Those who read this blog regularly might be a little bit tired of me banging on about the work we’ve done to increase police officer numbers, but this is in response to the work that has gone on to allow this to happen. It’s not been easy for the Chief Constable and I to negotiate a budget which has allowed for the growth we’ve seen over recent years.
Firstly we’ve had to gain public approval for an increase in the council tax precept. Polls have shown that most respondents in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly were prepared to ‘pay more to get more’ and in doing do have helped create a budget for growth. Then we’ve had to set about the task of recruiting and training around 660 new officers to gain an overall increase of 176 – the difference being the number of officers leaving the force or retiring.
Our training college staff have been pulling out all the stops to get these new recruits through the process. But when I meet a cohort at the stage of pass out and some rather proud parents as I did on Friday (July 26) it all seems worth it.
Recruiting extra police officers is right for our communities and it is right for those already serving in a force facing increasing pressures and a growing population.
Because we’ve already been working on this issue for so long I was understandably delighted when our new Prime Minister made recruiting a further 20,000 officers his top priority. The pledge was contained in the first part of the very first speech Boris Johnson made in the job, and encouragingly for Devon and Cornwall he has said getting more officers for rural forces was an important part of the strategy.
I am pleased that Boris and our new Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, have listened to PCCs about this important issue - after all they represent the voice of the people - and that I was able to represent our force in discussions with them.
Now we have to get on with the not insignificant task of recruiting and training to meet the demands of the new cabinet and our communities.
It remains to be seen whether the new degree-style qualification is the right way to get lots more qualified officers on the frontline within a relatively short target time of three years.
We will also need to ensure that there are enough trainers and civilian staff to cope with the number of new recruits that are coming through the door.
So the announcement around boosting police officer numbers has created some immediate challenges for my office and Devon and Cornwall Police – but after years of battling to bolster the frontline these are certainly nice problems to have.