A POLICE force has spent more than £600,000 on public relations (PR) in the last three years.
But Cleveland Police insists its spending on public relations is one of the lowest in the country.
The highest amount paid from its budget was in 2009-10 when it spent £221,988.
The figure dropped by £18,776 the following year, with a PR bill of £203,212, but then rose again in 2011-12 with a £220,508 tab.
The figures include staff salaries and also non-staffing costs.
Police say PR plays a vital role in helping to catch suspects by issuing appeals to the media, as well as information on crime prevention and incidents like road closures and chemical spills.
Sean White, Assistant Chief Constable of Cleveland Police, defended the spending saying: “The force press office is one of the smallest in terms of staff numbers in the entire country and it deals with an extremely high volume of calls from local, regional and national media.
“Cleveland Police’s PR budget is similarly one of the lowest of the 43 UK forces and it has barely altered in real terms during the last three financial years.
“Its remit includes assisting officers apprehend suspects by issuing witness appeals, disseminating crime prevention and general safety messages such as road closures or chemical spills.
“The team is also involved in major inquiries, court appearances and sentencing and assists the media with explanations and background information and on major cases.
“It also operates an out-of office-hours facility which means that staff are available to officers and to the media 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year.
“Putting People First means that effective and timely communication between the force and our communities is vital.”