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Suffolk: 5pc fall in police officers

PUBLISHED: 10:29 30 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:59 06 July 2010

SUFFOLK police chiefs last night insisted that a fall in officer numbers of more than 5pc over a three-year period has not led to fewer front-line personnel.

SUFFOLK police chiefs last night insisted that a fall in officer numbers of more than 5pc over a three-year period has not led to fewer front-line personnel.

However, the county's police federation has voiced its concern over experienced officers not being replaced when they leave.

Today, the county's police authority is due to meet to discuss a report that reveals the “worst case” scenario of its crushing financial burden could force it to make savings of £20,315,000 between 2010 and 2014.

It comes after another report showed that over the last three financial years, police strength has dropped from the equivalent of 1,363 full-time officers to 1,287. That equates to a decrease of 5.5pc according to constabulary figures.

Due predominantly to a surge in recruitment in the late 1970s, there were 152 officers who retired between October last year and March this year.

However, the constabulary denied there was any connection between the drop in officers with full police powers, and the 10pc rise in special constables or the 18pc increase in police community support officers in the past three years.

Conversely, Matt Gould, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, felt cost-cutting has played a big part in the balance of fully-trained officers.

The rise in the number of less empowered and less well-trained PCSOs and Specials has led to concerns.

Mr Gould said: “They can't be considered a replacement for police officers. There is no doubt a reduction of warranted officers will go towards the fear that we won't return to those numbers.

“In my view it is because of yo-yo recruitment that we have these problems. It is my opinion that the number of warranted police officers in Suffolk Constabulary is governed by the budget rather than by necessity.

“You can't make police officers redundant, so you just stop recruiting them.”

Restructuring resources has been a constant factor in the bid to preserve the force's service as it struggles to rein in its expenditure.

Earlier this year chief constable Simon Ash and police authority chairwoman Gulshan Kayembe were among a high-level deputation who went to Whitehall to plead for more money.

Mr Gould feels there is additional pressure on Suffolk as it strives to remain autonomous and not merge with another rural force such as Norfolk.

He believes joint-working practices are going to have to be the way forward.

Mr Gould said: “If we don't collaborate, we will amalgamate. We are desperate to show efficiencies by collaboration to avoid amalgamation.”

Superintendent Phil Aves, stressed there had been no reduction in front-line officers and the rise in PCSOs and Specials is linked to national initiatives, which are not all funded by Suffolk Constabulary.

Supt Aves, who is in charge of workforce planning, said: “It's important to know that we work out the establishment of police officers we need. From April 1 this year it was 1,281 and that increases at the end of October to 1,288.

“We continue to make sure the resources we do have are used in the right locations. In terms of numbers on the front-line they have not gone down at all.

“We have not reduced any officer needs in the neighbourhood response or safer neighbourhood functions.

Supt Aves said a drive has been going on to civilianise back office roles, which had previously been done by police officers.

This strategy aims to ensure there is no deterioration of the staffing levels patrolling the streets of Suffolk.

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