A programme of shared services and outsourcing could help the British Police save millions of pounds by moving officers out of back offices and into frontline roles, according to a provocative report.
The Home Office should provide incentives for police forces to move to outsourcing, according to the study by the Policy Exchange entitled ‘The Cost of Cops’.

It argues that future funding settlements should be linked to savings arising from more efficient working practices and service arrangements. Taxpayers have spent at least £500m since 2006 in extra employment costs for over 7,000 police officers who have a uniform but who aren’t ‘policing,’ it claims.

“Greater outsourcing will deliver resource efficiencies and redeployment opportunities that will help protect the frontline, but years of tentative steps by individual police authorities have not delivered savings on the scale necessary,” is the central idea.

Budget reductions for police forces up to 2015 are challenging but manageable if forces take the right decisions to reshape their workforces, change business processes, redeploy officers to frontline roles and maximize the visibility of officers to the public, argues the report.

The ‘right-leaning’ think tank believes that such re-engineering can free up uniformed officers and deliver cash savings through back and middle office efficiencies around outsourcing, procurement and business transformation.

The arguments about moving cops to the frontline are now very familiar. Only last month, for instance, the Prime Minister pointed out that only 12% of all the Metropolitan Police Service’s 32,000 officers are frontline policemen and women, telling the House in a heated debate on the response to the summer civil disorders in England that, “You have Police who are working in HR, working in IT, jobs that can be civilianised to get more staff on the beat.”

One problem for both critics and defenders of the Police in the budget-cutting context is that there is no formally agreed definition of ‘frontline,’ ‘middle’ and ‘back office’ services in a law-enforcement context, despite the fact that these terms are in relatively common use across the entire force.