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Sharp plummet in young police officer recruits

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Figures reveal how the number of young police offices in England and Wales has dropped by nearly 50% in just two years.

The data showed how there were 9,088 officers aged under 26 in 2009-10 but only 4,758 in 2011-12. Moreover, in various areas such as Cleveland and North Wales the figures actually fell by a much larger scale, with officer under 26 down more than 70%. In fact, Cleveland reported a 74% drop – the highest across all forces.

Overall police numbers hit a nine-year all time low in 2012 as a result of the tighter budget constraints thus slowing the recruitment process. However, the greater impact has been among young officers.  

The fall in police numbers due to the financial squeeze within the public sector is a widely publicized fact. However, what hasn’t yet been discussed is how this fall in numbers has been concentrated among young officers.  

This decrease in young officers raises questions about how representative the police force is, especially given the issues about relations between the police and young people in some areas.

Hence, now a variety of police professionals are disclosing information about the young officer recruitment problem, as outlined below.

A spokesman for the Cleveland’s police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger said:  

"The reason for the change in the age profile of our officers is pretty simple; it is because we have not recruited officers for the past three years - a direct consequence of the funding reductions imposed through the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"In the past we have tended to recruit people between 21 and 25, so the recruitment freeze will inevitably have reduced the share of officers at the lower age bracket.

"This trend is likely to continue until we are in a position to resume recruitment and that is dependent on the funding position."

Elsewhere, the North Wales PCC Winston Roddick hopes his first budget will lead to a substantial rise in young officer recruits:

"The current economic downturn has undoubtedly affected the recruiting of new police officers. However, during my campaign to be elected commissioner, I identified increasing the number of officers on the streets as one of my five priorities. I believe this will reduce crime and allay public concern for safety."

Similarly, Bedfordshire (58% fall in young officers) PCC Olly Martins explained his concerns over the implications of this trend:

"To secure policing by consent, and thereby be as effective as possible, forces need to look like the communities they serve. This is particularly true when it comes to the need to engage with younger people, who are disproportionately represented both as victims of crime and among its perpetrators."

Chris Haselden of the Association of Chief Police Officers expects to face budget cuts of about 20% over the next four years. Nonetheless, there has been a drive in recruitment to attract more graduates and those with “life skills”, which explains the higher average age of new recruits.

Haselden also added that an annual fitness test would be introduced in September 2013 to ensure all officers were sufficiently fit to carry out their duties, amongst growing fears that some officers aren’t in the best physical shape.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Recruitment is a matter for individual forces and it is for chief constables and police and crime commissioners to ensure they have the right mix of officers.

"Police officers play a vital role in this country, fighting crime and keeping us safe. Our reforms are working - crime is falling and public confidence is high.

"The new college of policing is also now operational, ensuring we recruit top quality police officers and provide them with the specialist skills and training they need."

Ultimately, it is arguable that the police force should indeed be representative and therefore the police should focus a recruitment drive on young officers. However, once again public sector budget cuts are a main cause of a slowdown in recruitment.