Police forces are spending nearly £40 million a year on public relations, a figure that has gone up 13 per cent over the past two years.
The figures where compiled by using Freedom of Information Act requests to all police forces in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Four forces failed to reply.
Heather Brooke, one of the journalists who last week won the high court vicotry forcing Parliament to hand over details of MPs’ expenses, supervised the three-month investigation.
In analysis piece run with the report, she writes: “Many forces now see it as their business not just to cut crime but to manage the public’s perception of crime. This is wrong. The police are paid to do one job: enforce the law. They have no business being in the PR racket.”
The Times notes concerns that as part of their PR efforts, some police forces are withholding information about serious crime in an effort to manipulate the news agenda.
Once of the police forces mentioned in the Times report is Northumbria Police, which has increased its PR spend by 55 per cent in two years. Freelance journalist Nigel Green has lodged an official complaint after finding that the force had failed to release details of many crimes to the media.
Update: A complete spreadsheet of the police spending figures is available on the website of freelance James Ball, who wrote the story (and who is a a frequent contributor to Press Gazette).