Police to spend fewer hours investigating offensive social media posts

Priti Patel shuts down Labour MP in police numbers debate

The Home Office has today launched a new initiative to slash hours wasted by police officers on unnecessary bureaucracy, and investigating “offensive” social media posts. The department says this will free up 443,000 hours of police time every year, in the hope it will free officers up to attend more essential calls like burglaries.

The main bulk of hours will be saved by changing how forces record crimes, with officers no longer having to record cases of messages that might offend someone or where a public disturbance occurred but has been resolved.

There will also be an emphasis on social media companies dealing with bad-tempered online spats, rather than the police, though officers will still have to intervene where threats are made.

Another change will mean reported crimes only being recorded as a single incident, rather than as multiple entries on a database.

Chair of the National Police Chiefs’ Council Gavin Stephenson welcomed the news, saying a review had identified that “443,000 officer hours are spent filling in forms and dealing with unnecessary administrative tasks”.

He said: “These equate to the equivalent of attendance at 220,000 domestic abuse incidents, 270,000 burglaries, or almost 740,000 antisocial behaviour incidents.

“Any move to free up our frontline to serve our communities is welcome.”

Speaking on GB News this morning, Minister for Crime and Policing Chris Philip championed the move, saying the Government wants to see the police spending their time “protecting the public, catching criminals and keeping our streets safe”.

He said: “At the moment they’re obliged to record a single report multiple times in some cases, which wastes a huge amount of police time.

“They’re obliged in some cases to record what you or I would consider to be very minor incidents where someone’s been offended under the malicious communications headings.”

On ending police intervening on reports of offensive tweets and Facebook posts, Mr Philp said: “We’re going to issue guidance to make clear that should only happen where the criminal threshold has been reached, they should not be wasting time on minor matters.

“I think saving nearly half a million hours a year of police time is a really important step forward.”

The minister was challenged over police numbers, however, with presenter Isabel Webster asking whether more police recruits would mean the government not having to introduce minor changes to the way crimes are recorded and investigated.

Mr Philip said it was good news that the announcement is coming alongside additional recruits to police ranks.

He said: “Our police uplift programme concluded just a couple of weeks ago on March, 31. The official figures are going to come out in a couple of weeks’ time, but we believe we are on track to deliver more police officers than we have ever had at any time in this country’s history.

“We’ll get that confirmed, we hope in a couple of weeks’ time.”

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The changes will come into effect in the coming weeks, following recommendations from a review by the NPCC lead for crime data integrity, Chris Rowley.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael MP said: “This announcement is simply too little, too late. People are losing confidence in the police because of Conservative mismanagement.

“The Conservatives are failing to tackle crime and people up and down the country know this announcement will make little difference to that.”

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