Forces must look to â€œwork smarterâ€ and look for new ways of making efficiencies as they now face limited restructuring options â€“ and a worrying rise in some types of crime.
Senior staff at Her Majestyâ€™s Inspectorate of Constabulary said that chiefs had previously moved to tackle the deep government funding cuts by moving officers out of back office roles and onto the frontline â€“ but this would not be feasible for much longer.
HMI Zoe Billingham said there were also signs that low-level â€œausterity crimeâ€ was on in the increase â€“ and that forces would have to take more decisive action to beef up their collaboration activity if they are to successfully square up to the challenges ahead.
Addressing delegates at Capitaâ€™s Transformation in the Police conference in London, Ms Billingham said that while forces were working harder to compensate for the reduction in personnel numbers, they needed to work smarter to continue to meet policing demands.
She said: â€œThere is a worrying rise in austerity crime such as shoplifting and burglary â€“ some forces are showing a rise in this area, or the rate of reduction has slowed down.
â€œThere are fewer officers, which is putting a strain on forces and they have to work a lot harder and smarter. While officers are working harder, they are not necessarily working smarter.
â€œMore officers are being taken out of back and middle office roles and put back onto the frontline,â€ said Ms Billingham. â€œThis is good but there is a limit to how many you can take out of back office to the front line and I think we are starting to reach that.â€
As part of its latest programme of work, the HMI revealed the Inspectorate will be examining what the minimum operating level is for each force, and scrutinising workforce numbers.
In an interview with PoliceOracle.com Ms Billingham suggested that forces needed to explore deeper collaborations with other forces and suggested that in, some cases, â€œcollaboration clustersâ€ needed to encompass more forces to be successful.
The HMI, who is responsible for inspections in the eastern region and has taken a keen interest in collaboration for some time, added: â€œWith more cuts there is less fat.
â€œFrontline officers are doing a great job in dealing with complex and difficult situations but they need to work smarter. Chief officers need to give their workforce all the tools and intelligence to allow them to do this by using information better.
â€œIt is difficult but it is really important that the frontline is protected and forces that are collaborating with one or two others needed to look at working together in clusters.â€
From Police Oracle