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Huge losses in officer numbers do not make up for ?miniscule? gain over last year, federation laments

John Apter: This is not a cause for a celebration . . . it is merely a blip
Published - 24/01/2019 By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle

Policing’s rank-and-file has derided as “merely a blip” new Home Office figures that reveal the first rise in officer numbers for a decade.

Police Federation Chairman John Apter scoffed at the “miniscule” year-on-year increase against the backdrop of a service savaged by austerity – with 22,000 fewer officers on the frontline.

The total for the 43 forces in England and Wales fell from a peak of 144,353 in 2009 to 122,395 at the end of September 2018, according to the latest Police Workforce Statistics.

But Mr Apter was quick to react to the government’s “encouraging” noises to the addition of 466 more officers – an extra 0.4 per cent – that took the 2017 total of 121,929 up for the first time since 2009.

He retorted: “This is not a cause for celebration.

“This is a miniscule increase and this report does not include data about those leaving the service and does not undo the damage caused by the reduction of the thousands of officers we have lost over the last eight years.

“I would be interested to see if this minute upwards trend continues.

“I suspect it is merely a blip, and in any case it is not enough to compete with the increasing rate of violent crime.”

The federation head was referring to the latest crime figures from the Office for National Statistics that saw violent crime up a fifth, and homicides showing a 14 per cent increase from the previous year.

As well as the small rise in officer numbers, the workforce study showed the total for police staff and designated officers also went up by nearly 2,000 – 2.8 per cent – from 66,393 to 68,256.

But numbers for police community support officers dipped by 2.6 per cent from 10,056 to 9,791 while specials saw their workforce plunge by more than 1,500 from 12,601 to 11,029, a fall of 12.5 per cent.

The latest figures reveal that the total service workforce has climbed back over the 200,000 mark from 198,388 a year ago to 200,448 – a one per cent increase.

But in Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman trumpeted:”It is encouraging to see the first signs of officer numbers rising in the statistics today – having put forward the biggest increase in police funding since 2010. “

Responding to the latest figures, Association of PCCs workforce lead Ron Hogg welcomed the fact that the long-term reduction in officer numbers is levelling out, and that there has been an increase in police staff. 

The Durham PCC added: “This reflects changes in demand for policing, including the need to tackle violent crime and address the growth of cybercrime.

"It is very disappointing to see a reduction in PCSOs, however, bearing in mind the key role they play in neighbourhood policing.”

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