14 April 2023
Derbyshire Police Federation has welcomed proposed reforms that would ensure officers no longer had to record frivolous allegations of offensive speech or Twitter spats as crimes.
Policing minister Chris Philp said officers were not the “thought police” and that being rude or insulting was not 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.
In a speech to the Law Society, Mr Philp also accepted that police officers should not be expected to deal with mental health cases or act as a stop gap for other agencies.
Derbyshire Police Federation chair Tony Wetton welcomed the announcement but said still more could be done to ease officers’ caseloads.
“The demands on our members’ time get greater and greater and this is not helped by the amount of admin and paperwork they face on a daily basis so the reforms outlined in the minister’s speech would be a good start,” he said.
“But it would still leave much room for improvement and we would be happy to meet the policing minister and his colleagues to offer suggestions on how they could further reduce the levels of bureaucracy and help get officers back on the streets and into their communities.
Tony Wetton has welcomed the proposed reforms
“Our members strive to deliver the best service possible to the people of Derbyshire but that can sometimes prove a challenge if they are stuck behind a desk in a police station all day.”
Tony also welcomed the minister’s comments on officer hours taken up on cases which could be handled by other agencies.
He said: “It was a relief to hear that our concerns about dealing with non-policing issues such as mental health cases and vulnerable people are now being taken seriously. The Force is doing a lot of work in terms of ensuring that the most appropriate agency provide the necessary support to people in crisis – that is not always the police. To hear that the Home Office are looking to address this is reassuring.”
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."
Policing minister Chris Philp has vowed to cut red tape
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.”