Police recruiting more support staff

Reporter:

Helen Davies

COMMUNITY leaders have given a mixed response to new figures showing civilian police staff in the region have increased disproportionately to the number of uniformed officers.

In North Wales, staff numbers grew from 519 to 982 between 2000 and 2009, while only another 175 officers were employed, taking the total from 1,403 to 1,578.

Over the same period the number of staff in Cheshire more than doubled from 823 to 1,714, while the number of officers increased by just over 100, from 2,011 to 2,123.

The Police Federation has said police chiefs are endangering the public by recruiting more support staff than police.

And Ewloe councillor and ex-Merseyside Police assistant chief constable Alison Halford told the Leader that while support staff are cheaper than police officers and easier to train, fully-fledged, competent officers were required.

She said: “I think it’s gone the wrong way. Support staff are important but there are too many of them now.”

But while Connah’s Quay councillor David Barratt agrees more police officers are needed, he said increasing staff numbers may help.

He added: “I would like to see police officers doing their job rather than administration and if they have to employ more staff to do this then so be it.”

Buckley councillor Ron Hampson believes there is too much station bureaucracy, adding: “People in Buckley feel more secure and comforted when they see the police.”

And Connah’s Quay councillor Bernie Attridge said: “They seem to be reactive rather than proactive. They come out to an incident when someone calls 999 and then go back to the office to do their paperwork.”

But some councillors in the region are happy with policing levels.

Saltney councillor Veronica Gay said local police proved good support, while Cllr Klaus Armstrong-Braun said officers had “really turned the area around”.

North Wales assistant chief constable Gareth Pritchard said the force was “concerned” about officer numbers and would seek to keep numbers as high as possible.

But he added: “We are determined to put the right people with the right skills in the right job and to improve efficiency while reducing bureaucracy.”

Cheshire Police spokeswoman Brenda Cowling said the number of staff in the crime record bureau had been increased, enabling the force to put police back into the community.

She said: “There has been an improvement in front-line services. It doesn’t make sense to have police officers doing paperwork.”

Meanwhile, police were yesterday offered more powers and discretion to do their jobs by Home Secretary Theresa May.

Addressing the Police Federation’s annual conference, she pledged the new Government will “do things differently” by scrapping Whitehall interference, ditching paperwork and removing targets.

But she said officers must accept local accountability through elected commissioners, and warned police must “bear a fair share of the burden” in efforts to tackle the budget deficit.

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