Police Numbers At 'Lowest Level In A Decade'
The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, figures showed today.
There were 135,838 officers in the 43 police forces at the end of September last year, more than 6,000 fewer than the previous year and fewer than at any point since 2002, the Home Office data showed.
The figures show the number of officers fell by more than 3,000 from last March alone. A further 423 officers were seconded to central services and 2,610 represented the British Transport Police.
While officer numbers fell 4.2%, police staff numbers across the 43 forces fell 11.3%, down by almost 9,000 to 69,407, the figures showed. The number of special constables - volunteers - went up by more than 2,500 (15.5%) to 19,366.
Only one force, Surrey, increased its officer numbers over the 12 months to last September, up 97 (5.2%) to 1,961.
The number of community support officers (PCSOs) also fell, down by 907 (5.5%) to 15,469.
Policing minister Nick Herbert said: "There were around 25,000 officers in backroom jobs, giving forces plenty of scope to save money while still protecting the front line.
"In fact, forces are protecting neighbourhood policing, and the proportion of the police workforce on the front line is rising.
"What matters most is how officers are deployed. By cutting bureaucracy and working more efficiently, police visibility on the streets can be improved."
It came as Gloucestershire Police Chief Constable Tony Melville warned of the dangers of further cuts to his force's budget, saying it put them on a "metaphorical cliff edge".
"Never before in my 34 years of policing have I experienced an issue which has galvanised staff and officers in the way that this has and I feel compelled to respond.
"We are cutting much, much deeper than was ever intended or required by the CSR (comprehensive spending review).
"So in a small force, a series of local decisions have combined to take us to a metaphorical cliff-edge much more quickly than others."
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "These are astonishingly hard-hitting words from a chief constable who has been put in an impossible position by the Government."
His comments were a "deeply damning indictment" of the scale of the cuts and the government "must heed the serious warnings from chief constables and police officers across the country before it is too late".
ACPO lead for workforce development, Chief Constable Peter Fahy, said:
"In the context of a significant cut in the funding of most police forces, it is not surprising to see a fall in the numbers of officers and staff.
"This is a very difficult time for most police forces with staff leaving and the challenge of managing redundancy and change programmes. Workforce morale is understandably affected by the pay freeze, proposed increment freeze and increase in pension contributions.
“On the positive side many forces have started recruiting again or will do so in the next financial year although this will not compensate for what will still be a long term reduction in numbers."