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Thousands of bobbies could be back on the beat if police forces used private sector expertise to streamline their a...
Thousands of bobbies could be back on the beat if police forces used private sector expertise to streamline their administration and support services, according to a new report from the Confederation of British Industry published today.

It says that in custody services alone, using new providers to undertake specialist tasks could enable more than 4,000 police officers across England and Wales to be in the community rather than behind desks dealing with paperwork.*

The CBI report, Better policing through partnership: working together for a safer community, suggests that reforms to back office functions and greater use of innovative techniques across the police service could both free up resources and raise security standards.

It shows that police forces that have already created partnerships with independent providers are operating more effectively and giving better support to police on the frontline.

The business group has outlined recommendations for improving police effectiveness, including the removal of legislative barriers that prevent the 'civilianisation' of duties, where trained staff undertake functions previously restricted to police officers. It says there should be a review of which roles require warranted officers, and which could be done by well-managed and monitored civilian staff trained to undertake specific tasks.

The report points to examples of good practice in contracts for offender transportation, database management, IT services, custody suite management and security services.

The CBI is urging the new National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA) to create a fair and transparent market in support services and promote better dialogue between police forces and independent providers when it becomes operational next Spring.

Peter Neyroud, chief executive designate of the NPIA, is attending a CBI meeting today at which the report will be launched.

CBI members will tell him that the agency's laudable aims of reducing crime, making policing citizen-focused, increasing detection and conviction rates and combating serious and organised crime are more likely to be achieved if skills and additional capacity from different sectors are harnessed effectively to support the police.

Some 11 million crimes are committed each year, at a cost of£60bn to the country, including£19bn to business alone. Home Office research shows that increasing the number of police officers on the beat is top of residents' list of community safety priorities.**

Neil Bentley, CBI director of public services, said: 'Just like other public services, the expectations people have of the police are continually rising. They want a more visible street presence and a more responsive service. Outside providers of back-office functions can free up the time of highly trained police officers, which means more bobbies on the beat and fewer shackled to the station dealing with time-consuming, routine tasks.

'Civilianisation of services such as custody management and prisoner escort aren't a threat to jobs but rather an opportunity for police officers to focus on what they signed up to do: fight crime and make our communities safer.'


* A partnership between Reliance and Thames Valley Police to provide custody management has enabled 133 police officers to move back to the frontline. If this type of partnership were used by all police authorities in England and Wales who do not currently do so, some 4,000 police officers could be returned to the frontline.

**Figures from Home Office, British Crime Survey, Crime in England and Wales 2004/2005, July 2005. Residents' priorities studied in Home Office research study 288, Reassurance policing: an evaluation of the local management of community safety, November 2004.

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