OFFICERS in the region’s largest police force are being told to return to the “traditional approach” of dealing with suspects all the way from arrest to court rather than handing them over to colleagues.
Mark Gilmore, chief constable of West Yorkshire Police, which is expected to lose between 2,500 and 3,000 workers between 2010 and 2016, says he wants to challenge the culture where several different officers handle different aspects of the criminal justice process after arrest.
The force was criticised by a watchdog this summer for failing to respond to the need to make long-term cuts and has launched its ‘programme of change’ scheme to transform the way it operates.
In order to make £143 million in savings over six years, reviews are under way into several major areas of the force, including the Homicide and Major Enquiry Team, and more resources will be shared with other organisations.
Several members of the command team are now dedicated to the task of transforming the way the force operates and all chief officers have been told to give up their national policing roles to concentrate on the task.
A number of police buildings are expected to be lost in the future to provide funds to ensure as many officers as possible are kept in front line policing.
Leeds and Bradford now only have one policing division each, meaning the number of divisional commanders has been cut from five to two and a number of other management roles have been axed.
But Mr Gilmore said he also wanted to improve the culture at the force by making officers take responsibility for their own arrests. “In a lot of police organisations you will have a person who does the arrest, brings them into the custody suite, the custody suite then takes the person and then they are given to other people to process.
“Before we had additional money, when I made an arrest I would go through from A to Z, and there are certain advantages to doing that. You have ownership of it, you have a particular sense of pride in doing it right or you are a bit ashamed if you haven’t done it right.
“We need to return to some of those traditional approaches, because with additional staff we divided it all up, you take it and you hand it onto the next person, that means the outcome is not always what you want it to be.”
He added that he wanted the force to shed its “risk-averse” culture by stopping officers making unnecessary checks to supervisors or waiting for a specialist to take on the job.
“There are a whole series of checks and you have checkers checking the checkers, and you have so much time spent checking. If people made proper, professional decisions from the word go you could get through a lot more of the work.
“We have had a lot of specialisms build up over this where people are disempowered from making the right decision, where actually if you take a professional, generalist approach you can make a decision based on the facts before you.”
Ned Liddemore of West Yorkshire’s Police Federation praised the plans to give officers more responsibility. He said: “I have seen both sides of it but I thought that system worked.”
As part of the plans, many neighbourhood officers could in future be stationed in children’s homes, housing offices, libraries and health centre, alongside council, health and education workers, as part of a ‘one stop shop’ approach designed to make them more accessible.
Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson said bosses were being forced into radical action due to “disproportionate” funding cuts.