Police 'buried under' guidance on avoiding risks


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Police in England and Wales are "buried under" 6,497 pages of guidance on new legislation and risks to avoid, according to the Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O'Connor.


More officers are being moved to
specialist roles like counter-terrorism

In a speech later, he will say that officers are being told how to ride bicycles and police cricket matches.

The number out on the beat is also falling as more are given specialist roles like counter-terrorism.

The government has vowed to cut bureaucracy to free up officers.

'Social care issues'

Sir Denis will tell the Association of Chief Police Officers' annual conference on Thursday that the service is "creaking under the weight of its own massive, well-intended bureaucracy", and as the "mountain" of guidance has grown, the number of officers requiring specialist knowledge has also risen.

"In the last four years there has been a 30.9% increase in officers covering national functions such as counter-terrorism, an 8.8% rise in investigators and a 2.4% fall in the number of uniform officers policing our communities, equating to around 1,400 officers," he will say.

"This fall has been masked by the introduction of police community support officers."

Sir Denis will also warn that the proliferation of guidance is a symptom of an overly-cautious approach to policing.

Officers are "spending significant amounts of time managing social care issues - just in case", he will say, citing instances of police escorting drunk people home and intervening in domestic disputes between parents and their children.

"The key point is this: Police cannot exhaustively offset particular risks to particular individuals without reducing the resources to provide general safety for all of us," he will say.

"The British model of policing is built around the presence of bobbies on the beat, preventing crime. The more policy aimed at eliminating all possible risks, the less time officers are available to those who need them."

'No targets'

Sir Denis will say that a moratorium on any new guidance is vital.

He will also call for a shift in policing principles. At present, guidance states that officers must "take all reasonable action to keep risk to a minimum" - he wants that to be relaxed to the "most probable" risks they "can reasonably be expected to deal with".

Earlier this week, Home Secretary Theresa May told the conference she wanted to help police get back to basics.

"Targets don't fight crime, targets hinder the fight against crime," she said.

"In scrapping the confidence target and the policing pledge, I couldn't be any clearer about your mission: it isn't a 30-point plan, it is to cut crime, no more and no less."