Policing ‘frontline’ defined – finally

By politics.co.uk staff

A substantial majority of policing jobs are covered by the “frontline” definition which politicians have pledged to protect, according to inspectors.

A report published today from HM Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has published data offering breakdowns of which roles are and which roles are not “frontline”.

It had attempted to offer some clarity to the debate on spending cuts amid promises from politicians to protect “frontline” policing.

But 61% of roles were deemed to be visible to the public and a further proportion – those in specialist roles such as criminal investigation, forensics and surveillance – were also included.

“Not every person in a frontline police role will be visible or available to the public,” Roger Baker, HMIC’s lead officer on value for money, explained.

“They may be at work but not in uniform or off-shift. However, the public are interested in seeing the police in their community and so, alongside figures for the frontline, HMIC is publishing comparative data on the proportion of officers and PCSOs that are visible and available at key times.”

The definition also included the bulk of “middle office” functions in the frontline role, too.

Those who make very difficult decisions about safety and enforcing the law, managing or supporting police operations and processes such as holding prisoners in custody and answering calls from the public are frontline staff, according to today’s report.

Only those “middle office” jobs which involve processing intelligence and preparing files for court are not included.

“The purpose of this information is to help show in some detail where hard choices will have to be made, and inform that debate locally,” HM chief inspector of constabulary Sir Denis O’Connor said.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper, needing no such prompt to enter into the fray, said the coalition government’s 20% police cuts were putting chief constables “in an impossible position”.

“Cutting over 12,000 police officers and 15,000 police staff is inevitably hitting the frontline,” she commented.

“The home secretary needs to change course. She is cutting too far, too fast and it is local communities that will pay the price.”