It was all very well new prime minister Boris Johnson announcing plans to recruit 20,000 police officers when he took office in July, but what about police staff?
That was the question put by UNISON’s police and justice conference in Southport on Friday afternoon.
“Police staff are the life blood of the police service, without which forces would fall over,” conference declared.
They not only underpin the services provided to officers and communities, they are critical to ensuring that police forces across the country provide vital security and safety to all their communities.
Austerity and cuts mean “our members have suffered, our communities have suffered, our service has suffered,” said Karen Poole of Lincolnshire police.
There are now 42,500 fewer police and community support officers (PCSOs), other police staff and police officers in England and Wales than there were in 2010. PCSO numbers have been cut by 44% since austerity started at the beginning of the decade, and overall police staff by 17%.
Enid Gardner – speaking for the England and Wales police staff committee – pointed out that “it takes four police staff to put six officers on the beat”.
And, she added: “20,000 new police officers will not themselves mend the damage. It’s like recruiting 20,000 hospital doctors without the other health staff to support them: physiotherapists, nurses, porters etc.”
“The prime minister just seems to have thrown this idea out into the public domain with no consideration of how to do it,” noted Anne Marie Short from Suffolk Police branch.
Conference adopted two emergency motions calling for discussions with all employers, including the Home Office and individual police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.
These would highlight the police staff jobs in vital roles which have been lost since 2010 and seek reassurance that funding for the new police officers would not come at the expense of staff jobs.
Delegates also called on the union to continue its Rebuild the Whole Police Team campaign, including investment in pay, conditions and training and increasing the diversity of the police workforce which police staff brought to the service before austerity.
As delegates addressed diversity in the service 20 years after the Macpherson Report, earlier in the conference, Ms Gardner noted that while diversity was improving among police officers, albeit very slowly, the level of cuts mean that diversity among police staff has not improved, but has gone backwards.