Paperwork is a real issue for many of us, on the police shows like ‘Road Wars’ you don’t see all the paperwork that the officers have to complete, they only ever show the car pursuit followed by the foot chase, and then the suspect being nicked, chances are they will then have about 2-3 hours worth of work after that, which I bet a lot of it is needless. The government have been saying for a while that they are cutting police paperwork, I’ve not seen a single shred of evidence to back that up, infact I’d say we have to do more now than ever before for the simple fact of CYA. CYA means ‘Cover your Arse’, due to the blame culture we live in, everything we do now we have to cover our arse to make sure that in the future it can’t come back to bite us, which is fair enough, I understand we all have to be accountable but I’d like the home sec to show me where they have cut down our paperwork.
I’ll give you one example where the cuts have led to hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours where police officers could be on the streets but they’re not….
Where I work it is force policy that officers have to handwrite our statements, (not statements from the public, just our own ones). A few people have spent months typing statements instead of handwriting them, and they have never had any come back in court as to why they didn’t handwrite them, but nevertheless, we were told this week that if we don’t handwrite them it will be a disciplinary matter. I’ve never understood the reason for this.
Due to the fact that the typing unit are short staffed and overworked, we then have to type and print our statement straight away to put in the case file, I can only imagine that this is because people can’t read our handwriting. I’m not a fast writer and I write a lot in my notes, so an arrest book can easily take me over an hour to handwrite, I then have to type it straight up which could take a further 30 minutes, meanwhile if I had typed my statement in the first place it would have taken me less than 30 minutes because I can type a hec of a lot faster than I can write. In this digital age I’m sure there is software than can digitally time stamp the statement on the computer so it can’t be altered after, so why can’t we use that? This would save well over an hours worth of work, and scale that up to how many officers do it, and how many more hours officers would be able to be out on the streets, surely it’s common sense to implement a process to allow it? I’ve been to court a fair few times, and I’ve never been shown my original hand written notes, they’ve always given me the typed version of my statement, so where is the original? This whole issue really annoys every officer, and is a huge waste of police time, simple things like this will help morale and boost our confidence in ‘the job’, which will make us a lot more productive and as the government want, you will end up getting more for less!
I’ve also been reading that soon all our hand over files will be electronic and we will not have any paperwork files for the CPS (this might mean paperwork will stop getting lost), so what’s going to happen to all our handwritten notes then? Maybe someone reading this can enlighten me as to if there is a genuine reason why we have to handwrite statements that I am unaware about?
Sorry I forgot to add, it’s important that an arresting makes ‘notes at scene’ which the officer should make at the time of arrest which he can refer to when making the full statement later on when back at the station. In my force we use a small book called an EAB (evidence and actions book) which is what we hand write our statement in, and it has many sections to it including one for ‘notes at scene’, in addition to the above, I don’t know why we can’t just use our pocket note books to record the notes at scene, as this is always carried with us and taken to court with us, it would also prevent the CPS from losing the EAB’s which has happened on occasion. This is would also save untold amounts of paper, an EAB is about 40 pages long, 8 of which are for the actual witness statement, so in most cases when filling one out, there is about 25-30 pages that aren’t used, so it’s just wasting paper and ink!