Police are on the beat 'just 10 per cent of shift'
POLICE officers in Avon and Somerset spend only six minutes of every hour on frontline duties, a new study has claimed.
The investigation into police efficiency has shown that only 10.6 per cent of a typical officer's working day is spent on patrol, 'visible and available' to the public.
The force is among the worst in the country for police "visibility", below the national average of 11.8 per cent and some distance behind the 16.3 per cent achieved by the best constabulary, West Yorkshire.
In an average 12-hour shift, officers in Avon and Somerset spend one hour and 16 minutes on the beat according to the research by pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance.
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The organisation has urged the country's newly-elected police and crime commissioners to call for officers to be sent on patrol for longer.
Avon and Somerset's new PCC Sue Mountstevens, right, questioned the report's "creative" definition of what represents time when officers are out on the beat. But she said improving visibility of officers was part of her vision for the force, despite the huge funding cuts being imposed.
Ms Mountstevens said: "There is some creative interpretation around what is classed as 'visible and available' in this report. There are many specialist officers who work extremely hard on detecting and monitoring serious and organised crime, child exploitation or financial fraud, who are not accounted for.
"These roles are as much the frontline as officers and PCSOs walking the beat and I will be considering and maintaining all aspects of 'frontline' policing when I set the budget and the police and crime plan.
"Despite being under-funded by £20 million we are assessed to need, we have a clear vision for our communities focused on local policing, visibility and service delivery to the public."
Kevin Phillips, the chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers and staff, said visibility had improved under the leadership of outgoing chief constable Colin Port.
He said: "Under Colin Port's reign, the organisation has made greater strides to having a visible presence on the streets – it's improved significantly from the previous chief constable. Clearly there's a number of things going on within the force to make sure this is happening but at the end of the day, police need to do their jobs, whether it be going out on patrol or dealing with criminals while locked up inside."
Mr Phillips said police had been given more freedom to go out on patrol following the installation of mobile data units in police cars.
He said: "It's a bit like having a laptop in the car, so officers can do some work in their car on the street rather than having to come back to the station.
"More strides are being taken to get police out there but the police spending review is going to have an effect.
"When you look at what's going on in the police service, they are doing the best they can with what they have got at the moment."
TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Sinclair said: "Many police forces can do more to use their resources efficiently and get more of their officers out on the front line fighting crime.
"Of course, the police have some important work to do that will sometimes legitimately stop them being available for visible policing but the large differences between forces suggest some are giving taxpayers much better value for money."