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Uplift target exceeded but retention, standards and diversity concerns remain

The Met Police is the only force not to have met or exceeded their Uplift target.

A total of 20,951 additional officers have been recruited through the Police Uplift programme across forces in England and Wales. 

It means that the 20,000 target set by the Home Office has been met and exceeded, and that there are now 149,572 officers in the 43 territorial police forces. 

The previous officer number peak was the 146,030 recorded on March 31, 2010. 

National Fed Chair Steve Hartshorn has drawn attention to these figures saying that effectively Uplift has just backfilled the more than 21,000 FTE officers cut in 2010. 

Stating that the "smokescreen doesn't stand up to scrutiny", he has called for statistics on the number of FTE officers between 2010 and 2023 instead of net headcount numbers - although the Home Office said today there is a "relatively small difference" between the two. 

FTE figures are published bi-annually. 

The final quarter of Uplift (January to March 2023) saw the largest quarter-on-quarter increase since the programme began, with the majority of the 4,214 total net increase seen in its final month.

The Met was the only force not to have met or exceeded its Uplift quota, having missed its target of 4,557 by 1,089 (23.9%).

Met Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told the Home Affairs Committee this morning: "We are 1,000 officers light of our target; I wish we'd hit it but we haven't...We have recruited over the last three years more than 9,000 officers, which is the most I think ever in such a short period."

Sir Mark said the "reputation of the organisation" and the "employment market and the pay situation" are both factors which likely contributed to this failure.

To reach the overall target - a total of 46,505 new recruits have joined the regional forces since November 2019 - this figure includes those recruited under precept funding as well as those recruited to backfill leavers (but does not reflect transfers between forces or those returning after a short period of absence). 

Nationally around 11% of those who joined during the programme left during their probation period, a finding the NPCC said was "as expected and as modelled in all workforce places". 

Policing Minister Chris Philp told the Home Affairs Committee yesterday that around 6-7% of the overall workforce are leaving each year, and that slightly over half of that figure covers retirees. 

When asked to explain previous figures demonstrating that policing is currently seeing its highest ever number of leavers, that was attributed to there being higher officer numbers in absolute terms (i.e. bigger workforce so more leavers).

Individuals holding off retirement until after the pandemic and having a greater proportion of the workforce being new to the service were also referenced as relevant factors.

Ahead of today's release, the Committee asked the Minister about whether placing too much focus on meeting targets risks compromising the quality and suitability of the recruits. 

They were told that the acceptance rates for applicants is quite a "high bar", with 10 applicants for every one officer who ends up being recruited. It's a figure that has reportedly remained consistent throughout the programme. 

He added: "The College of Policing are shortly going to introduce a revised statutory set of guidance on vetting. 

"One thing we're looking at in the review of dismissals is this problem where once an officer [...] passes vetting they get hired and go through their probationary period  - if they then fail vetting [five years later for example] that does not at the moment automatically result in dismissal. 

"One of the things Sir Mark Rowley has asked for and we are actively looking at, and will make an announcement shortly, is that if an officer fails re-vetting including after a move between force x and force y, that would result in a dismissal.” 

Meanwhile, Police Oracle spoke with Hertfordshire Police Federation Chair Luke Mitchell. 

Hertfordshire has exceeded their target but Mr Mitchell doesn't want the figure to be seen without its context. 

"We can't be going into this explaining to the public that we've got 20,000 additional officers, and therefore we can do far more,” he said. 

"A lot of that 20,000 is replacing officers that we lost, we're haemorrhaging officers as it is and we have a huge amount of officers in training."

Hertfordshire, for example, recruited around 100 officers in the final four weeks of the programme - meaning those recruits are only just at the very beginning of their training. 

Moreover, the focus on recruiting officers has meant police staff recruitment hasn’t had the same attention. 

As a consequence of this, Hertfordshire is now seeing officers backfill roles within the FCR or roles PCSOs carry out. 

Mr Mitchell stresses that his is far from the only force having to resort to such measures, explaining that Hertfordshire has also been asked for mutual aid from other forces because of staff numbers in FCRs.

"We want to be open and transparent with the public. We want to be honest with the public about what we can or can't do," he said. 

"And also, we need to support those officers that are on the front line and are young in service, predominantly young age as well, they are going to be going out and doing a really difficult job." 

He has further concerns over potential compromises made in an effort to meet targets.

"This was a real opportunity for us to go out and to make a real difference in the makeup of our police service. 

"The class at the moment are really mixed in terms of male and female. 

"But, because there's been an urgency to meet Uplift, I think there's been a real missed opportunity to increase our numbers around BAME. We do have to do extra work with our with our BAME colleagues and people in our different communities to build that trust."

The official statisitics show that 4,425 new recruits identified as ethnic minorities (11.4%). The 2021 Census shows that representation of ethnic groups in the general population stands at 10.3%. 

Although he said they were one of the first to do so, Hertfordshire has only recently returned to face-to-face interviews. 

He continued: "This is what happens when you put targets on policing [...] actually behind it, we've probably recruited a number of people that probably aren't suitable and we started to pick that up now as a Federation and have those constructive conversations." 

He's not the only one who is adding a note of caution to today's figures. 

GMP Fed Chair Mike Peake told Police Oracle: "GMP has done really well at playing their part in achieving the police officer uplift target set by the government, in fact they have done so well that the figure has actually been surpassed.

"It would seem as though GMP has no shortage of applicants wanting to join the Force, but the vast majority of those are student officers who are required to complete a significant period of training before they, their colleagues, and the public will start to see a real impact.

"Student officers starting pay is only £23,556, and with the current cost of living crisis I am concerned that if government don’t address the gap in police pay in comparison to other public sector workers that we will start to see a number of these recruits leave policing to take up jobs that offer more pay and less risk." 

The department is expected to spend £3.6 billion on the recruitment programme by March, with a total cost of £18.5bn over the next 10 years, according to Whitehall’s spending watchdog.

Uplift targets by force 

Force Total Uplift allocation figure Additional officers recruited through Uplift
Cleveland 239 267
Durham 225 239
Northumbria 615 705
Cheshire 300 322
Cumbria 169 192
Greater Manchester 1,155 1,280
Lancashire 509 580
Merseyside 665 724
Humberside 322 365
North Yorkshire 194 251
South Yorkshire 504 519
West Yorkshire 852 974
Derbyshire 283 351
Leicestershire 297 332
Lincolnshire 166 189
Northamptonshire 190 237
Nottinghamshire 357 418
Staffordshire 300 332
Warwickshire 137 150
West Mercia 311 330
West Midlands 1,218 1,376
Bedfordshire 179 195
Cambridgeshire 206 230
Essex 449 500
Hertfordshire 304 338
Norfolk 224 269
Suffolk 179 201
City of London 177 198
Metropolitan Police 4,557 3,468
Hampshire 518 582
Kent 489 532
Surrey 259 295
Sussex 429 439
Thames Valley 609 784
Avon and Somerset 456 558
Devon and Cornwall 469 600
Dorset 166 174
Gloucestershire 153 164
Wiltshire 164 164
Dyfed-Powys 141 154
Gwent 206 239
North Wales 206 207
South Wales 452 527
Total  20,000 20,951


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