There now follows a Malcolmian gripe.
The number of young police officers in England and Wales has fallen by nearly 50% in two years.
There were 9,088 officers aged under 26 in 2009-10 but only 4,758 in 2011-12, figures obtained by the BBC show.
In Cleveland, North Wales and Staffordshire the fall in the number of officers aged under 26 was more than 70% over the period.
Overall police numbers hit a nine-year low in 2012, due to tighter budget constraints slowing recruitment.
But this data, obtained in a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 4’s The World This Weekend, shows how much of that fall has been among younger officers.
That is disturbing for any number of reasons, including:
- the tighter budget constraints, which may or may not be a “good idea” when pressures in society are reaching new levels of tension;
- the growing imbalance in the police service, limiting recruitment and promotion;
- that it required yet another of those FoI requests to extract information from officialdom: if the Home Office have the figures — and clearly they did and do — they should be up front, available and in the public domain. How else can equal opportunities be assured?
Malcolm makes two reliable predictions:
- Sooner or later an intelligent sociologist (such creatures do exist) will unearth the information that the heralded drop in crime is only a drop in reported crime. If police stations are closed, if there are fewer boots on the ground, if contacting the police involves being bounced around from call-centre to clerical officer and — with luck — eventually to a real, live copper in the same county, then there will be fewer reported crimes. Surely it cannot be true that, on some nights, the whole county of Norfolk , all two thousand square miles, is “policed” by just four or five cars?
- In the not too distant future officialdom will suddenly wake up to a yawning age-gap in the personnel of the police service. This is not a trivial matter.
When Malcolm became a teacher in the mid-’60s, he entered a staff-room where the generational divide was all too obvious. There were the post-war entrants to the profession, highly experienced, excellent teachers, military-brusque, but many already reaching and anticipating retirement. Thanks to the poor pay for entrants (it was about the same as the lowest professional grades of the Post Office, and far less than the Hong Kong or Rhodesian police), recruitment under the 13 years of Tory rule (1951-1964) had been slow and unreliable. To that we may lay ome — by no means all — the washy-washiness of state education in the 1970s.
Somewhere in there the teaching profession became, for better or worse, the exclusive province of female teachers in primary schools, and an obvious and attractive social advance for ethnic groups in all levels — and thereby unrepresentative of the wider society.
Further down that BBC report we find:
Olly Martins, the PCC for Bedfordshire, which saw a 58% fall, said the implications of this trend were very worrying.
“To secure policing by consent, and thereby be as effective as possible, forces need to look like the communities they serve.
“This is particularly true when it comes to the need to engage with younger people, who are disproportionately represented both as victims of crime and among its perpetrators.”
In the side bar, Martin Rosenbaum, “Freedom of information specialist”, repeats that:
It raises questions about how representative the police force is, especially given the issues about relations between the police and young people in some areas. And it also can’t help with the concerns about the level of physical fitness among the police.
Society will be paying for this extended recession — and by no means just in monetary terms, and far, far beyond the politics of policing — well into the next generation.