Met police losing more officers than it is recruiting, says Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley

6 September 2023, 12:06

Sir Mark Rowley said the Met isn't recruiting enough police
Sir Mark Rowley said the Met isn't recruiting enough police. Picture: Alamy

By Fraser Knight

Met Police chief Sir Mark Rowley has raised concerns over the reduction in officer numbers in the country’s biggest police force.

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The Commissioner, giving evidence to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee, said recruitment has been challenging and his biggest concern now is that he’s losing more officers than he’s bringing in.

In April, the force was 1,000 short of its recruitment target of bringing in 10,000 new officers as part of the government’s uplift programme.

But Sir Mark hit out at the Home Office for not allowing him to have access to the money they hadn’t used as part of that.

“I’m really disappointed that government policy means that the approximately £60 million of funding for the officers that we didn’t recruit has been withdrawn,” he said.

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“I could use that money very effectively in growing police staff members to free officers up to go on the streets.

“We have the smallest proportion of police staff in the organisation of any police force in the country - that’s something I've been concerned about since day one and we’ve got officers effectively doing support and resource functions instead because we don’t have the staff.

“Over a decade or two, police chiefs and politicians from all parties have been attracted to headlines about police officer numbers but I think we need a change in debate that says what’s the right workforce to have the best effect for the public and the current debate doesn’t quite get us there.”

The Metropolitan Police aims to have 35,000 officers in its ranks but Sir Mark revealed that an uneven balance between attrition and recruitment means the force is ‘going backwards’.

In an open letter to the Home Secretary last month, the chair of the National Police Chiefs Council warned that “to see trust in police return to where it used to be, an effectively staffed and properly funded police service is essential”.

Gavin Stevens was responding to calls for police forces to investigate all reasonable lines of enquiry.

He said: “The reality is that since 2010, the number of officers [across England and Wales] has increased by just 2.6%, while recorded crime has increased by 25%.

“Added to this, there is significant pressure on vital police staff jobs with over 4,000 vacancies. Police staff are vital to an effective police service but some of these roles are being backfilled by officers, taking them away from the frontline, and reducing visibility.”

Sir Mark Rowley revealed that in London, his fear is that their shortfall of officers will soon increase to 1,500.

He says the public view of the Met’s culture may be having an impact on their efforts to recruit after high profile criminal cases among serving and former officers.

The Commissioner also said the cost of living and ‘wider public sector issues’ may be contributing to the challenge.