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Is Mutual Aid Propping Up The Police Service?

Last updated on July 14th, 2023 at 10:32 am

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I feel that I must begin by acknowledging that I have been retired from Policing 16 years this month. I am out of touch. Things have changed, oh how they have changed. However that does not automatically invalidate my thoughts and concerns.

For a variety of reasons I have turned my attention recently to Mutual Aid. For those that are not familiar with it, basically, when a major event, such as the recent Wedding of Prince Harry, takes place and the local Force has insufficient resources they can draw in Police Officers from a nearby Force to bolster their numbers. The deployment of officers from Force A to assist, and be under the operational control of, Force B is known as Mutual Aid. Historically it has been used to send reinforcements for events such as The Miners’ Strike, Greenham Common and latterly ‘Fracking’ demonstrations, the visit of the Trump and the Royal Wedding. All large-scale, but relatively uncommon, events.  The turning point for me was 2011 when the Metropolitan Police called for Mutual Aid to help quell the rioting that had broken out.  Unthinkable and possibly without precedent.  I can’t state categorically that the Met had never needed Mutual Aid before, but I can’t recall it happening before.  The Met has always been big enough, with sufficient resilience, to handle almost everything ‘in house’.

After the recent visit of The Trump I set about finding out how much Mutual Aid had been involved.  Who better to ask than the National Police Co-Ordination Centre?

So I sent them this request under the Freedom of Information Act

For the 2018 Calendar Year to date (16 July 2018) could you please give me the following information

  • How many Mutual Aid deployments have there been in England and Wales?

For each deployment;

  1. Which Force received the Mutual Aid?
  2. How many officers were sent on Mutual Aid

I specifically DO NOT REQUIRE any details concerning the nature of the deployment

The response I got to this was

The NPCC does not hold information captured by your request. NPoCC coordinates national assistance only. They do not record all mutual aid, for example, if forces within a region send resources to each other.
A consideration may be to make a request with individual forces. On this occasion, I am unable to assist you.

So the national Police Co-Ordination Centre don’t have the information, it seems Mutual Aid is mainly Regional.

Not to be beaten, and with a large portion of tongue-in-cheek, I replied with another, simpler request.

What is the purpose of the National Police Co-Ordination Centre and please supply me with a copy of their Terms of Reference How many times have the NPoCC been used in 2018?

For each occasion above please provide the reason for the Mutual Aid, e.g. Royal Event, Civil Disorder etc, the identity of the Force requiring Mutual Aid, the Forces that supplied that Mutual Aid and the number of PSUs sent. Thank you

The response to this was, as predicted, a further refusal to answer the basic question;

The NPCC can refuse to handle an FOI request for information under Section 12 of the
Act if it reasonably estimates that it would take more than 18 hours of work to carry out the above
four activities in relation to that request. If the limit is exceeded, there is no requirement for the
NPCC to conduct work up to that limit – the limit applies to the whole request and there is not a
requirement to answer other parts of a request even if only one area of the request on its own
engages the limit.

Outside of the Act, I can advise that there have been 829 events since January 2018. To determine
the event, the host force and donor force for the specific resource type would require accessing
four separate indices for each event.
A conservative estimate of five minutes per event would take approximately 69 hours. This would
by far exceed the cost limit.


After reading it a couple of times a few things about their answer intrigued me.

  1. They cannot answer within the cost restraints of the request because there have been 829 Mutual Aid deployments up to July this year, and at 5 minutes per deployment it would take them too long to collect the information I requested.  Fair enough you might think, but in their first refusal they claimed they did not have the information.
  2. 829 Mutual Aid deployments in 6-7 months is a HUGE number, approx 4-5 per day on average.  The NPoCC response actually says 829 EVENTS.  Can this be right, or is it 829 deployments?  Being charitable I’ll go with deployments, there can and will be more than one deployment per event.  If it truly is EVENTS that’s 4-5 per day on average, a totally staggering statisitic.
  3. At the end of the NPoCC response is this paragraph

In wishing to assist you, there is information on the NPCC website which describes the purpose of
NPoCC which details their role in coordinating the deployment of police officers and staff from
across UK policing to support forces during large scale events, operations and in times of national

So, what are these large-scale events/operations, all 829 of them, or are we in a time of “National Crisis”?  Some of the large-scale operations we know about, or can guess, but certainly not 829 of them.

