So, what exactly is a frontline police job? The Home Office isn’t sure…

How many times have we heard minister promising to protect frontline services despite cuts to police budgets?

It’s been a constant pledge from the Tories and the Lib Dems, and a constant accusation from Labour that the coalition won’t.

So you’d think that the Home Office would have a locked-down definition of what ‘frontline’ meant – just so ministers can prove they were right.

Only they haven’t.

A clever use of FOI by the Daily Telegraph has established the Home Office doesn’t actually define what frontline is:

“There is no formally agreed definition…although these are terms in relatively common use across the police service.”

So it’s impossible to prove that frontline services have been cut, but equally impossible to prove they haven’t.

The Home Office press office did try to provide some context, presumably after being contacted by the Telegraph:

A Home Office spokesman said that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) has been consulted in order to establish a definition of frontline police officers.

He added: “Although no fixed definition exists, frontline officers and staff are generally those directly involved in the public crime fighting face of the force. This includes neighbourhood policing, response policing and criminal investigation.

“Middle office services include a variety of functions which provide direct support to the frontline, such as police training and criminal justice administration.

“Back office services are those which keep police forces running smoothly such as finance and human resources.”

Hmmm – another case of one answer via FOI, and another from the press office?

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