Apr 2010 13

The Birmingham Post have reported that  four West Midlands police forces spent a staggering £2.4m on media relations last year – with budgets rising 72% in the last five years, and though Chief Inspector Mark Payne, head of West Midlands Police’s Press & PR Department said that press releases have helped them trace murderers and locate missing people, it’s worth noting that the chairman of the Dorset Police Federation, Clive Chamberlain claims there’s been a “growth in spin”, calling for the money to be spent on extra police officers.West Mids TPA logo

Though most of us would concede there’s value in the police having a relationship with a media to forward their own aims and publicise important cases to members of the public, there’s more than a strong likelihood that the £1,064,000 spent by West Midlands Police in the current financial year went on more extravagant PR and unnecessary publicity projects than Inspector Payne would have us believe.

The truth is, the police have always historically had a dialogue with the media and journalists and newspapers have always published articles about criminals, unsolved cases and missing people. There is a valuable reciprocal relationship here that no-one would question. What, perhaps, those concerned do want to get to the bottom of is just how police press offices have grown to such a size that they’re siphoning literally millions of pounds away from policing itself?

Police old If crime rates had dramatically improved since 2004/5 when the West Midlands force spent 42% less than it spent last year, then perhaps the results would justify the expenditure (perhaps we’d all advocate a little more press emphasis), but the fact is these departments are expanding at a rate of knots and absorbing huge amounts of public cash and – like Clive Chamberlain asserts – just churning out more spin, promotion and self-congratulation, none of which solves any crimes or protects the safety of local people.

The police do an important job, and the more of their budget that can be diverted to the sort of vital frontline policing we all appreciate the better.  As the West Midlands Police Authority lamented at their January conference, their finances are due to be well and truly squeezed and it’s areas like this that they could afford to cut back.

  • CJD

    As an ex cop this is the tip of the iceberg. Consultants at vast cost to design appraisal systems. Massive sums in overtime frittered away on some publicity stunt. Beano’s where police officers fly abroad for any reason from ‘Officers from Scotland Yard are assisting with enquiries’to ‘interviewing witnesses’. Its gone on for years they have poked their noses in the trough like everyone else in public sector.

  • Mike Fuller

    Thats the reason I retired from the FORCE (errr sorry SERVICE). I was a Chief Inspector and felt that my superiors were more concerned with IMAGE than policing the streets properly. I knew one Chief Superintendant (area commander)who was more concerned with coming up with a modern & catchy slogan to put on the side of police cars than doing his REAL job – protecting the locals where he was based.In the end I became disillusioned with the job I loved and left. It’s more like Toy Town Police these days and I’m glad I’m out of it. Sad really because I loved the job and felt I was a dying breed in the force…

  • http://www.west-midlands.police.uk/pdf/FOI/CT%20Minutes/Command%20Team%20Meeting%20Minutes%20180309.pdf Concerned Public Citizen

    West Midlands Police currently has around 8% of police officers who cannnot be sent out the door because they are disabled or on some sort of restricted duties. Many of these are long-term sick or permenently disabled from carrying out the full duties of a police officer. Government targets for reducing ill-health retirements reckons on 6 per 1000 officers but WMP only ill-health retire 1 per 1000. WMP excel in one target area but fail to get officers on the street in our communities. Remove control of WMP from the HR department and let’s have some leadership from the top.
    How much tax-payers’ money does the WMP spend on lawyers and barristers to fight their own officers when they try to resolve disputes with management? They employ full-time legal teams to cover their backs. These figures aren’t published anywhere.

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