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Privatised Policing: The Forces Explain

Surrey and West Midlands Police speak to Police Oracle to clarify ‘privatisation’ reports

Guarding crime scenes and collecting CCTV are reasonable duties that could be carried out by the private sector, West Midlands Police has said.

But patrols will stay the responsibility of police officers and never be handed over to private firms, the force has emphasised.

As previously reported, West Midlands and Surrey are currently talking to private firms about the possibility of transferring some policing tasks to them. The contract could cost up to £1.5 billion over 10 years and the forces have placed a notice in the Official Journal of European Union (OJEU) asking for tender suggestions in relation to a wide-range of policing services.

¬We are looking at innovative ways of helping free officers from duties which don’t need a serving police officer to carry out.¬

The proposal has come in for strong criticism from opposition politicians and unions, which claim it sets a dangerous precedent for the future of policing.

But West Midlands has clarified that only officers and PCSOs will carry out front line services.

Lesser duties, which do not require an officer to perform them, are more likely to be looked at closely, including guarding crime scenes and collecting CCTV.

However, it is anticipated that the contract will encompass more duties as such examples are unlikely to meet the £1.5 billion bill.

Surrey has also moved to rubbish media reports that patrols could come under the remit of private firms.

Surrey CC Lynne Owens said: “This is just an opportunity to see if the private sector can deliver some behind the scenes functions better and cheaper as part of a broader programme.”

Ch Supt Phil Kay, who is overseeing the project for West Midlands, said the remit of the proposal had been “deliberately broad” to allow for an open dialogue with firms.

But he said it was unlikely that all the services listed would be made the responsibility of the private sector.

The force has added that if it had not included numerous police services in the official tender proposal at this stage, it would cost more money in the long term. This is because it would have to launch a secondary procurement process to include such services left out in the first, which would prove expensive.

Ch Supt Kay said: “Police officers and PCSOs will still be carrying out frontline services, such as street patrols and arrests. We are looking at innovative ways of helping free officers from duties which don’t need a serving police officer to carry out, such as guarding crime scenes and collecting CCTV.”

The Guardian had suggested that the private sector could become responsible for investigating crimes, carrying out patrols and detaining suspects.

A police spokeswoman for West Midlands added: “It is a broad spectrum and then we can pin it down as we go along.

“We will have more clarity on the services being discussed in a couple of weeks and I will be able to give more than we currently can.”

She indicated that a meeting in March could specify which policing services were most likely to be considered appropriate for the private sector.

Ch Supt Kay added that chief constables would stay accountable.

He said: “This is about maintaining the office of Constable and being clear that some things have to be done by people with warranted powers.

“If a private sector partnership arrangement does go ahead it will be around 2013/14 before any chosen partner will play an active part in what we do.”

Lincolnshire police is already set to launch its own private initiative with firm G4S - which includes the potential of building a new police station.

Surrey CC Owens also downplayed the proposal with West Midlands.

She said: “The final decision will be for the Police Authority or Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) but we cannot escape the changing financial climate.

“I must do my utmost to protect front-line policing services for the long-term.

“We will not change for change sake.”

Police Oracle will be following the developments of this process and will keep readers updated.

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