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Workforce bulletin shows decline and fall of officer numbers


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PFEW warns service 'sleepwalking into a nightmare'.

Downbeat: PFEW vice chairman Che Donald has the service on the critical list

Downbeat: PFEW vice chairman Che Donald has the service on the critical list


Policing in the UK was placed on the “critical list” today as new workforce figures showed officer numbers at their lowest level for nearly 40 years.

Latest Home Office statistics confirmed no respite in the headlining decline of police officers in England and Wales since its peak of 143,769 in 2009.

The March 2018 Police Workforce bulletin revealed 122,404 officers keeping the public safe, with a further drop of 738 from 123,142 over the past 12 months.

The decade-long loss of 21,331 – 15 per cent – continues the downward trend and the lowest number of officers since comparable records began in 1996. Figures earlier than this do not draw direct parallels but 1981 saw a bottoming out of the service at 118,102 officers.

The latest depressing stats come on the day that knife crime has reached its highest level ever – up 16 per cent to a staggering 40,147 incidents with murders increasing by 12 per cent, robberies up nearly a third and hospital admissions for knife crime rising 14 per cent.

Police Federation of England and Wales vice chairman Ché Donald conceded: “These new figures are proof, as if we even needed it, that policing in the UK is on the critical list.

“Thanks to government funding cuts, we now have the lowest number of police officers since 1996. The figures show we have lost more than 21,300 officers since 2010 – and the numbers keep going down every year. It’s like Groundhog Day.”

Mr Donald added: “We have a government who recently launched a Serious Violence Strategy – yet failed to make one single mention of the falling numbers of officers, which they were rightly criticised for.

“You would think that every time we have the same conversations about rising crime, particularly violent crime, it would be a wake-up call for the government. But instead it just feels like we are sleepwalking into a nightmare.”

Although the officer numbers fell for a ninth consecutive year, the government report saw the number of police workers increase slightly by 0.5 per cent between March 2017 and this March from 198,686 to 199,752 – the first yearly increase since 2010. But the rise was entirely attributable to a three per cent increase in police staff and designated officers.

The 0.6 per cent fall in officer numbers did not stop a rise in officer ranks in 22 of the 43 forces in the last 12 months. Of these forces, Humberside (an increase of 153 officers - nine per cent) and Gwent (increase of 89 officers; - eight per cent) had the largest increases in percentage terms, while the Metropolitan Police Service lost 1,127 officers (four per cent).


Frontline officer numbers fell by 1.6 per cent from 105,502 to 103,837 with the proportion of officers in those roles down one percentage point to 92 per cent, after previously remaining stable over the last three years.

Numbers in local policing roles fell by five per cent over the same period, to 53,822 with the proportion of officers down two percentage points to 48 per cent.

Police officers make up the largest proportion of paid workers in the service at just under two thirds (61 per cent). Since 2010, that composition has risen from 59 per cent with the proportion of police staff falling from 33 per cent to 31 per cent in the same period. PCSOs are down from seven to five per cent in proportional terms.

There is encouraging news on the recruitment front with 8,130 officers joining the ranks in 2017/18 – the volume increasing by an encouraging eight per cent.

Some 8,574 officers left the 43 forces, accounting for seven per cent of officers employed at the start of the year. Excluding transfers, the wastage rate was six per cent. Voluntary resignations has been increasing, from 1,522 in 2013/14 to 1,995 in 2017/18, up 31 per cent.

In diversity terms, some seven percent of all officers were black and minority ethnic which is the highest proportion of BME officers since records began. However, the service continues to under-represent those from a BME background –exactly half of the 14 per cent of the population.

There was another ‘highest ever’ recorded in terms of female officers in the service – the 36,417 number representing 30 per cent.

And there was more good news on the diversity front with some nine per cent of joiners were BME, compared with five per cent of leavers, and 34 per cent of joiners were women, compared with 24 per cent of leavers.

Just over half of the officer workforce (53 per cent) is over 40 with only six per cent under 26.

In 2017/18 there were over 26,000 assaults on officers in England and Wales including British Transport Police.

Crimes of ‘assault without injury on a constable’ rose by 10 per cent from 16,536 to 18,114 with the remaining 8,181 crimes in the ‘assault’ category.

But it was the first year that reliable figures were available courtesy of the new ‘assault with injury’ crime classification. Previously, the Home Office used a combination of self-reported assaults data held within police forces’ health and safety systems and police recorded crime data of ‘assault without injury on a constable’ to estimate the total number of assaults.

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