Police union warns against boom in civilian staff

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The number of civilian staff being hired by police forces has overtaken the recruitment of uniformed officers in some parts of Britain, the body representing rank and file officers has claimed.

Research by the Police Federation found the proportion of police to staff has fallen sharply over the past decade in forces across England and Wales. It warned that civilian staff already outnumbered officers in Surrey and Northamptonshire, while other forces were on track to follow suit.

They criticised the increasing number of civilian employees, many of whom do what was once police officer work, and questioned if they provided value for money.

Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, said the research revealed pledges to keep officer numbers high may be nothing more than "smoke and mirrors". He called on the new Government to order a full and independent review of policing and to ask the public what it wanted from those on the beat.

Mr McKeever said: "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."

Police Federation researchers examined the number of police officers compared to civilian staff at all 43 forces in England and Wales from 2000 to 2009. According to Home Office figures, they found the average ratio of police officers to staff in 2000 was 2.3 to 1 and by 2009 it had shrunk to 1.4 to 1. Surrey employed 1,938 staff and 1,824 officers while Northamptonshire employed 1,319 staff and 1,301 officers in 2009.