Police PR Spending

A three-month project by James Ball and I using the Freedom of Information Act to examine police spending on public relations, press offices and marketing concluded with two pieces in today’s Times:

Long arm of police spin-doctors costs almost £40m a year

Tough on crime – or on the image of crime?

We found that police forces across the UK are spending £39m each year on press and PR – enough to fund an extra 1,400 full time officers and more than enough to cover the annual police pay rise withheld by the Government. The force at the top of the league (Police Service Northern Ireland) spends eight times more per person on PR than the lowest (Derbyshire). Meanwhile, forces spend nearly ten times more on PR (what police want us to know) than on FOI (what we want to know).

Also while resources are pumped into PR, we found a distinct lack of interest in responding to our FOI requests. Only 19 of 53 forces responded to our requests on time. All the rest broke the law. They had a variety of explanations though some offered none at all. Police Service Northern Ireland had the most novel excuse – their FOI officer was on an advanced driver training course. It had no affect in speeding up their tardy reply which came more than a month late. If any of us were to break the law I doubt such excuses would carry much weight. Even those committing non-crimes such as parking get no leeway.

When we called the press offices for comment, however, it was remarkable how quickly forces found the time to re-examine their figures to decrease the amounts, often claiming the initial figures they’d given us were incorrect.

There is lot more detail than we could get in the newspaper so check out the summary or the full database for the full story on how your police force responded.

Summary of press and PR spend in the 52 police forces questioned

Full Database (Excel). Here you’ll find a sheet with the main findings, a summary sheet and finally the full detail of all our requests to 52 police forces.

Police PR Press Release

Link to Secret Squirrel page

PR/Press spend per 100,000 people, per year
Top 5
Police Service Northern Ireland £99,501.01
Metropolitan Police Force £85,629.10
Northamptonshire Police £80,138.57
Dorset Police £72,670.79
Merseyside Police £68,189.82
Bottom 5
Derbyshire £12,566
Dyfed-Powys £19,088
Durham £20,193
South Yorkshire £20,818 (ave 3 years)
Lincolnshire £20,934
Total PR spend increases
Top 5
Cumbria Constabulary 125%
Dyfed Powys Police 77%
Lincolnshire Police 72%
Northumbria Police 55%
Devon & Cornwall Police 43%
PR staff spend increases
Top 5
Thames Valley Police 146%
Cumbria 136%
Lincolnshire 72%
Dyfed-Powys 65%
Hampshire 61%

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2 Responses to “Police PR Spending”

  1. Nick says:

    This includes the costs of press conferences where there’s a major inquiry, right? And poster campaigns for things like Operation Trident? And, presumably, the more money is spent on publicising information in the first place, the less need there is for a dedicated FoI officer?

    Need a bit more info to tell whether this is significant.

  2. Bazzer says:

    Before you start on an epic survey such as this, you should find out what a police press office actually does.

    All good reporters will carry a balanced view in their story, which you have failed to do. The credibility of your research is seriously undermimed by your naive assumptions.

    As Nick above so rightly points out, a press conference will support a major enquiry – ie helping to trace offenders, witnesses etc. Or, spelled out so you can understand, “helping to solve the crime”. It is not spin or marketing but an essetntial requirement in serious unsolved investigations. It costs nothing apart from staff time and the goodwill of the media. From a simple appeal for information relating to a minor crime to a full-scale major incident, the media will require information from the police.

    The employment of police press officers means front-line officers are not tied up providing this information.

    However, press officers, like most other people who go out to work, don’t do it for nothing – yes, they have the audacity to expect a salary.

    You are right, it is the public’s “right to know” about police spending, however, they need to know the informed truth, not the wild guesses spread by misinfomred enthusiastic amatuers.

    The FOI Act was set up to allow individuals the right to see their personal information being held by public bodies. It is being seriously abused by people such as yourself.

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