Devon and Cornwall Police lose 200 officers in a year
DEVON and Cornwall police have seen officer numbers plummet by more than 200 over the last year.
Latest Home Office figures show there were 3,225 officers at the end of March, 211 fewer than the previous year, and representing a 6.1 per cent drop.
The next highest loss in the South West was in the Avon and Somerset force covering Bristol, which shed 171 officers over the same period – a fall of 5.3 per cent. The data for Devon and Cornwall will again fuel the continuing controversy over government cutbacks.
This was heightened recently with data showing Devon and Cornwall saw a six per cent increase in recorded crime in 2011/12 compared to the previous 12 month period – the biggest increase of any other force.
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The England average was a four per cent fall in crime. In total Devon and Cornwall is losing a fifth of its officers – 700 – as a result of cutbacks totalling almost £50 million by 2015. It has been identified by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary as one of three forces which may not be able to provide a “sufficiently efficient or effective service” in the future.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for elections to the new post of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) being held this November to be used as a referendum on the controversial cutbacks. Figures nationally showed the number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level in nine years. There were 134,101 officers in the 43 police forces at the end of March, more than 5,000 fewer than the previous year and fewer than at any point since 2003. The biggest drop came in Derbyshire, where police officer numbers fell 10 per cent from 2,021 at the end of March last year to 1,819 12 months later.
Only Surrey has seen an increase in its number of officers over the 12 months to March, rising 4.7 per cent from 1,885 to 1,974.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert said: “These reductions in officer numbers are in line with HMIC (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary) predictions as a result of necessary savings by forces who are playing their part in reducing the deficit.”
“However, HMIC projections also showed that 94 per cent of officers in the front line will remain, the proportion on the front line is increasing and service to the public is largely being maintained.
“We inherited a situation where there were some 25,000 officers not on the front line, so there was plenty of scope for forces to make savings while improving performance, as forces are showing as they continue to drive down crime.”
But Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper MP, said: “The Tory-led Government has cut nearly 10,000 police officers from communities across the country. And we know that substantially more than half are from 999, neighbourhood and traffic response – the officers we rely on in an emergency.
“David Cameron's promise to protect the front line has been ripped apart by these appalling figures. In just two years the Government has taken police numbers back by nearly a decade, weakened police powers, undermined morale and reduced crime prevention.”