The recent riots in London and other parts of the UK have raised awareness of the problems that a lack of police can cause. The police were unable to contain the rioters with a lack of numbers on the first two days partly blamed.
This, combined with the planned cuts of thousands of front-line police to help the government reach a target of 20% police spending cuts, is being hotly debated in parliament.
But why should front-line police be the ones to lose their jobs? Shared IT enabled back office services could allow police forces to cut jobs and costs without actually impacting front-line services. In fact because there are loads of trained police officers working in the back office it might actually be possible to put some on the front line again.
So is the government missing the point by suggesting the police cost reductions will be met through cutting 16,000 front-line police jobs?
Steria, for example, has a shared service that targets police authorities.
In June last year Cleveland Police Authority became the first customer of Steria's shared services offering that is targeted at UK police forces.
The authority is spending £175m over the next decade on shared services and expects £50m in savings in that time. Do the same across forty-odd forces in England and Wales and the potential cost savings are huge. Not to mention the opportunity to redeploy trained officers that have been stuck in the back office.
The Steria service enables the sharing of services such as finance, HR, payroll, commissioning and fleet management in Steria's dedicated datacentres. When other forces are signed up they will use the same infrastructure.
The deal has already been extended with targeted savings increased. As with other police authorities, Cleveland Police has uniformed police doing back office jobs. The savings combined with moving uniformed staff back to the front line will help Cleveland fill gaps in its policing.
John Torrie, CEO at Steria told me that there are job vacancies at Cleveland for uniformed police officers but the authority cannot afford to fill them. He said bringing in civilians to the back office will mean uniformed officers can be redeployed.
Steria is not alone. Capgemini has shared services aimed at the police.