Sharp fall in number of police officers under 26

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The number of young officers serving in police forces has fallen by almost half in two years because of the pressure on senior officers to cut budgets, according to new figures.

The 9,088 officers aged under 26 in 2009-10 has fallen in two years to 4,758 with total police strength down overall by about 10,000, according to numbers obtained by the BBC.

The largest fall was in Cleveland where the number of young officers has fallen by 74 per cent following a recruitment freeze for several years and the prospect of several more to come, said the Police Federation.

The chairman of the Cleveland branch, Steve Matthews, said that the change to the demographics in the force would have a long-term impact on the nature of policing. Proposed police reforms under a review announced last year by the former rail regulator Tom Winsor would see pay for new constables cut. “A 19-year-old joining on £19,000 to be spat at and punched? I can’t see it,” said Mr Matthews.

Two other forces, North Wales and Staffordshire, also saw reductions in levels of young officers of more than 70 per cent. Police forces face cuts of about 20 percent over the next four years, amid controversial changes to pay and conditions.

The cuts have led to plunging relations between the Government and rank-and-file police officers which saw Theresa May, the Home Secretary, heckled at last year’s Police Federation annual conference.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Recruitment is a matter for individual forces and it is for chief constables and police and crime commissioners to ensure they have the right mix of officers."