#007/2011 – Police Workforce Comparisons

New data published today identifies the “front line” in each police force and opens their books so the public can see how police resources are deployed in their area in comparison with other forces.

Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary, Mr. Roger Baker, said, “The debate about protecting the front line has been frustrated by the absence of a definition. In this report we propose a working definition based on what the public view as the police front line.

“Not every person in a front line police role will be visible or available to the public. They may be at work but not in uniform or off-shift. However, the public are interested in seeing the police in their community and so, alongside figures for the front line, HMIC is publishing comparative data on the proportion of officers and PCSOs that are visible and available at key times.”

The report reveals:

A working definition of the police front line that comprises those who are in everyday contact with the public and directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law Drawing on a small public survey, views of police representatives and this definition, HMIC has quantified what is on the front line. There is a measure of agreement, but by no means complete agreement, that the front line amounts to around two thirds of the police workforce across England and Wales.

The front line comprises:

  • Officers and PCSOs in visible roles, for example, those responding to calls from the public and patrolling neighbourhoods.
  • Officers and staff in specialist roles such as criminal investigation, forensics and surveillance.
  • A proportion in “middle office” roles, including those who make very difficult decisions about safety and enforcing the law, managing or supporting police operations and processes such as holding prisoners in custody and answering calls from the public.

The front line excludes:

  • Some middle office roles such as processing intelligence and preparing files for court.
  • Back office roles such as training, finance and HR.

Of the total number of police officers and PCSOs across England and Wales, 61% are in visible roles, for example, responding to calls from the public and patrolling neighbourhoods. But the proportion available at any one time will depend on shift patterns. On average, 12% of officers and PCSOs were in visible roles and available to the public at key times.

The proportion of officers and PCSOs visible and available at key times varied between forces from 9% to 17%.

A 24hr snapshot of police activity in three local areas reveals a rich mix of demands on the police, from ASB to stabbings that requires a range of police responses from visible patrols to specialist investigations.

Sir Denis O’Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary said,

“The purpose of this information is to help show in some detail where hard choices will have to be made, and inform that debate locally.”


Notes to editors

  1. HMI Roger Baker is HMIC’s lead Inspector on value for money.
  2. HMIC were asked by the minister of state for policing and criminal justice to seek an agreement to a definition of the front line on 9th December 2010.
  3. In order to establish public perceptions of the front line, 1,007 face-to-face interviews of adults aged 15+ were interviewed in February 2011.
  4. The proportion of the police workforce on the front line was calculated using police force data submitted to the Home Office the “Annual Data Return (ADR)” for 2009/10.
  5. HMIC surveyed all 43 forces to determine the proportion of officers and PCSOs that are in visible roles and available to the public. The survey was conducted at three key times – (Monday morning 09:00hrs, Wednesday evening and just after midnight on Saturday morning).
  6. To bid for an interview with Sir Denis O’Connor, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary, or one of Her Majesty’s regional inspectors, please contact the HMIC press office on 0203 513 0601 / 0602/ 0603/ 0604/ 0605 / 0606 / or email the press office – HMICPressOffice@hmicfrs.gov.uk.
  7. The work referenced in this press notice is available on the HMIC website, www.hmic.gov.uk from 00.01 Wednesday 30th March 2011. For embargoed copies of the report, please contact the HMIC press office.
  8. HMIC will be publishing in May a report on the potential to cut crime recording bureaucracy.
  9. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary is an independent inspectorate, inspecting policing in the public interest, and rigorously examines the effectiveness of police forces and authorities to tackle crime and terrorism, improve criminal justice and raise confidence. HMIC inspects and regulates all 43 police forces in England and Wales together with other major policing bodies such as the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the British Transport Police and HMRC.
  10. HMIC’s press office can be contacted during office hours from 08.30am – 6.00pm Monday – Friday on 0203 513 0601.
  11. HMIC’s out of hours press office line for urgent media enquiries is 0782 583 3222