Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bedfordshire Police to recruit 80 constables

Eighty constables are being recruited by Bedfordshire Police over the next year after more officers than expected left during the spending cuts.

The force is about 50 below strength and 32 more officers are leaving soon.

Police and Crime Commissioner Olly Martins denied the force had got its sums wrong, saying the number of officers that recently retired or left after 30 years was unanticipated.

Chief Constable Colette Paul said the force had recently been "stretched".

'Rebalance' force

Since 2010, the number of officers at Bedfordshire Police had been reduced from 1,248 to 1,092 up until March this year.

Another 32 staff have retired or are retiring this financial year.

Mr Martins said the 80 new recruits would take police numbers "up to where they're meant to be" at about 1,140, but in the next two years the force would still have to drop to 1,050 staff.

He said he expected the future reduction would be achieved through "natural wastage", such as officers moving to other forces or retirement.

He added that although there would be further reductions in the future, it was important to "rebalance" the force at the current time.

"Government funding cuts mean that sadly overall police strength in the county will still have to fall in the next couple of years," Mr Martins said.

"However, I am glad that we have reached a point where we can afford to rebalance the force and ease the burden on our overstretched frontline officers by starting to recruit again".

Ms Paul said: "I'm keen to recruit people as soon as we can, as our frontline resources are particularly stretched after a long period of recruitment freeze."

A recent staff survey found existing staff were working under intense pressure, due to cutbacks and spates of violence in areas such as Luton.

Mr Martins said Bedfordshire Police still intended to double the number of specials and increase its reserve force, despite the recruitment drive for constables.

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