The issue of public safety and front-line police officer numbers is regularly discussed, no more so than in the lead up to an election.
WA Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan is putting forward his position early. He makes the comment in relation to uniformed officers who are 'not on the road': "Many of those could be put back out on the street without employing a single extra police officer, if we had the flexibility to, for argument's sake, buy more public servants or experts or police auxiliary officers, rather than always having to employ full-sworn officers."
Whilst the Commissioner is speaking broadly about human resource management with his comments, it does bring the out-sourcing of specialist services to the table. When the WA Police closed their own specialist document examination section in 2009, they addressed critical document examination evidence through out-sourcing to other agencies or private facilities. There are various views on the success of this approach.
For the argument, if we touch on the 'buying of expertise' (a term which may raise a smirk to some if taken out of context, certainly with forensic experts!) as meaning the out-sourcing of services, then it needs to include not only providing an examination / technical service but ensuring investigators remain conversant with the value of the potential evidence available. There are risks that where expertise is no longer available in-house, or the techniques not truly understood, the specialist skills are not utilised in circumstances where warranted.
It will be interesting to follow the respective commitments made on this issue of policing numbers as we get into 2016.