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There are more police staff than police officers, says Police Federation

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Workforce changes made over the past decade mean some police forces have more police staff than police officers, which potentially exposes the public to risks, according to the Police Federation of England and Wales.

The research, found that numbers of police staff have virtually doubled in just under a decade and the growth in their numbers has outstripped that of police officers. This could threaten the long-term resilience of the police service to deal with unexpected and unplanned circumstances.

The research analysed statistics from all 43 forces in England and Wales, looking at the ratio of police officers to police staff from 2000 to 2009. Some of the findings present a stark picture demonstrating that for all the political platitudes about restoring public confidence in the police, forces are in fact putting short-term cost savings ahead of public safety.

According to the research, the average ratio of police officers to staff in 2000 was 2.3 to 1 and by 2009 Home Office figures show this as 1.4 to 1.

While the research found value in some civilian police staff roles, there was a clear lack of training, role definition and consistency across forces, and there has also been no evaluation taken as to whether they even present better value for money.

The Police Federation believes there is an urgent need for the new Government, in liaison with the police staff associations, to ascertain the full range of police staff roles in existence; to examine whether civilianising tasks that do not require warranted powers has a negative impact on police officer diversity; to explore whether specific staff roles has a positive impact on performance or public satisfaction; and to ascertain whether that impact provides better value for money to the public than the equivalent cost of a police officer.

Paul McKeever, chairman of Police Federation of England and Wales, said: "It seems clear that for all the platitudes on restoring public confidence in the police, promises to keep police officer numbers high may be nothing more a game of smoke and mirrors.

"I find it alarming that there is no tangible evidence that even suggests, let alone proves, the value brought by civilianising increasing numbers of police posts. At a time of financial restraint across the public sector, a rise in police staff numbers is absolute nonsense when the public want more police officers on the beat. Instead we have increasing numbers of unaccountable, unidentifiable police staff who do not have the flexibility or resilience to give what is needed as an emergency service.

"We have a new government; we have a new parliament. Now is the time to stop this unco-ordinated and ill-constructed plan that will destroy the police service in England and Wales; to implement a full independent review and to have the courage to ask the public what they actually want and expect from their police service."