Last updated on November 3rd, 2023 at 09:30 pmReading Time: 4 minutes
Whilst giving evidence to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee recently, the Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, made reference to the shrinking Metropolitan Police Service (my description, not his).
He claimed that the Met was losing more officers than it recruited.
Sir Mark revealed that an uneven balance between attrition and recruitment means the force is ‘going backwards’.
I love a good spreadsheet me, so I just had to go look and see what the reality is.
On the 31st March 2023, the most recent Home Office dataset, the Met had a grand total of 34,899 officers.
The Met also publishes its own data, and the most recent version of that is for end of July 2023, and shows the Met as having a grand total of 34,362 officers.
Clearly, Sir Mark might have a point, the Met has seemingly suffered an overall loss of 537 officers in the 4 months since 31st March 2023.
Whilst I was surrounded by all this data, I thought I’d take a look and see if this pattern was repeated across England and Wales. For this I could only use the data up until 31st March and the figures DO NOT include Force to Force transfers, as they are not a loss to Policing.
In order to assess the situation I prepared 3 charts from the data; one for England and Wales as a whole, one for the Met only, and the last for England and Wales minus the Met’s data. I thought the results were interesting. I’m not sure I know what they mean, but I still found them interesting.
Fig 1 shows quite clearly that up until 2018/19 Policing was consistently in decline, with more officers leaving than joining. From 2019/19 on wards it is the complete opposite even before the Police Uplift Project boosted numbers. Much of the earlier losses will doubtless be the results of the government’s abject failure of a ‘Reform’ project.
Fig 2 tells us that the same pattern, more or less, exists within the 42 Forces that remain after taking the Met out, and that’s more or less what I would expect, the numbers are maybe less important, but the shape possibly more so.
And then we come to the Met in isolation;
I’m not sure what’s going on in the Met, it’s all over the place. Up until the end of March this year, the Police Uplift Programme made sure that more officers joined than left, but the Met still fell 1,000 short in their allotted numbers. For me, the two most important factors in this jumble are
- The number of Leavers (blue line) is increasing over the last 2 years, and
- The Wastage Rate (red line) is as high as it’s ever been, and the Met has seemingly lost 500 more since these stats were published.
I don’t have many contacts left who are still serving, but I don’t think that anybody would disagree that the current model for Policing London is simply not working. There are few commentators out there who think that retired dinosaurs like me are too much out of touch to be worth listening to, that’s their opinion and they’re welcome to them, but we are capable of seeing, understanding, and commenting that the Metropolis is slowly being lost.
A previous version of this government decided that the Policing nationally should be put back in its place and the cuts were cold-blooded, cruel and savage. That version of the government clearly did not value ‘Experience’ and that has clearly been the precursor to the dilemma that Policing, particularly (but not exclusively) in London now has.
On top of the cuts, we’ve had all manner of ‘improvements’ to Policing kindly provided by various versions of this government.
- The Winsor Reports
- Changes to Police Pensions
- Direct Entry Inspectors, Superintendents and Detectives.
- Police and Crime Commissionaires
- Curtailed Stop and Search
- More Robust Stop and Search
- New laws on carrying knives
- The Police Uplift Programme, which was really a knee-jerk panic measure to try and counter May’s cuts
And that’s just a few. Where are we at now?
Young black men in London, and elsewhere, are still being killed by young black men with knives. Politicians and Senior Police Officers are very slow at speaking out and support their Police Officers, I know there have been a few really bad ones come to light recently, but in context, not very many compared to the 140,000 (or whatever it is today) nationally. We have an Independent Office For Police Conduct that seems to be much busier apologising the Police and investigating the officers because some people just can’t simply stick to the law.
Nationally, about 35% of all Police Officers has less than 3 years service. Before anybody has a dig at me, I’m not criticising any of those officers, just the politicians and senior officers who allowed that situation to arise.
With the changes that Winsor, May and Camoron introduced to Police Pensions (which required them to change the law to make them lawful) there is much less to hang around for. There was a time when almost nobody left early due to the attractive pension. No more.
We must also remember that the population has increased in size since 2010, and ever more calls need responding to, there are also fewer PCSOs, Specials and Civilian Support Staff. In several areas (in DeadBadgersShire for certain) the number of Civilian Support Staff has dropped to levels where Police Officers have been taken off the streets to fulfil Back Room vacancies which can’t be filled by civilians.