Study provides snapshot of life at Norwich’s Bethel Street police station

A snapshot of life at Norwich's Bethel Street police station has been drawn up as part of a report into front-line policing across the country.

A report by Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary (HMIC), published yesterday, examined the availability and visibility of front-line officers. It included a detailed look at an a day in the life of three police stations: Norwich, Manchester and London.

It shows that officers at Bethel Street dealt with 235 separate enquiries from members of the public over a 24-hour period. Over the same period 39 crime were investigated and seven crime scenes were visited to gather fingerprints and forensic evidence.

Three incidents are picked out to highlight the kind of work officers dealt with, these were a trail of blood at a block of flats, a shoplifting incident and a fight outside a bar.

Police chiefs in Norfolk dismissed ministers' claims that front-line policing can be maintained despite funding cuts - saying it was unrealistic to promise services would not suffer.

The HMIC report detailed the proportion of police officers visible and available on Britain's streets at key times. Norfolk a exceeded the national average of 12pc.

But Norfolk chief constable Phil Gormley and police authority chairman Stephen Bett said that while measures were in place to protect key functions, the current level of performance was not sustainable in the current economic climate. They said that amount of time officers spend on the street is sure to decrease through reduced resources.

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Paul Ridgeway, chairman of Norfolk Police Federation, said that while officers at all levels would strive to respond to emergencies, the public would have to accept that the response to non-emergencies would suffer.

Police minister Nick Herbert insisted that it was possible to make savings while continuing to deliver on the front-line. He said: 'We have always been clear that police forces can make the savings needed while protecting front-line services and prioritising the visibility and availability of policing.

'As this HMIC report shows, a third of human resources are not on the front-line. This is a clear indication that there is room for significant savings in back and middle offices.'

Mr Gormley said that while the force would 'continue to deliver the best possible policing services with the resources made available to us' there could be no doubt that the front-line will suffer.

He added: 'Defining the front-line is always problematic as the delivery of effective policing requires a complex system of functions, some front-line, some not.

'It has been commonly accepted that Norfolk constabulary has modernised its operations to reinforce its ability to serve and protect the public of Norfolk.

'The HMIC report confirms what we have always maintained, that given the scale of the cuts, the constabulary will have to reduce its front-line over the next four years.'

Mr Ridgeway said claims that cuts to the back office would not hit the front-line were misleading as such moves would inevitably increase the burden of paperwork for bobbies on the beat.

'You can't cut administrative roles without increasing the workload of front-line officers,' he said. 'We will always respond to emergencies but the public will have to get use to the fact that, when the phone us about a non-emergency, we may not be able to respond that day or even the next.'

Mr Bett hit back at the government, saying there was little fat left to trim in Norfolk. The force expects to cut 257 police officer posts, 45 PCSOs and 230 police staff over four years.

While plans are in place to minimise the impact. Mr Bett said there could be no doubt that the front-line would 'suffer badly'.

He said: 'I have to fundamentally disagree with the minister's assertion that we can find further efficiencies in the so-called 'back office'.

'We have cut �19m from our budget over the last four years and now we must cut a further �24.5m over the next four years.

'It may be true that by cutting out bureaucracy, some forces will be able to protect the front-line. But we have already done that - we have an efficient and effective police service and it grates that we have now having to dismantle that.

'It is unrealistic for the government to be telling the public they can expect the same level of service to continue.'

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