Don’t panic this isn’t going to be a series of all the rural Forces in England and Wales. Having picked on Dyfed Powys and received some quite useful feedback I thought that in the interests of fairness I would pick on another Force and see how the figures for Dyfed Powys stacked up against another Force.
I decided to pick on Avon and Somerset Constabulary for two reasons;
They too have rural officers covering places such as Simonsbath as well as a city, Bristol and largish towns like Minehead, Taunton and Weston Super Mare.
The other reason was their recent achievement of the receiving the Gold Award by Investors in People. Their Chief Constable has been boasting of this achievement recently. This implies to me that they must be doing something really well.
Avon and Somerset covers a MUCH smaller area than Dyfed Powys, a mere 1,847 square miles, containing a population of 1.6 million individuals (source HMIC). HMIC quotes the Force strength as 3.15 full-time equivalent staff per 1,000 population. I note the use of ‘full time equivalent staff‘. I assume this to mean everyone from the Station Cleaner upwards to the Chief Constable.
In March 2010 Avon and Somerset had an establishment of 3,302 Police Officers, or 2.07 officers per 1,000 population, and a Constables Strength of 1.59 per 1,000 population. Not quite the ‘just over 3’ that HMIC would have you believe is it?
By March 2013 the establishment had dropped to 2,873 or 1.79 officers per 1,000 population and 1.37 Constables per 1,000 population. The official Avon and Somerset target for 2015 is 2,900, so like Dyfed Powys they have already shed more posts than they needed to.
It’s fair to say that I am dismayed. The two Forces that I have looked at, almost at random, have both shed more posts than they were required to to meet their 2015 ‘austerity’ target. Even more sinister than that is the issue of the Police Strength stats. Is it just me? Am I being terribly naive? If someone quotes Policing Strength figures to me I expect that to refer to the number of Police Officers on the books. Whilst I have the utmost respect for the Station Cleaner and the Canteen Staff is it really right that they should be included in official HMIC figures, giving a completely bloated fiction of how many police officers are available to protect the community?
As a brief, and possibly irrelevant, comparison, the Met currently has 3.71 officers per 1,000 population and 2.84 Constables per 1,000 population, with far fewer rural areas to police, and for Cross Reference purposes Home Office stats show that Dyfed Powys currently has 2.16 Officers per 1,000 population and 1.6 Constables for the same figure.
Maybe I should submit my concerns to Bernard Jenkins’ PASC session looking a Crime Stats. More wholesale ‘fudging’ of figures is my view, with no valid reason other than make the situation look better than it really is.
One more time I find myself saying “Don’t fudge the stats. Good, Bad or Indifferent, tell us the TRUTH”
Behind the cynicism are some serious questions;
Is a figure of less than 2 Police Officers per 1,000 head of population sufficient to ensure Public Safety?
Is a figure of less than 2 Police Officers per 1,000 head of population sufficient to ensure Officer Safety?
Why have these two Forces (and probably others too) seemingly reduced their official establishments BELOW their 2015 Target Figure?
Why do the Home Office and HMIC use different comparators for illustrating Policing Strengths?
Is this compatible with an Investors in People Gold Accreditation Award?
I’ll happily accept answers in the Comments Section from any ACPO officers who can answer any or all of these questions, thank you.