This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Front, Middle and Back Line

At last, media outlets are printing that one-fifth budget cuts "might" affect the front-line.  For some reason it took Sir Dennis O'Connor (Chief Inspector of Constabulary) to say it before anyone took it seriously, perhaps because he isn't normally heard backing the lowly street bobby.

"Do you know why I've stopped you, madam?"

What outrages those of us who can describe exactly how budget cuts are affecting the front line is the eerie silence from most of our Chief Constables.  Which is the biggest indicator of all that the Home Office has systematically taken control of the nation's police forces and an environment has sprung up in which it is impossible for dissenters to make their views known.  In Blair's Britain, if you spoke about issues that you couldn't solve, you were an incompetent - after all, no one else was whinging about the problem.  And now, under the new Coalition government, any Chief Constable who moans that the cuts will affect how his/her force delivers policing is clearly still spending too much on bureaucracy and performance measures.  This mantra is trotted out regardless of whether or not it is the case.

Sir Dennis also raises the issue of what is the front line?  He even suggests, shock horror, that those back-room roles that enable police officers to work on the front line should be considered vital themselves.  This might even mean custody sergeants, gaolers, case file builders, etc.  It's almost as if the concept of a front line is that it's actually the SMALLEST part of a police force, just the visible tip, and that in fact an effective back office means that a force can run with a very tiny proportion visible to the public.  

For example, if a police officer can arrest a shoplifter and hand them straight over to someone to book them into custody, process and charge them, while someone else seizes CCTV and takes statements, that police officer can go straight back to the next shoplifting.  Meaning that 3-4 other officers are needed back at the station to enable him to use his time the most efficiently on the front line.

"That is correct: you were going too fast, over a stop line, and you weren't wearing your seatbelt."

"Shouldn't you be out catching burglars and rapists?"

This debate has to continue: it has been a sacred cow that the front line must be untouchable.  Is it possible- gasp- that it has all been political smoke and mirrors?  And that maybe, to run an effective police force, what is actually needed is to preserve the front, middle and back line?

Time to think again, Theresa, or shall we just push on regardless?  Let me guess...

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unless... shock horror... he's realised that if all the bean-counters in forces are sacked then it won't be too long until he himself is out of a job?

Do the public really give two hoots how their local force performed the last time HMIC turned them over? Of course not.

There is big money to be saved by forces here, by abolishing all in-house performance management structures. However, this would need the whole unnecessary HMIC regime to be dismantled as well. Dennis knows this, so full marks to him for a bit of proactive self-preservation.

(Oh yeah, almost forgot ;-) "First")

30 March, 2011 22:41

Anonymous Rob said...

There seems to be a level of contradiction here, though.

While, on the one hand it is undoubtedly true that an efficient "back office" operation can free up "front-line" resources, the impression given in books such as "Wasting Police Time" etc is that "back offices" are stuffed with people who actually *make* work for front line officers which results in them being taken away from basic policing tasks to respond to avalanches of emails and calls which don't actually add anything but box-ticking to the policing process.

So which is it? Are the back office staff vital components in freeing up front-line officers to do their daily work or a millstone around their necks dragging them away from "proper" policing with incessant requests to attend to bureaucratic overkill?

Are you actually now saying that the "tail wagging the dog" scenarios highlighted in books by David Copperfield, Inspector Gadget and yourself are huge exaggerations and the people these books were slagging off have now suddenly become vital cogs in maintaining an efficient machine?

31 March, 2011 11:06

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too many chiefs not enough indians, to coin a phrase.

What do all these CC's, ACC's, DCC's, Chief Supers, etc do? Make one policy, then someone else changes it for another, or spend ages wondering why a PC hasn't done a job as throughly as required.

I think more supervision- Sergeants & Inspectors on the front line level would be more beneficial, Manage from the front, not the top where they have no clue what goes on any more.

31 March, 2011 13:11

Blogger PC Bloggs said...

Rob, much of the bureaucratic nonsense is being done by people whose roles are essential in other ways.

You're right there is a contradiction, both are true to some extent. There is money to be saved but as posted previously, nothing this government is doing is enabling or encouraging forces to bin the time-wasting, back-covering, number-crunching bureaucracy.

31 March, 2011 13:17

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So which is it?

31 March, 2011 16:50

Anonymous Anonymous said...

.... that is to say there are back office staff who are vital and others who are millstones around our necks.

The trick is to know which is which and for that, they need to come to us to find out...... which, needless to say, the haven't!

31 March, 2011 16:54

Anonymous H said...

Tail wagging dog now replaced by "who's shagging this cat?".

"Back Office" staff are important - by this I mean FSI, case build, custody, interview/prisoner handling teams, finance and admin etc.

CID also fall into this category as they are not, in the ridiculous political nonsense way, "visible".

Its very simple, as my folks have said, they aren't really all that bothered about having a bobby or 2 walking up and down their road (it is a quiet area), but what they do want is a response if they call the Police, and to see Officers out and about in the Towns and rougher areas. And from personal experience, I know of very few officers languishing in "back-offices" because its easy. Most of those who are no longer working response or neighbourhood are long service guys and gals working in the Ops centre as a RAD (makes sense as they know the area, know what is needed at what job etc) or are office bound due to injury. There are the odd few lazy tossers but they are a minority I have found.

However, numerous years of complete toss like PDRs that are requested by Personel Managers, or chasing detections and naff low level arrests for the sake of crime figures as opposed to using good sense and valuable Police time, have helped to pour treacle in the cogs - it is this over-reliance of bureaucracy and empire building that needs sorting, as well as loosening the HOCR rubbish.

We are all one big team - not everyone can work on the shift, that wouldn't work. The army has the Adjutants Generals Corp, The Logistics Corp and the fighting arms - they need support elements for their troops and it works. It is the same for the Police - We NEED back room support from others to ensure that we can be out and about on the patch and able to respond to calls as required and not be stuck inside doing meaningless admin/PDR tat.

31 March, 2011 19:27

Anonymous Inspectorgadget said...

I blame the Liberal Elite!!!

(simper) (Simper)

31 March, 2011 21:34

Anonymous H said...


31 March, 2011 23:23

Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh i see, that probably explains this then:

01 April, 2011 00:48

Anonymous DB said...

I'm not sure what probably explains that then. Youthful belief in one's own self-righteousness? That is is possible to produce something truly woeful even in the land of cheap and clever editing tools? That this young lady is less than a barrel of laughs at parties?

Support staff are there to, er, support. Where they don't they should be gotten rid of. If you want to know who should stay, just poll your local Response team.

02 April, 2011 16:13

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing this picture of Theresa May reminds me of a great picture of Harriet Harman walking round Peckham a few years ago surrounded by police.She was wearing body armour in her own constituency!!.Accompanying her was a Supernintendo who usually never left the station.Lots of copies got printed off with excellent rude comments from non pc PC's which I can't repeat here.It became a little game for PCs to post them before the SMT tore them down again.Childish I know but very funny

05 April, 2011 21:16


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