21 February 2024

Scandal-hit police force facing ‘deeply concerning’ shortfall in officer numbers

21 February 2024

Britain’s biggest police force is facing a “deeply concerning” shortfall in officer numbers amid recruitment struggles.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley said the force will be 1,400 short at the end of March, and 2,650 short by March 2025 at current application and recruitment levels.

Under the national programme to replace 20,000 police officer jobs cut during austerity measures from 2010, the Home Office has allocated funding for the Met to employ 35,415 full-time equivalent officers.

Giving evidence to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee on Wednesday, Sir Mark said: “Where we anticipate being at the end of March is around 34,000 ie around 1,400 light.

“We anticipate our projection for the next year based on current application levels, recruiting levels etc, unless we can make a sharp movement in that, is for that to drop by approximately another 1,250.

“So we would expect to be at 32,750 roughly at the end of March 2025.

“Now that is that is deeply concerning to me.”

Sir Mark said force bosses want to free up 3,000 officers who are currently doing staff jobs that could be done by civilians over the next three years.

He said current pay levels, that are set nationally, are an issue in the London employment market, as well as potential applicants being put off by a series of scandals that have damaged the Met’s reputation.

I'm pulling every lever I have in my gift and asking others to pull the levers they have in their gift

“We’ve been looking at public sector employability and recruitment issues across London, and it’s pretty widespread across the whole public sector, which tells me it’s a pattern,” he told the committee.

“We’ve also thought hard about the sort of reputation and confidence issues.”

Sir Mark added: “I’m pulling every lever I have in my gift and asking others to pull the levers they have in their gift.”

The force started the year with a £400 million budget gap, and if it were to spend now at the same levels per head of population as in 2010, it would need a 27 per cent increase in budget of more than £870 million, he said.

Sir Mark told the committee he also wants 1,600 more PCSOs to put into neighbourhood teams.

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