Police officer cuts shrink force to 2003 levels
By Vivienne Russell | 27 July 2012
Police numbers in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest levels since 2003, Home Office figures have revealed.
As of March 31, there were 134,101 full-time equivalent police officers in the 43 forces. This is a reduction of 5,009 officers (3.9%) compared with March 2011 and follows a decrease of 4,625 (3.2%) in the 12 months prior to that.
The largest falls in percentage terms were in Derbyshire (down 202 officers or 10%) and Warwickshire (down 75 officers or 8.2%). The largest numerical decrease was in the West Midlands force, which lost 323 officers, equivalent to 4% of the total.
Surrey was the only force to increase its officer numbers, recruiting 89 additional officers over the 12 months to March. The force said this was because they cut numbers between 2006 and 2009.
Commenting on the fall in numbers, Simon Duckworth, chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ Transitional Board, said: ‘The public will always be concerned by drops in officer numbers, but it should be of some reassurance that these stark figures are falls from historic highs and that, thanks to the dedication of the police service, crime continues to fall.’
Peter Fahy, workforce development lead at the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the fall was ‘no surprise’.
He added: ‘There are challenging times ahead. However, the effectiveness of policing cannot be measured by the number of officers alone but by reductions in crime and increases in public confidence. As a result, the service continues to seek new ways of working and new approaches to reducing demand and cost as this loss of experienced staff continues.’
The figures also showed an 8.7% fall in full-time equivalent police support staff, down to just under 86,000. Within this group, the number of police community support officers fell by 9% to 14,393, while the number of back-office police staff fell by 8.8% to 67,474.
The number of police-employed traffic wardens fell sharply, from 252 in 2011 to 36 in 2012, a drop of 85.7%. But the Home Office said this reflected the increasing role of local authorities in parking control.