It is tempting to think that police forces should tackle things that are firmly behind the scenes, such as procurement and back office services. But policing is about frontline service delivery and this is where the bulk of costs lie and where, inevitably, efficiencies will need to be found. It means that the key challenge facing forces is how to reduce costs while improving the way they fight crime.
In a vital service such as policing, saving money at the expense of performance and public satisfaction is not an option. Instead, forces need to understand the issues in their communities and to design the most effective service to address them.
For example, Staffordshire Police has introduced ways of working that have allowed the force to reduce its budget by almost seven percent a year while also improving operational performance and customer service. It did this by reappraising what the public wants to ensure that the robust management of threat, harm, risk and vulnerability lies at the heart of its policing model. It spoke to the real experts: officers on the frontline. They said that there were some incidents that the police really do need to attend immediately, such as a call from someone being attacked. But they also said that other things could be better dealt with by an appointment at the victim’s convenience.
The same approach also enabled the force to introduce a range of other changes, including a less time-consuming way of processing people after arrest and to reduce the bureaucracy involved in the recording of crimes. The result was that officers were able to attend emergency incidents sooner, bureaucracy has been reduced and victims have the opportunity to receive a service tailored to their needs. It’s been incredibly cost-effective, too. It has been calculated that for every £1 Staffordshire has spent on change of this kind, it has saved £41, which means it is saving over £12 million a year.
And it’s not only Staffordshire that has made improvements of this sort. Other forces, including West Midlands and Greater Manchester, have shown that, with the right leadership and focus, new policing models can deliver significant savings and a better service.
Rather than rail against budget constraints, the best leaders in the service are rising to the challenge by recognizing this is a unique opportunity to transform their organizations and develop better ways of working collaboratively in and with their communities. They are demonstrating that a confident, open and pragmatic approach to the challenges, or opportunities, can successfully tackle apathy, cynicism and waste. Indeed, they are enabling the best in British policing — confidence, capability and commitment — to lead the way.