Last updated on September 19th, 2023 at 05:33 pmReading Time: 4 minutes
This possibly won’t be my best-read post, but I feel I owe it to the citizens of West Mercia.
The benevolent Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, has decided that we can have some ‘extra’ Police Officers. He hopes to have at least 2,000 officers by the end of August, and to have hit the dizzy heights of 2,145 by the end of December, a level not seen since 2012 he claims.
I love a good set of numbers me, so how do claims and wishes stack up? Could he be onto a winner here? He certainly seems to have nurtured the Magic Money Tree.
The first thing that strikes me is that in September 2018 (the latest set of official data available at this time) the total strength of West Mercia Constabulary is quoted by the Home office as being 1922.
I checked my abacus and it tells me that 1,922 plus 215 = 2,137. It’s only a small difference I agree, but a difference nevertheless.
The other factor to bear in mind is how many are joining and how many are leaving.
Most years, it would seem, more officers leave West Mercia than join, so in order to achieve an establishment of 2,145 West Mercia would need to recruit approximately 315 extra officers before the end of this calendar year. I don’t want to poop on Mr Campion’s parade but West Mercia have never recruited more than 178 officers in a 12 month period since 2010. This was in 2014, and in that year they lost 122 officers making their net gain 56 officers only. So I will watch this recruitment campaign with interest and see exactly how he does it.
Finally, Mr Campion states that this wonderful recruitment drive is being funded by a 10% increase in the Policing Precept.
In his budget for 2019/20, Mr Campion included a ten per cent rise for the police precept in his budget – around £1.63 a month for a band D household – to cover the cost of recruiting the extra officers.
Call me old fashioned but isn’t that a bit like paying for your Police Officers twice? The total establishment of West Mercia Constabulary has fallen steadily since 2010 to its current levels. I don’t recall that the Policing Precept was reduced over those years to take account of the fact that there were fewer officers. Now that some of them are scheduled to be replaced Mr Campion wants more money. A Conservative Home Secretary reduced the number of Police officers counrty-wide and a Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner wants us to pay more to offset just some of those losses. All I can say is that it’s a good job Policing and politics don’t mix, we’d be in an awful mess.
Finally Mr Campion, I would respectfully ask you this. If you succeed in your quest to raise the establishment to 2,145 as you have stated, what do you propose to do about the Police Stations that you have closed under the guise of #Austerity? What do you propose to do about providing extra vehicles for your extra officers, or will they all be deployed on foot patrols, only I thought that was a matter for the Chief Constable? Police Staff numbers have been reduced by 18% since 2010 despite a slight resurgence in 2016/17 and PCSO numbers have reduced by almost 25% since 2010. Do you propose to address these cuts or just ignore them and pretend that it’s only Police Officers that matter? It wsn’t so very long ago that members of the government were loudly proclaiming that it wasn’t “all about the numbers”, but it looks like that might disagree with that notion now. Police Officer numbers are important, of course they are, but the more you increase the number of officers the more Support Staff you need, and PCSOs have a role of their own which is now being eroded.
A Freedom of Information request in relation to closure of Police Stations received the following response:-
Within West Mercia 18 police stations or beat offices have closed. In addition 3 others (Market Drayton, Bromsgrove and Wem) have been closed and replaced with new buildings. 25 Front counters have also closed
Not brilliant is it?
In short Mr Campion, I admire your attempt to to increase the number of Police Officers in West Mercia, I truly do, but a) I’m not convinced that it is achievable within your timeframe and b) You completely ignore the value added by Support Staff and PCSOs. Your party caused this mess, it’s time to ‘fess up’ and put the whole mess right, not just a headline-grabber. I know that this will take years, if not decades, but a start has to be made somewhere and a good place to start would be to admit that Theresa May got it wrong and a committment to put everything back together again.