6 May 2022
The chair of Derbyshire Police Federation says there’s lots of hard work to be done if the Force is to meet the targets of its recruitment plan.
Tony Wetton said he’s disappointed at new figures which show that the Force narrowly missed the Year 2 target set as part of the Uplift Programme to raise officer numbers.
Derbyshire has seen an uplift of 158 officers up to March 2022, as the Force heads into the final year of the Government’s three-year campaign to increase police numbers across England and Wales.
According to the Home Office data, Derbyshire currently has 1,985 officers compared to 1,827 at the start of the recruitment drive.
Derbyshire Police’s uplift allocation for the first two years was 170 officers, with a final total allocation of 283 by March 2023, meaning the Force is currently behind its target.
Now, while recognising that huge efforts are being made to recruit and train officers in numbers not seen previously, Tony is encouraging the Force to redouble its efforts in its recruitment drive as well as doing everything it can to retain officers.
Tony said: “After years of cuts and austerity, the Force was almost starting from scratch in terms of this level of recruitment and training.
“And with all the lockdowns and distancing measures that were required during the pandemic, it faced unprecedented challenges in terms of interviewing and assessing candidates and training new recruits.
“To have fallen short of the Year 2 target is clearly disappointing, as it means we have fewer colleagues out there protecting communities, fighting crime and looking out for each other. Every missing officer means more work, more pressure, more stress and at times more danger for frontline colleagues.
“There’s a lot of work to be done in the final year of the Uplift Programme to meet our recruitment targets. It is very challenging.
“And, once we’ve identified and trained our new recruits, we need to ensure that we’re doing all we can to retain them, as well as their experienced colleagues. The impact of a decade of erosion of police officer wages – a real terms cut of 20 per cent - and the huge workloads and pressure they carry has led to very low morale in many officers. The Home Office and Treasury need to understand, and quickly, that this leads to experienced officers leaving the service, often working elsewhere for more money and with much less stress. At times it’s like trying to fill a bucket that’s full of holes.
“There also needs to be recognition that the current position whereby only degree holders can apply to become a police officer is completely ill-conceived, unsustainable and frankly damaging to British policing.
“Derbyshire Police have done well to get a 12-month extension of the traditional recruitment standard in order to have any hope of achieving the uplift target. That extension will end next year with a change to Police Regulations which in reality will require an applicant to have a degree.
“Many in policing see the danger in that, and the Home Office and College of Policing should review and reverse that position before it’s too late. The police are the public and the public are the police – that approach has served us well for many years. Police forces need to represent their communities, and preventing members of the public from becoming police officers simply because they do not have a degree is hugely detrimental to that aim.”
Nationally, there were 142,526 police officers in England and Wales as at 31 March. That’s an increase of 13,576 towards the target of 20,000 extra officers by March 2023, the Home Office said.
Tony repeated that the Police Uplift Programme on its own isn’t enough to help police officers support and protect the communities they serve.
He said officers need to be paid fairly for the unique work they do, and policing needs investment in the infrastructure that supports officers to do their job. The Government needs to treat officers fairly and look after them properly.
“We welcome our new colleagues to the Force and we wish them all the best in their policing career. I meet them all at the beginning of their training and their enthusiasm and commitment is always humbling,” Tony said.
“But my message to the Government is that while the uplift is welcome, it’s only part of the story.
“Being a police officer is the best job in the world, and I feel lucky to do that as part of Derbyshire Police, but we need proper investment in equipment, buildings, vehicles, training, and pay and conditions, so that we’re equipped to face the demands of modern policing.
“Policing needs proper long-term funding arrangements in place so that when officer numbers are back to where they were a decade ago, forces can have confidence that they have the finance in place to equip their officers to do their job in the way that they want.”