In the Media

10,000 fewer police officers since general glection

PUBLISHED July 26, 2012

Police strength is at its lowest level for almost a decade with the number of officers falling by some 10,000 since the election.

Official figures show the number of police officers in England and Wales fell by 5,009 in the year to March, leaving a total of 134,101.

It follows a fall of 4,625 in the first year of the Coalition and means total service strength is at its lowest since 2003.

Only one of the 43 forces - Surrey - increased its numbers while the largest drop - of 10 per cent - was recorded in Derbyshire.

The number of police staff, including Police Community Support Officers, fell even more sharply in the 12 months to March, with a fall of 8.7 per cent to reach 85,966.

Forces have had to reduce officer numbers in order to deal with cuts of up to 20 per cent in their central Government funding, while many are shedding back-office staff as part of plans to outsource some operations.

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour's Shadow Home Secretary, said: "The Tory-led Government has cut nearly 10,000 police officers from communities across the country. And we know that substantially more than half are from 999, neighbourhood and traffic response - the officers we rely on in an emergency.

"These figures show the cuts to the police are deeper and faster even than experts predicted. David Cameron's promise to protect the front line has been ripped apart by these appalling figures.

"In just two years the Government has taken police numbers back by nearly a decade, weakened police powers, undermined morale and reduced crime prevention. Theresa May has no strategy to cut crime, only to cut police."

But the thinner blue line, disclosed on Thursday by the Home Office, does not seem to have led to rising crime so far.

Last week it emerged that the number of offences recorded by the police in 2011-12 fell to its lowest level since 1989, although this was in part attributed to improvements in home and car security.

The Policing and Criminal Justice Minister, Nick Herbert, said: "These reductions in officer numbers are in line with HMIC (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary) predictions as a result of necessary savings by forces who are playing their part in reducing the deficit.

"However, HMIC projections also showed that 94 per cent of officers in the front line will remain, the proportion on the front line is increasing and service to the public is largely being maintained.

"We inherited a situation where there were some 25,000 officers not on the front line, so there was plenty of scope for forces to make savings while improving performance, as forces are showing as they continue to drive down crime."

The police workforce will fall still further by 2015, losing some 15,000 sworn officers and a similar number of support staff, as the service saves £2.4billion.

Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, representing the rank and file, said: "These figures do nothing to reassure us or the public we serve. The Government cannot gamble with public safety.

"We are on the cusp of hosting the biggest event this country has ever seen and already security risks have been identified and police officers have been required to step in at the eleventh hour to put public safety first."