Met Police HR chief Martin Tiplady has defended the use of civilian police staff, insisting they are not damaging services.
Tiplady told Personnel Today the use of civilian staff enabled forces to harness expertise and free up officers for front-line duties.
The federation said some forces, such as Surrey, now have more civilian staff than police officers.
Tiplady refused to comment on other forces’ staffing decisions, but said: “I think it’s right to recruit people who are experts in their field into the right positions. What you don’t want is police officers doing non-police officer specialist roles.
“Do I want police officers doing pay and benefits in HR? No, I want pay and benefits people doing that. Do I want police officers doing management accounting in our finance department? No, I want people who understand accounting. So of course I want experts in those special functions.”
The Met also has police staff working in operational roles, including accountants working on fraud cases in the business and economics unit, and collision experts working in the collisions unit, which Tiplady said were essential to provide specialist knowledge.
He said: “There is a benefit in having people who are experts in some of the operational areas, who come from those expert specialities rather than people who are police officers who then turn their hand to anything.”
The Met Police currently has 33,000 officers, up 32% from 25,000 in 2001, while the number of civilian staff has increased by 38% from 10,500 in 2001 to 14,500 today. The Met also has 4,700 police community support officers, who are regarded as police staff.
But Tiplady warned a balance was needed within the force and it was right in the Met to have a police officer to staff ratio of about 2:1. He said he would never want to see equal numbers of officers and staff in the force, because a clear police officer presence was necessary to reassure the public.
He added that hiring civilians did not necessarily cut costs and could actually increase the payroll bill, as freeing up officers to rejoin the front-line meant a replacement had to be found to cover their original duties.
He warned taking officers off the street and putting them into support or specialist roles was “the worst of all worlds”.
Mark Rowley, chief constable of Surrey Police, also defended the use of civilian staff, saying: “We see the police constable as the professional expert around which successful policing teams are built, and we have increased the use of support staff ensuring police officers make the most use of their high levels of skill, experience and powers.”