Government only doing ‘half the job’ by replacing police officers, says UNISON

The government must replace hundreds of police community support officer (PCSO) and other police staff jobs axed across the east of England since the start of austerity, UNISON said today.

The union warns that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge to recruit extra police officers is not enough on its own to halt the rise in serious and violent crime.

Ministers and police chiefs must also restore the entire police workforce to 2010 levels by replacing the thousands of police staff jobs lost across England and Wales since 2010, says UNISON. This includes taking on more 999 call takers, fingerprint experts and detention officers.

It comes as government figures* show PCSO numbers have nearly halved across England and Wales, from 16,918 in March 2010 to 9,547 in March 2019.

The figures are even worse in the east, with a drop from 1,480 to 511 in the same period across the region’s six police forces.

In Norfolk numbers have gone from 275 in 2010 to 0 today, after Norfolk Constabulary decided to abolish the PCSO post in 2018.

Police staff jobs too have reduced by more than 17% over the same period, from 83,843 to 69,305 – going from 7,414 to 6,224 in the east.

UNISON is concerned that the extra police officers promised by the government will not end up on the beat. Instead, they will be carrying out jobs currently done by police staff, unless the entire police ‘team’ is rebuilt.

UNISON national officer for police staff Ben Priestley said: “Recruiting new police officers is a start. It’s necessary if the government is serious about tackling the rise in serious and violent crime that’s happened on its watch.

“But this isn’t enough on its own – it’s only doing half the job. These officers won’t have the team needed to cut crime without more police staff such as crime scene investigators, specialists in cybercrime and data analysts.

“Just as doctors alone can’t run a hospital, officers can’t patrol the beat and tackle crime without police staff and PCSOs working alongside them.

“Ministers must restore the entire police workforce to 2010 levels, not just part of it. Otherwise the community will suffer the consequences.”

UNISON has written to the police minister Kit Malthouse as well as organisations, including the National Police Chiefs’ Council and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, urging them to support its campaign to rebuild the whole police team.