A police recruit: Budget cuts are keeping police off the streets

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The Independent Online

After a previous failed attempt, I finally passed my assessment centre test in July 2009 and was told I would be starting my training this summer.

On 4 January a letter arrived. But instead of giving me details of my start date it informed me that my recruitment was being deferred until 2011. It's hard to explain how disappointing and frustrating it is. Being a police officer is all I have ever wanted to do, and just when I thought I was close to realising that dream the door was shut in my face.

In the meantime I'm working in a police call-handling centre. I'm talking to people about crime in their area and dealing with the occasional 999 call.

I know that the calls I'm dealing with now will help me if I ever become an officer, but the experience will not help me actually get into the force. I might as well work in a supermarket while I wait – and I know people who are doing just that.

The most frustrating thing is that I've done everything the police have asked of me. I've passed all the exams, interviews and role-play exercises. I even lost weight because they asked me to. But it's still not enough. I'm 25 years old, but I don't know how long I can wait around. My friends are all making progress in their chosen careers. They are moving up the ladder and I'm not even on the first rung. I feel like I'm being left behind.

My letter says that I should hear by the end of this year. Hopefully the next time I hear from them it will be a starting date, but deep down I am just waiting for the letter that tells me I am not going to be joining at all.

The worst thing is that the force doesn't tell us anything – we have to just sit by the phone or wait for a letter to drop through the door. I've decided that I'm going to give it until the end of the year, and then I'm going to have to rethink my career options.

It will be very hard to give up after getting so close, but I think the police will be the ones losing out. There are a lot of good people who desperately want to be police officers, but they are being forced to abandon that ambition because of budget restraints.

It does anger me, but I know it's not the fault of the police. I don't blame anyone, because I accept that it's purely financial and unforeseen and that the police need to make cuts. I do wonder at the wisdom of making those cuts in recruitment.

Everyone you speak to wants more cops on the ground. Freezing recruitment and deferring entries is not the way to achieve that.

The writer is a police recruit at a force in the Midlands