Continued partnership working between the police service and the UK’s private sector security companies has helped forces across the country reduce costs in the face of public sector budget cuts.
In a report published earlier this week by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), police forces’ responses to budget cuts were praised, while concerns have been raised around the impact on neighbourhood policing.
Responding to the HMIC document, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) – the Trade Association representing the UK’s private security industry – is reinforcing the important role played by security companies in delivering cost savings to forces across the country.
Since 2011, police forces have had to find £2.5 billion worth of cuts, while the central Government funding grant for police forces in England and Wales was reduced by 20%. Rising to the challenge, forces’ response to these cuts has been rated either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ in the HMIC report.
Providing support services and performing back office functions are key ways in which private sector security companies help to drive efficiencies by freeing-up warranted police officers to return to front line duties. HMIC’s report highlights a projected reduction in the police workforce of up to 34,000 by March 2015, by which time there will also be 8,500 fewer front line police officers. Despite this, efficiency is on the rise, with the proportion of police officers in front line roles set to increase from 89% to 92%.
Zoe Billingham – Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary – commented: “It’s not easy to provide the high quality police service that the public rightly demands with far less money. Forces have had to change how they do their business. The best of them understand their demand in a sophisticated way and target their resources well, working with local public sector organisations to reduce crime and collaborate with other partners to cut costs.”
Indeed, many members of the BSIA already collaborate with police forces to provide a range of services, from victim support provided by personal safety devices through to ‘street-to-suite’ custodial services (the latter have been proven to save 350 hours of front line police time across an eight-week trial period).
Concerns over neighbourhood policing
Meanwhile, concerns over neighbourhood policing are also allayed by private security involvement. One member of the BSIA has supported the police in driving down anti-social behaviour by conducting park patrols in Manchester, for example, while another member company provides additional support for the police service in one of London’s busiest shopping destinations, namely Carnaby Street.
Most recently, seven BSIA member companies were selected to support the policing function at this month’s Commonwealth Games, which is now underway to great acclaim in Glasgow.
Encouraging more police forces to consider further engagement with private security firms is key to enabling those forces to meet the ongoing demands they face in light of budget cuts.
BSIA CEO James Kelly stated: “It’s not about creating a privatised police force, as many opponents of partnership working would have us believe. In contrast, this is a case of private industry taking on support functions to aid the police in delivering the Government’s programme of reform.”
Kelly continued: “The security industry already contributes significantly when it comes to assisting the police and emergency services if called upon to do so. Through its dedicated public affairs programme, the BSIA will continue to engage with police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and Parliamentarians in order to ensure that political thinking remains open to this diverse and innovative approach.”
Robbie Calder – chairman of the BSIA’s dedicated Police and Public Services Section – said: “Police reform simply cannot be delivered without the support of private sector security companies. Many of the core aims of police forces would be difficult to achieve without outsourcing at least some support functions to the domain of the private sector.”
To find out more about the BSIA and its Police and Public Services Section visit: http://www.bsia.co.uk/police-and-public-services
The HMIC’s report, entitled ‘Policing in Austerity: Meeting the Challenge’ can be viewed online: http://www.hmic.gov.uk/publication/policing-in-austerity-meeting-the-challenge/