The Police Federation has warned that the police service is continuing to haemorrhage officers as the latest Home Office figures show an alarming drop of nearly 21,500 serving police officers since 2009.
Police Federation chairman Steve White explained: “This is a wake-up call. The number of officers has been consistently dropping every year for the past seven years. Last year recorded the largest drop in three years. The thin blue line is becoming even thinner and it’s wreaking havoc on our members.”
White was speaking as the Home Office released Police Workforce figures for the year ending 30 September 2016 which show that the total number of officers across the 43 forces is now down to 122,859. More than 2,700 officers left the service across the 12-month period under survey. The picture is even worse for the total workforce including police staff and Police Community Support Officers where 6,200 have quit their duties.
For the first time, the report also includes data on officer age profiles and shows an ageing workforce wherein 47% of officers are aged between 41 and 55 years old.
White added: “A large proportion of these officers will be nearing retirement, leaving the service with more gaps to fill. Since 2007, the proportion of officers aged over 40 has increased from 39% to 48%. Across the same period, the number of officers aged under 26 has halved from 8% to 4%.”
The Police Federation’s leader went on to state: “We value our older officers. They bring a wealth of experience and wisdom to the job, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that having an ageing workforce at a time when violent crime is up by 24%, with a 9% rise in knife crime and a 7% rise in gun crime, might just persuade more of these officers to consider leaving the service.”
According to White, the Police Federation has “continually” pointed out that these conditions are exacting an enormous toll on the health and welfare of serving officers. Statistics suggest that a police officer is assaulted every 22 minutes. That works out at 64 assaults committed on serving officers every day. “No wonder they’re either leaving in droves or having to take sick and stress leave,” asserted White.
In conclusion, White observed: “The stakes have never been so high. At a time when we’re having to deal with a heightened state of alert, it’s vital that we have a properly resourced police service in place that’s fit for duty and fit for purpose. What we need is action from the Government to address this issue, protect our police service and prevent more officers from leaving.”