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Fed: Fall In Officer Numbers 'Alarming'

Chairman Paul McKeever leads staff association concerns over revelations that there are now 5,000 fewer pairs of boots on the ground

Police staff associations have mounted a fresh attack on the government’s attitude to public safety after latest figures showed officer numbers have plummeted.

The statistics, released by the Home Office, highlighted that there are now 5,000 fewer pairs of boots on the ground across England and Wales – a 3.6 per cent reduction compared to the same time last year and returning officer numbers to 2003 levels.

The move comes as the mid-point of the Comprehensive Spending Review settlement approaches. Forces are facing cuts of up to 20 per cent over a four-year period – and staff associations have said hundreds more officers are still to be lost.

In opening a tirade of criticism directed at ministers, Police Federation Chairman Paul McKeever said latest statistics represented “an extreme drop” in numbers and illustrated “the value that this government places on public safety”.

He added: “Despite accusations that we were scaremongering, the harsh reality of the consequences of a 20 per cent cut to the police budget is now hitting home.

“The government cannot gamble with public safety – we are on the cusp of the biggest event this country has ever seen and already security risks have been identified and police officers have been required at the 11th hour to put public safety first.

“This government must recognise that their first duty is the safety of the public.”

Ch Supt Derek Barnett, President of the Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, was also concerned. He said forces would continue to make the best of the resources allocated to them.

But he added: “The government has no clear definition of what constitutes the front-line in policing, which in any event is unhelpful and fails to recognise the contribution of all police officers who strive to fight crime and serve to protect the public in an increasingly demanding, unforgiving and complex world.

“We will continue to police our communities with the resources allocated to us but the public understand that officer numbers matter to the service we deliver.”

However, ACPO Lead on Workforce Development and GMP Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said that the effectiveness of policing could “not be measured in numbers of officers alone but by reductions in crime and increases in public confidence".

He added: “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.”

Simon Duckworth, Chairman 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 reassurance that these figures are falls from historic highs and that, thanks to the dedication of the Police Service, crime continues to fall.

“It is clear that rising police numbers over the last decade were accompanied by some dramatic drops in crime. Though the police will remain focused on the frontline, those voting for Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in November will require reassurance that further falls in police numbers won’t jeopardise hard-won gains in keeping them safe. The APCC stands ready to assist elected PCCs to secure the resources that policing needs to protect the public.”

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