Police Scotland officer numbers drop to lowest level in a decade

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The number of police officers in Scotland has fallen to the lowest level in almost a decade.

There were 17,147 full-time equivalent officers in the country at the end of September, according to Scottish Government statistics.

The number is 25 down on the last quarter and a decrease of 103 from September 2017.

The last time the number of officers was lower was in the first three months of 2009, when the total was 17,048.

Officer numbers increased after the SNP came into power in 2007, with the party committing to putting 1,000 extra police on the streets, reaching the figure by 2009.

The commitment has not applied since 2016 but the Scottish Government said officer numbers “remain significantly” above the level in 2007.

Last year, Police Scotland announced it would slow recruitment between 2018 and 2020 amid a funding gap.

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Deputy Chief Constable Will Kerr said: “Police Scotland is committed to the continued development of a flexible and agile workforce that’s capable of responding to the evolving criminal threats to our communities.

“Having a core number of police officers will remain at the heart of policing in Scotland to ensure that we can protect people with different needs in every part of the country.

“Our technology strategy, approved by the Scottish Police Authority last month, is a key part of our transformation programme.

“Investment in IT will allow our officers to spend more time in the communities they serve, working on crime prevention and community-based policing to keep people safe, whether in the public, private or virtual space.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Police officer numbers in Scotland remain significantly above the level in 2007, with an increase of 913 since March 2007 - this contrasts with a reduction of almost 20,000 officers in England and Wales.

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“Scotland’s single police service means communities across the country now benefit from specialist national and regional expertise.

“This includes police officers and civilian specialists in various divisions who are deployed across Scotland when local needs arise.

“While staffing is a matter for the chief constable, HMICS and the Scottish Police Authority undertake regular assurance activity to ensure that the force continues to provide an excellent front line service across Scotland as it implements the Policing 2026 strategy.”