Sorry NPoCC/NPCC but I’m not buying it, I think you are hiding behind the Act and covering things up.  I haven’t asked for any ‘senstive’ information, but I have asked for information which, if supplied, would assist us lesser mortals in quantifying the size of the #CrisisInPolicing that many of us believe exists in England and Wales.  For roo long ACPO and now NPCC have been totally silent and declining to criticise Theresa May as Home Secretary or Prime Minister, or her subsequent Home Secretaries.  One or two have put their heads above the parapets and spoken out, but nowhere near enough.  The destruction of Policing should be highlighted and oppsed by all members of ACPO/NPCC not just a few, it weakens their arguments totally if the majority of their peers do not openly support them.

The public are beginning to realise that there is a crisis, a few opposition MPs are being vocal in their challenges, but still woefully too few.  An even smaller number of Tory MPs get it and ask questions but then withdraw back into their shells, presumably chased there by the Whips.

Despite government assertions that Police reform is working (it isn’t reform and it isn’t working) the reality looks like this

The first chart shows why the public are seeing fewer and fewer Police Officers on their streets.

The second shows how the Front Line has definitively NOT being ‘Protected’ as the Tories would have you believe.

The third one shows how Recorded Crime has steadily risen as Police Officer numbers come down.

The fourth shows how the Central Government Funding for Policing was increased between 2010-2016, only it wasn’t was it, despite government assurances this government document shows that it fell steadily.

Where does all of this leave us?

Firstly, and it is only my personal opinion, Mutual Aid is definitely being used to prop up a failing Police Service, moving resources around the country where needed, but at what cost? Routine abstractions such of these have a knock-on cost to the Force sending the Mutual Aid.  They either create a shortage in the donor Force or result in cancelled Leave Days which have their own knock-on effects later in the year when officers want to take their re-rostered Rest Days. Sadly, we have already seen a, mercifully small, number of officers take their own lives as they can no longer cope with the stresses and ‘burn out’.  Yes, Mrs May, I do blame you.

The population is rising, Police numberrs are falling, and will continue to do so until someone stops this madness.  Therefore it is blindingly obvious WHY 86% of the public surveyed felt that the Police don’t have sufficient resources to protect them etc.

The Front Line and Front Line Support functions have fallen steadily since 2010, so where is all this “the Front Line has been protected”?  How exactly has it been protected.  Bizarrely, and perversely ‘Business Support’ (whatever that may be) has increased in the last 12 months.  Why?

Recorded Crime has increased as Police Numbers dwindled, surely there must be some connection there.

Crime is Down, Police Reform is Working.

Crime is NOT down.

Reform?  Reform is defined thuus in the dictionary “to make an improvement, especially by changing a person’s behaviour or the structure of something”  I know where the structure of Policing has changed.  Where is the improvement?  I think we all know that Policing is no better now than it was before the #Cuts began, so no Reform is categorically NOT working, it is an unmitigated disaster.

So really this government under Theresa May is failing drastically.  It is failing in its First Duty to protect its citizens, and whilst they would no doubt call it’spin’ I call it LIES.  Theresa May’s savage cuts are NOT working, not by anybody’s undertstanding of ‘working’.  At the very best the NPCC are acquiescing by their overwhelming silence.  Surely it is their DUTY to highlight the problems and air them publicly so that the people who pay fopr Policing (you and me) know what’s going on. Stop telling us thatg Police Reform is working, it is not Reform it is Destruction, and whatever you call it has not improved the situation for the General Public.


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4 thoughts on “Is Mutual Aid Propping Up The Police Service?”

  1. Spot on.
    Yes mutual aid is proping up the UK Police Service at tremendous cost.
    The nations capital and largest city and centre of population has always been self supporting and by the very nature of the capital and it’s problems it is not practical or effective to rely on mutual aid.

  2. Great blog. Wih my limited spreadsheet skills even I could create one database showing the information you asked for. If they can’t answer you because it would take 69 hours I assume that the Home Office have never bothered to ask the quite reasonable questions you put to them and therefore have no idea how much Mutual Aid has cost – pretty poor way to run a Govt Dept but you’ve hit the nail on the head … utter contempt for the people they are supposed to be serving.

    1. Thank you. I’m totally convinced that the public would rather hear an uncomfortable truth than the lies and spin that get trotted out. It’s like banging my head against the wall sometimes but these departments need to be reminded occasionally that they are accountable

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