and lasses, but we all know (except the politicians) that this happy state will not last.  The criminals that you have locked up will come out again, the government may not like but ‘crime families’ certainly exist and another child/adult will step up to get involved in the nicking, or worse.  The Chief Constable next door is pulling his wig off because his crime figures are suddenly going through the roof and he doesn’t know why because no-one has told him about your operations.

Whether or not we should employ these Civilian Investigators is a whole different issue, personally I’m opposed to it, but I don’t get a say.

Between 1st April 2011 and 31st March 2012 Warwickshire Constabulary said goodbye to 70 officers, predominantly Constables and Sergeants.  This represents a wastage rate of 8.2% of their establishment already.  But, worryingly, this set against them already having said goodbye to 51 officers (5.5%) in the previous year.  According to the Home Office figures only 3 officers joined in the same two year period.

I am indebted to one of the other PCC candidates, James Plaskitt, for pointing out that while the National Average Detection Rate stands at 27% (HO Stats), the rate for Warwickshire is a meagre 18%, and total reported crime has increased by 3.15% 2011/2012.  So, just maybe, Warwickshire has not actually got it right, and this latest, some may say, desperate, attempt to recruit Civilian Investigators via G4S is a cynical attempt to cover up the truth.  Warwickshire has slashed it’s Police Officers, Crime has gone up, Detection has gone down. In who’s book is this a success story?

Maybe Warwickshire have done us all a favour.  Maybe the PCC candidates, as they slug it out, can work on this, bring it to the forefront of public awareness, and put pressure on their ridiculaous idea of reducing police numbers.  Warwickshire hasn’t yet achieved a 20% reduction and look at what has happened there.  But don’t worry, they have increased the number of meetings they are having to combat the problem.  According to the HMIC report Warwickshire is on target to achieve £25m of savings by 2015.  This will include shedding 350 posts, 170 of which will be Police Officer posts.  Well they’ve achieved approximately 2 thirds of that so far, and look at what has happened in Warwickshire.

Just maybe we should hold Warwickshire up as a model Constabulary, a shining beacon.  Look public, this is what happens when you cut the establishment.  But, hey, this is just my opinion, what do you think?

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2 thoughts on “One Good Way To Reduce Your Establishment……..

  1. Alan, one of the reasons I believe that Warwickshire have gone down this path is that the cuts they have made have reduced their ability to investigate crime leading to the very low detection rate of 18%.

    They barely have enough officers left to deal with the day to day response issues and so unless a crime is instantly solvable it is not properly investigated – how else do you get such a low detection rate? In an effort to redress this they are trying to employ civilian investigators (probably retired cops) to boost the detection rate back to something acceptable.

    Warwickshire had somewhere around a 1000 officers and will have just over 800 by the time the cuts are complete although one report suggests 670. This in my opinion means that every lost officer has a greater impact than you would find in the larger forces where it is perhaps slightly easier to absorb a similar drop in numbers?

    What I think is becoming clear from this and what has happened in Devon and Cornwall for example where they do not investigate 40% of crime reported to them is that the crude 20% cuts across the board has a disproportionate effect upon smaller forces.

    No account has been taken of the threshold in terms of minimum staff levels below which a force cannot adequately function and serve the public.

    • I don’t know what the level is Steve, but I do know there comes a point when HMIC will deem a Force Not Fit For Purpose, I think they did it with Derbyshire a few years ago. Interesting times my friend

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