Good news or Bad news on Police numbers?

Devon and Cornwall Police announces record officer numbers

Devon and Cornwall Police has said it has a record number of officers following the biggest recruitment drive in its history.

By Ben Woolvin

The force announced it had 3,716 officers in May; an increase of 6% since austerity cuts in 2010.

However, there are fewer officers per member of the public than in 2012, due to an 8% population increase, the Police Federation has warned.

It said there was a “significant demand” on officers.

The number of Devon and Cornwall officers dropped after 2010 and slowly climbed back up from 2017 onwards, with the region losing and then regaining around 500 officers.

In May 2023, there were 225 more officers in the two counties than when the austerity cuts began.

But the latest Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures show the number of people living in Devon and Cornwall increased by 131,000 between 2010 and 2021.

‘Through the roof’

Jim Colwell, deputy chief constable, said: “We have been able to boost resources in a range of key teams and departments to help us keep people safe and bring dangerous offenders to justice”.

Richard Poole, deputy secretary and conduct lead for Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, told the BBC: “It’s really difficult now; the demand has gone through the roof.

“We’ve got around one police officer for every 444 members of the public in Devon and Cornwall… whereas back in 2012 there was one police officer for every 376 members of the public”.

“It’s a significant demand on our officers. The infrastructure hasn’t increased to support the increase in population.”

He added that in Devon and Cornwall, the population was increased by more visitors from within the UK than any other force area in the country.

Alison Hernandez, Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall, said: “This is the largest amount of police officers we have had on record since the inception and it’s thanks to the government and council tax-payers”.

Ms Hernandez said a campaign for an extra £17m to reflect the impact of summer visitors was still ongoing after the government turned down her request in 2020.

A Home Office spokesperson told the BBC: “We have delivered on the promise we made to the British people, which means more police on the beat…

“Progress is being made, with crime falling in England and Wales by 52% since 2010, excluding fraud and computer misuse.”

They added that officers were now “more representative of the communities they serve” which “offers a unique chance to deliver the highest standards and common sense policing expected by the public”.

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