Dozens of extra police officers were hired in West Mercia over the last year as part of the Government’s national recruitment drive, new figures show.
But the plan to boost police ranks has been criticised by the Police Federation of England and Wales for not going far enough following policing cuts over a decade.
Home Office figures show that there were 2,339 police officers in West Mercia Police in December, up from 2,261 a year before.
At an increase of 3.4%, this was slightly below the average rise of 3.5% across England and Wales’s police forces.
Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s commitment to invest in police forces and increase officer numbers, the Home Office launched the police uplift programme in April 2020 with the aim of recruiting 20,000 new police officers by March 2023.
This would require a 15.6% increase in police officers across the two nations’ police forces over the three-year period.
By December 2021, 11,505 officers had been recruited nationally, a 9% increase.
The majority (11,048) of these were hired through the uplift programme, with the rest recruited using local funds.
In West Mercia, the figure has risen by 8.1% since April 2020, meaning 175 more officers. Of them, 165 were recruited via the Home Office’s initiative, and the other 10 through local funds.
The national increase follows dwindling police officer numbers between 2009 and 2017, during which the total number across England and Wales declined from almost 145,000 to just over 120,000.
Ché Donald, national vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said: “The current uplift programme to recruit 20,000 additional officers – which is now only halfway there – doesn’t go far enough, as it simply replaces the number of police officers lost during the years of austerity.
“Not only do we have an exponentially expanding population which has grown by 4 million in the last decade, but the level of crime has increased and become far more complex.
“In addition, the time officers spend dealing with non-crime issues, such as helping vulnerable people and those in mental health crises, has also risen.”
Mr Donald said the force needs “long-term recruitment and sustainable funding”, and that police leaders must focus on retention of staff, as well as recruitment of new officers.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Beating crime is the government’s number one priority, that’s why we are putting more police on our streets to keep our communities safe.”
They added it is is on track to recruit 20,000 additional officers by March 2023 and that it is increasing funding for policing by up to £1.1 billion.
“We are evolving our approach to emerging crime threats such as fraud, on top of giving the police the powers and tools they need to stop crimes happening in the first place,” the spokesperson added.