Police Federation welcomes Home Office plan to cut red tape

South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne has welcomed proposals to cut red tape but called on the Government to go further in its efforts to get officers spending more time preventing and investigating crime.

Policing minister Chris Philp said a planned overhaul of the way crimes are logged would mean officers were no longer required to record frivolous allegations of offensive speech or social media rows as crimes.

He said the shake-up would also mean a reduction in the number of hours the police spent dealing with mental health cases or filling in for other emergency services.

Mr Philp unveiled the proposals in a speech at the Law Society in London in which he said officers were not the “thought police” and that being rude or insulting should not be treated as a “police matter”.

He said changing Home Office counting rules on how reported incidents were logged would slash “unnecessary red tape” and free up more time to investigate crime.

And he accepted that police officers should not be expected to deal with mental health cases or act as a stop gap for other emergency services.

Steve welcomed the proposals but said there were other areas in need of attention.

“We welcome the idea of shaking up the counting rules but areas such as disclosure and charging are still bogged down in bureaucracy and are also in urgent need of reform.

“Neighbourhood policing appears to be flavour of the month once again and we are all for that but we have to get rid of all this needless red tape before we can get our officers back out into their communities.

“They can’t be in two places at once so if ministers are serious about neighbourhood policing and getting more officers on the beat then they’ll have to go further to reduce the crazy levels of admin and paperwork our members have to deal with on a daily basis.”

Steve also welcomed the minister’s comments on officer hours taken up on cases which could be handled by other agencies.

He said: “This is an important issue which is often overlooked and I am pleased the minister has now noted it as a real cause for concern  within policing.”

The proposed shake-up follows recommendations from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) which said a review of productivity found an estimated 443,000 officer hours were spent filling in forms and dealing with unnecessary admin - the equivalent to attending 220,000 domestic abuse incidents or 270,000 burglaries.

In his speech, Mr Philp said: “We’re going to make clear that frivolous allegations of malicious communications should not be recorded as a criminal offence unless the criminal threshold has clearly been met.

“We don’t think that being rude or insulting is a police matter.

“Officers are not the thought police and where something is reported that doesn’t meet the criminal threshold, we don’t want that to be investigated or reported as a crime. We don’t want to waste police time on that kind of thing."

The Home Office said the changes would save police time by no longer recording cases of messages that may offend someone or where a public disturbance occurred but has been resolved.

A spokesman said ministers believed officers should be on the streets investigating crimes such as burglary rather than investigating comments made online.

NPCC chair Gavin Stephenson said: “Police officers must be totally focused on keeping people safe and ensuring they feel safe.

“We want to provide the best possible policing to the public and the work of the police productivity review is aimed at removing barriers and improving effectiveness.”