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Police 'could use more civilians'

One in 20 police officers is carrying out roles that could be fulfilled by civilians, wasting almost £150 million a year, a think-tank has said.

Too many sworn officers are working in control rooms and forensic suites when those roles could be carried out by cheaper civilian staff, saving better-paid officers for frontline duties, the Policy Exchange said.

The claim came as figures showed more than 14,500 officers made no arrests at all last year, including almost half of all officers in the Derbyshire force.

Blair Gibbs, head of crime and justice at the think-tank, said: "Too many sworn officers are hidden away in back offices. As a result taxpayers have spent at least £500 million since 2006 in extra employment costs for over 7,000 police officers who have a uniform, but who aren't policing.

"There remains a clear gap between additional police resources and the service delivered. As far as the public are concerned, the unprecedented expansion in officer numbers since 2001 may as well never have happened."

The Cost Of The Cops report showed civilian staff could be used instead of officers in areas such as forensics, control rooms, operational support and business support, saving more than £20,000 per head.

Greater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy, the lead for workforce development for the Association of Chief Police Officers, said: "It is crucially important the police officers are used in roles which require their expertise, powers and experience.

"That said, this doesn't just apply to the front line, there are many office-based jobs where police officers are required, including handling intelligence, delivering training or processing offenders through the criminal justice system."

The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers in England and Wales, warned that the claims and recommendations in the report "simply do not translate into reality".

Paul McKeever, the federation's chairman, said the suggestion that officers should have to wear their uniforms when travelling to and from work to improve visibility takes no account of the risks and problems this could create, including the threat of reprisals to both officers and their families.

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