Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The thinning blue line

There was quite an acrimonious exchange between police minister Nick Herbert and a Radio 5 Drive Time presenter yesterday. This was provoked by the announcement by the Chief Constable of Manchester police that nearly a quarter of his staff would have to be let go over the next four years.

Nick Hebert insisted that this would not make any difference to front line policing in Manchester, but it is difficult to see how he reached his conclusion, even if a greater percentage of staff was deployed on the streets.

Herbert's argument was the problem was that only 11 per cent of the police were out on the streets at any one time. This sounds quite shocking until one realises that most of them will not be on shift at any one time and others will be in the station interviewing suspects or supervising custody.

Herbert argued that there was too much red tape in the police and while this may be the case, a lot of it is generated by the need to present evidence in a form that will stand up in court. This is where backroom staff play an important role and if one cuts back their numbers some of the work will have to be done by frontline staff.

As a vox pop on BBC showed, voters in Manchester were not happy about these developments. I think that the policing issue is one where the Coalition Government could be in some trouble, particularly with traditional Conservative supporters.

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