‘Numbers up but more investment still needed’

South Wales Police Federation chair Steve Treharne says the Government’s recruitment programme won’t undo the damage of austerity as he called for greater investment to meet the increasing demands of policing.

Steve said more work needs to be done to recruit and retain officers, after new figures for the Government’s Police Uplift Programme revealed a 2.3 per cent increase in the number of officers serving South Wales.

The latest figures show there were 3,151 police officers in South Wales as at 30 September last year. This is up from 3,081 on 30 September 2020.

This is below the 3.9 per cent average across England and Wales, and Steve said it highlights the challenges facing the Force.

Steve said: “We welcome any increase in officer numbers and more feet on the ground, and we wish our new colleagues well in their careers.

“However, we’re lagging behind many other forces in England and Wales in the ongoing uplift programme.

“Now is the time to step up that recruitment process, and we also have to keep in mind that we’re losing experienced officers at the other end through retirement and leaving the Force.

“Officers are tackling a much heavier workload, with increases in cyber-crime and human trafficking, as well as the impact of the pandemic.

“So while the uplift is welcome, it’s only part of the story. We need investment in equipment and training so they’re equipped to face the demands of modern policing and we need steps to ensure we’re retaining officers. We are already seeing some of our new recruits leaving the Force because they cannot cope with the heavy workload of their training regime which involves studying while also carrying out their policing duties.”

Nationally, the Home Office’s Police Uplift Programme statistics revealed there were 139,939 officers in England and Wales as of 31 December  – an increase of 11,505 officers.

In all, 11,048 have been recruited from funding for the Police Uplift Programme and contributed towards the target of 20,000 by March 2023 – 55 per cent of the target.

If the 20,000 target is achieved, it would bring officer numbers up to around 148,000, which is slightly above the number of officers in 2010.

Police Federation of England and Wales interim chair Ché Donald said: “Not only do we have an exponentially expanding population which has grown by four million in the last decade, but the level of crime has increased and become far more complex. In addition, the time officers spend dealing with non-crime issues, such as helping vulnerable people and those in mental health crises, has also risen.

“We need long-term recruitment and sustainable funding in policing, and police leaders must ensure they don’t just focus on getting people through the door, but also do what is needed to retain them, such as fair pay processes, investment in wellbeing and better benefits, as retention is still a problem across the service.

“Forces must also ensure new recruits are given the most appropriate integrated learning that equips them for the reality of policing. These officers are joining after a period when the infrastructure of policing around training and assessments was similarly decimated, and we aren’t sure that forces have shaped themselves to deal with the influx of officers. We need quality not just quantity to ensure the public gets the best service we can provide.”