The Ever-Thinning Blue Line

Last Updated on September 13, 2020 by RetiredAndAngry

I recently read some of an interesting piece by Ian Wiggett regarding the shrinking Police Service of England and Wales. I suppose I should declare that I know Ian Wiggett, we served at the same station in a previous life. Unfortunately I could not access the entire article as it lives behind a paywall, but what I could see sparked my interest. I don’t want to replicate Ian’s work, that would be almost pointless, and I don’t want to unnecessarily repeat my own work because that would be boring, but some crossovers will inevitably occur.

By combining some of Ian’s work, that many will not have seen, and some of my work, that I don’t believe Ian has addressed, I can maybe have one final push to illustrate what the Tory governments, NPCC and College of Police have either done, or allowed to be done, to our once fine Police Service. After this I really am done, I cannot think of a single further angle to pursue. My earlier musings can be found here.

The graphic that immediately grabbed my attention was the one immediately below.  It is most definitely Ian’s work, not mine, so I hope he and Policing Insight won’t mind me referencing it.

Fig 1

It would appear that the Home Counties and adjacent Forces are having a torrid time retaining experienced officers, the Forces shaded the darkest blue experiencing Voluntary Resignation levels at over 40% of their Total Leavers. Why?

The 5 worst affected Forces individually, and I have no idea why, were Bedfordshire at 65%, Kent at 53%, Surrey at 52%, Northamptonshire at 49% and Cambridgeshire at 45%.

65% of all Leavers (not incluing Transfers) were Voluntary Resignations. Let that sink in.

This provoked me to go seek out the raw data that Ian’s article, and accompanying graphics, were based on. That is where I found this little gem, in the Home Office’s regular 6 monthly updates on Police manpower levels.

Fig 2

It clearly states that in the past year the percentage of Voluntary Resignations of Total Leavers (excluding transfers) has risen from 29% to 33%, a fact that has gone largely unreported. Why?

At March 2020 the Police Service Profile for the whole of England and Wales looked like this.

Fig 3

Cuts under the Tory government and coalition, since 2010, led to a dip in recruitment as Forces across the country came to terms with their slashed budgets. This currently leaves a visible and obvious dip at the 5-10 year service mark

Assuming for just one moment that Chairman Boris’s magical 20,000 extra officers programme is a success, in 5 years time the Police Service MIGHT look something like this.

Fig 4

At first glance they may not look very different, however, thanks to Boris, the numbers on the left will have increased, but the culling of the May and Camoron years means that there is now a significant lack of officers in the 7-17 years of service band. Arguably you could say that officers at that stage of their service are at their peak efficiency. They will have moved on from the bravado of youth, they will have earnt their spurs at the coalface, and, most importantly, they will still be young enough to do their job efficiently and promptly. Most worryingly, officers at the 10-15 year mark will be at a level comparable to brand new recruits and those about to receive their pensions.

There is nothing that I am aware of that we can do to resolve this problem, but one thing we can do to make it less disastrous, is to hang on to the officers that we do have.

This takes me back to the very beginning. Why are we seeing 33% of officers leaving doing so voluntarily and prematurely? There are many factors at work here, some we can address and some we can not. There is anecdotal evidence that officers are leaving due to the constant onslaught of vitriol and criticism on Social Media, and in some of the Mainstream Media, of everything they do. I do not agree with Steve House when he rejects the idea of routinely releasing body worn video footage in rebuttal of criticism. NOBODY seeks to stop the tide of heavily edited videos on Social Media showing some supposedly outrageous behaviour of officers, edited to show them in the worst possible light. Why on earth should we shy away from releasing BWV footage showing officers using patience and Home Office Approved tactics for dealing with whatever it is they are facing? If that looks ‘ugly’ and unpleasant, so what? If they are approved moves officially taught in Officer Safety Training why are we ashamed of showing them? If the Brigade of Armchair Experts are not happy with those moves let them take the matter up in the appropriate forum, intead we get morale decimated and Officer Safety compromised by the Snowflake Party, which includes some of our elected politicians who should most definitely know better.

We can also scrap the College of Policing’s bizarre policy of ‘helping officers to leave’.

Fig 5

We as a community have invested a lot of money in recruiting, training and equipping our officers.  Why on earth would we want them to leave?

Vanity Projects such as Direct Entry (Supt, Insp and now Detective), together with Police Now and Graduate/Apprenticeship Entry have led to a paucity of experience in favour of a quick fix (just my opinion). In th meantime what have these supposedly successful initiatives done for Diversity? Personally I’m not seeing it.

Finally, one last graphic before I go off for my Sunday Lunch. The long term situation. Finally, Joiners are beginning to outnumber Leavers. But the trend of officers with more than 5 years service is progressively downwards, reducing from 90% at its peak to a more modest 75% this current year. That may not seem too bad to you, but is still currently in decline and who knows where it will end? Based on the projections in Fig 4 the year 2025 would see a Police Service that has 73% of its officers having 5 years or more service. Not, in itself, terrible, but still in decline.

Fig 6

I leave the rest to you and your elected representatives. I can do more than state the bleedin’ obvious. However, in my humble opinion, this situation is far from acceptable, and COULD have been avoided.

4 comments on “The Ever-Thinning Blue Line

  1. Sir, very interesting piece thank you. There are other important reasons why officers are leaving prematurely, to do with how probationers are treated and the demands placed on them which can burn them out and put them off the job. The pride and confidence a new officer has after passing out of training can be quickly destroyed by this rotten institutional culture and attitude towards probationers. If you want to know more please get in touch.

    • I did my Probationary period in the early 70s. I don’t see how it can be much worse now than then, except undoubtedly busier. I would be interested in hearing Probationers’ experiences and why they led to them leaving.

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