More than 4,000 extra police officers hired in UK recruitment drive
By Flora Thompson, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
UK Police forces hired more than 4,000 extra officers in the first eight months of the UK Government’s recruitment drive to sign up 20,000 more over the next three years.
The overall provisional headcount of officers in England and Wales is now 133,131, according to UK Home Office figures to the end of June.
This includes 4,336 hired as part of the 20,000 pledge, the quarterly report on the progress of the scheme said.
Although the number of officers is rising there are still 10% fewer on duty compared to peak numbers just over a decade ago, according to other figures also published by the department on Thursday.
The recruitment campaign is 72% towards meeting its first year target of 6,000 by March 2021, the UK Home Office said.
So far, 89,950 applications to become a police officer have been received since the campaign launched in October.
Overall, 9,327 officers have joined forces since November, with the new recruits from the campaign being on top of those hired to fill existing vacancies or as part of other job adverts.
The UK Government is using headcount figures to measure the number of police officers now being hired, saying this is the “most appropriate way” to track recruitment rather than looking at figures for full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, because new recruits tend to start their career on a full-time basis.
At the end of March 2020, the police officer headcount was 131,576 while the number of FTE officers was 129,110 – a 2% difference.
Boris Johnson vowed to swell the police service to more than 140,000 officers by mid-2022 if he was elected Prime Minister.
Police officer numbers in England and Wales fell by more than 20,000 between 2009 and 2018.
But the UK Home Office said they have risen for the second year running and now show the largest annual increase since 2003/4 – up 5% since March 2019 from 123,189 to 129,110 FTE officers.
While this is also the highest number of officers since March 2013, the latest workforce figures are still 10% lower than the peak at the same period in 2009 (143,769), showing a 14,659 drop in FTE officers.
The number of FTE community support officers (PCSOs) fell 4% on 2019, from 9,547 to 9,180, and has almost halved in a decade from a 16,918 peak in March 2010.
Meanwhile, the headcount number of special constables dropped 10% in the last year, from 10,642 to 9,571 with figures showing numbers plummeting by more than 10,000 in eight years after 20,343 were on duty in 2012.
When the recruitment drive was announced, some police chiefs called on the UK Government to make sure the 43 forces in England and Wales received their fair share of resources.
The forces with the highest recruitment target for the first year are the Metropolitan Police (1,369), West Midlands (366) and Greater Manchester (347).
Those to receive the lowest numbers of new recruits this financial year are Warwickshire (41), Dyfed-Powys (42) and City of London (44).
Online assessment centres were set up in a bid to keep the recruitment drive on track during the coronavirus outbreak when face-to-face meetings had to stop as buildings shut.
The online centres are now being used by 30 forces, with more due to sign up over the summer.