Police Scotland officer numbers to drop to 13-year low

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The number of police officers in Scotland will drop to the lowest level since 2009 in the next few months due to the impact of Covid and Cop26.

Latest figures show that in December there were 17,117 full-time equivalent officers working at Police Scotland, which was 115 down on the previous quarter.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone told a meeting of the Scottish Police Authority (SPA) that with “natural retirements and attrition”, and the fact there has been longer than usual between intakes of new recruits, the number of officers will be even lower when statistics are next reported in April.

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However he said recruitment has been adjusted for the coming months to ensure the force returns to “full officer establishment” later this year.

His report to the SPA also stated that around 600 specialist officers and probationary constables who were redeployed to the front line in January, as the Omicron variant led to an increase in absence levels in the service, will return to their core roles next month.

Mr Livingstone told the SPA meeting: “We are required to report officers numbers on a quarterly basis and in December of 2021, full-time equivalent number of officers was 17,117, now that is some 115 officers fewer than when we reported in the previous quarter of September 2021.

“With natural retirements and attrition, our overall number of officers will indeed reduce further when the statistics are next reported in April and I think it’s important that I am very clear on this matter.”

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The number of full-time equivalent officers last fell below 17,117 in the first quarter of 2009 when it was 17,048, according to Scottish Government figures.

Mr Livingstone said 115 officers is “actually less than 1% of our overall establishment and capacity”.

He said the service is able to “flex resources” to ensure effective policing is maintained for communities over this “transitional period” as it works to return to full strength.

He added: “We have adjusted our recruitment for the coming months to ensure that we return to a full officer establishment later in 2022.

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“As part of this I very much look forward to welcoming around 300 new probationary constables into the service in mid-April.”

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