More than 40 officers at South Yorkshire Police are being paid for by external organisations – including schools and a shopping centre.
The force is receiving £2.4m from outside sources – half of which is from the Home Office.
The money pays for 41 officers and nine PCSOs, with those contributing including Crystal Peaks shopping centre and Outwood Academy to carry out specific work.
A Freedom of Information response has revealed that Crystal Peaks provides £20,000 towards the costs of one officer, with Outwood Academy in Sheffield spending £54,040 and Horizon Community College in Barnsley £41,966 for one officer each.
Of the money provided by the Home Office, more than £280,000 is being spent on five officers participating in ‘Operation Ben’ – the investigation into the disappearance of toddler Ben Needham, who went missing from the Greek island of Kos on July 24, 1991.
Councils in Sheffield, Barnsley and Rotherham also pay for police officers, with other organisations making contributions including the Safer Roads Partnership and the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: “External funding is not new to South Yorkshire Police and it is used by police forces across the country.
“Rather than a scheme, the local authority or organisation requests an officer, or officers, from the force to carry out some specific work.
“The funding enables the force to carry out vital partnership work and provide continued, and often extended, support to other organisations and local authorities.
“Once agreed, an existing officer from within the force is then deployed in to that specific post and the officer’s vacancy will be filled.
“Half of the external funding received over the past year, a total of £1.2million, came from the Home Office.
“The remaining funding covers a wide range of posts which are not deemed to be part of the core policing service. If funding ceases these additional posts will cease.”
West Yorkshire Police has revealed that the equivalent of 133 of its police officers and 450 of its non-warranted community support officers are partially paid for by organisations including town halls, local parish councils, schools, universities and hospitals.
Nationally, police forces’ coffers are being bolstered by more than £20m a year in additional cash from external sources beyond taxes.