DERBYSHIRE has seen the biggest fall in the number of police officers in England and Wales, new figures show.
Statistics released by the Home Office show that Derbyshire has seen the biggest percentage reduction in police officers of all 43 police forces in England and Wales –down 7.5 per cent from 2,076 in September 2010 to 1,920 in September 2011.
And nationally, the number of police officers has fallen to its lowest number since 2002, down 6,012 from 141,850 to 135,838.
The total number of police staff in Derbyshire has also fallen, by 16.1 per cent from 1,189 in September 2010 to 998 in September 2011. The number of police community support officers is also down 6.3 per cent from 185 to 173.
However, Derbyshire Constabulary have disputed the figures, which they say don’t take into account the fact some of their officers transferred to other units within the East Midlands, including the newly formed East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) – Serious and Organised Crime, EMSOU Major Crime and EMSOU Counter Terrorism.
The force said because of the way the Home Office calculates police force strength, it has excluded these officers and staff from their overall headcount.
Assistant Chief Constable Dee Collins said: “During the period reflected in the report 99 police officers have left Derbyshire Constabulary, a reduction of five per cent.
“Our financial constraints have been well documented and we need to save £24 million over four years. As part of that a recruitment freeze was introduced and this has meant when people have left they are not being replaced.
“There are ongoing discussions with the Police Authority over some limited recruitment of officers in the forthcoming financial year to slow down the reduction in numbers.
“Against this backdrop the force has recorded eight consecutive years of crime reduction, resulting in 37,000 fewer victims of crime.”
lGreater Manchester Police Chief Constable Peter Fahy, commenting on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the figures were not surprising given the funding cuts and challenging times most police forces have faced.
He added: “On the positive side many forces have started recruiting again or will do so in the next financial year although this will not compensate for what will still be a long term reduction in numbers.
“However, the effectiveness of policing cannot be measured by the number of officers alone but by reductions in crime and increases in public confidence.”