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Police Scotland officer numbers to hit 13 year low

Police Scotland's numbers are set to drop to a record low, its Chief as warned.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone has warned that officer numbers in Scotland will drop to their lowest level since 2009 due to the impact of COVID-19 and COP26. 

The force's Federation said it was "grim news".

CC Livingstone told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that the low level will be reached within the next few months.

In December there were 17,117 full-time equivalent officers at Police Scotland, a drop of 115 from the previous quarter.

CC Livingstone expects the number to be lower by April when the statistics are due to be reviewed due to “natural retirements and attrition” along with longer than normal periods between intakes.

He has, however, said that recruitment has been adjusted in the hope the force will return to “full officer establishment” later this year as 300 new probationary constables are due to join the force in mid-April.

But the challenges - which include supporting the ambulance service which is also under pressure - are starting to show.

The force moved 600 specialist officers and probationary constables to uniform roles in January to help with absences caused by the Omicron are due to return to their core roles next month. The probationary constables will then be able to complete their initial training.

CC Livingstone told the SPA meeting: “These necessary and important measures for coronavirus and the impact that was previously outlined of COP26 on recruitment and training and availability of training facilities means there has been a longer period between intakes than would normally be the case.

“Inevitably this has implications on officer numbers over this Covid and COP26 period.

CC Livingstone said 115 officers is “actually less than 1% of our overall establishment and capacity”.

He said the service is able to “flex resources” to ensure effective policing is maintained for communities over this “transitional period” as it works to return to full strength.

But the leader of frontline officers claimed the force had been caught out by not anticipating problems.

David Hamilton, Chair of the Scottish Police Federation said: “Whilst it is understandable that there has been a dip in recruitment as a consequence of not being able to train recruits, that’s only half the story.

"Increased retirements and a 'Just in Time' recruitment approach that sees recruitment intakes just before quarterly reporting dates has caught the force out."

He added: "It is grim news though as we simply can’t afford not to have those officers in post now. ”

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