Paperwork barrier hinders beat bobbies

The time police officers across East Anglia spend tied up on paperwork rather than out on the beat has been revealed by new figures.

The time police officers across East Anglia spend tied up on paperwork rather than out on the beat has been revealed by new figures.

The figures rank Suffolk as the fifth worst of the 43 forces in England and Wales for the percentage of officer time spent on frontline duties.

According to new figures, 59.5pc of police officer time is spent on frontline duties, which includes crime prevention work. This compares with a national average of 63.5pc, and is some way off the police authority's target of 65pc.

Norfolk police is above the national average, with 66.8pc of officer time spent on frontline duties - up by nearly 4pc from the previous year. Cambridgeshire is the best in the country, at 70.7pc - up 10pc from the previous year. But Suffolk's performance has got worse over both of the past two years.

The figures, which are for the financial year 2005-6, predate the massive police investigation into the murders of five prostitutes in Suffolk. But a police spokesman said the investigations would not have harmed the force's performance on frontline policing.

She said: “As soon as one of the girls went missing there was an increased presence in those areas and officer numbers were stepped up. There were more police on the streets.

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“It was business as usual in relation to normal policing in Suffolk. That is how the mutual aid arrangements we have with other forces work, their officers come to our aid so that day to day policing can still carry on.”

The report to Suffolk police authority's monitoring and audit committee meeting next Friday says: “Analysis has shown that officers in the constabulary recorded one of the highest proportions of time spent on 'other non-incident related' work in the country.

This is time not spent dealing with a particular crime or incident, and was generally time spent inside the police station.”

Suffolk police is also bringing in new measures which will help to improve its performance. It is planning to make more use of computers to replace paper forms and to avoid having to record the same information more than once. Shift patterns will also be reviewed to make sure officers are on duty when they are most needed.

The force is trying to meet a Home Office target of 68.5pc of time spent on frontline policing by 2007-8.