Police numbers do not add up

During the past week, much has been made of the recruitment of additional police officers across the country as a result of the funding provided by central government. In terms of numbers, this first cohort will consist of 6,000 officers allocated to forces based on the existing, flawed in my opinion, funding formula.

Indeed, I am not the only critic. This formula has historically been seen as unfair and has pretty much been criticised by everyone involved in policing. A previous Home Office Minister, Mike Penning MP, is quoted as saying in 2015 that “the current model for allocating police funding, is complex, opaque and out of date”.

Much of the data underpinning the formula is indeed out of date. It relies heavily on Activity Based Costing data which stopped being collected in 2008 and is linked to a local government funding model that no longer exists. It can only be hoped that the current review of policing will rectify this issue.

The outcome of this is that Sussex will receive an additional 129 officers. Now any increase in numbers is good, however, it does need to be put into context. The police service nationally has lost a fifth of its police officers since 2010. Therefore, if after three years, the 20,000 additional officers are achieved, we will still be a little short of the numbers that existed at that time.

My other major concern is a logistical one. All of these officers have to be fully trained before they are let loose on the public. This takes time. Therefore, it is no good expecting to see a significant change in police presence on our streets for a good while yet.

The increasingly rare sight of the police

I also fear for the future. This is because every time there is a major recruitment drive, there is a significant downside when those officers reach their retirement ages. That of course depends on whether their careers survive that long! Assuming that they do, we then experience a two or three year period where significant numbers leave the service. Indeed, we are in the middle of one of those now.

Last year, Sussex Police, as a result of the increased funding provided through a council tax increase, recruited 267 officers. On the face of it, very good news. However, during that year, 133 officers left as a result of retirement while a further 83 resigned. That therefore left an overall net gain of just 51.

Based on these figures, and assuming that all things remain equal for the foreseeable future, in would take Sussex Police 14 years just to get back to the numbers of 2010. Therefore, when our illustrious Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Katy Bourne says, as she did this past week, that Sussex now has an additional 379 officers, ie 250 already recruited plus the 129 gifted by the government, that does not tell the whole story.

My reason for telling you all of this is because, you, the public of Sussex, have a right to know the true picture, rather than the rosy picture painted by the PCC. Her wonderful Conservative Party, decimated the police service during the period when her good friend, Theresa May was the Home Secretary, and now we are playing a major catch up game.

There is also a real issue with the loss of experience. A friend and former Metropolitan Police colleague of mine, Alan Wright, has compiled a graph depicting what this will look like for Sussex Police. It is reproduced here.

Length of service, Sussex Police, 2012 v 2019

What this starkly shows is that Sussex Police has lost considerable experience in that key period of police service between one and 10 years and especially between five and 10 years. This, I would suggest, will have a considerable impact on policing in our county. I am still awaiting a response from the PCC regarding what she and the Force are doing to address this issue.

Finally, I wish to cover the issue of PCSO recruitment in Sussex.  Much has been made of the recruitment of an additional 100 PCSOs in Sussex by the PCC. The history of PCSOs goes back to around 2003 when funding from the then Labour government, led to a national mass recruitment of PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers).

However, as with many things, once the funding dried up, forces started to reduce their numbers radically. These individuals do not have the full powers of a police constable including the fact that they cannot make arrests. Additionally, their shift patterns mean that they do not work past midnight. The initial salaries are actually slightly higher than a newly appointed police officer. Therefore, you may rightly be asking yourself why recruit them instead of police officers?

Indeed, Kent Police are not recruiting any additional PCSOs, focusing instead on bringing in more police officers. On the face of it, it seems a good idea for Katy Bourne to recruit an additional and reassuring uniformed presence on the streets of Sussex. However, this will not deal with the major shortfall of fully warranted police officers being available to respond to calls from the public for assistance. That is the reality!

The police get involved

Katy Bourne claims that you, the public, have told her in her “focus groups” that she holds, that extra PCSOs is what you want to see. However, attendees at these focus groups are by invitation only and the agenda is very restricted. Her surveys are similarly flawed and involve very small samples. Therefore, is this assertion accurate?

There is, I believe, a more significant reason for this focus on PCSO recruitment. At the time that she was first elected in 2012, her mantra was to have a Special Constable aligned to every ward in Sussex. This failed as she could not achieve a high enough recruitment rate.

Therefore, I believe, she is substituting PCSOs instead. Party political? I think so don’t you?! I urge you all to bear these facts in mind when you listen to or read Mrs Bourne’s propaganda and form your own opinions.

Image Credits: David McHugh , Anthony Kimber , Alan Wright , John Minter .

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