Further fall in Scots police officer numbers

Police officers Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption At the end of March there were 17,244 officers in Scotland

The number of police officers in Scotland has fallen by more than 250 in a year, official figures have confirmed.

Numbers have been dropping since the middle of 2012, and at the end of March 2014 there were 17,244 officers.

When the Scottish National Party (SNP) came to power in 2007, it pledged to increase police strength by 1,000 officers.

The latest figures showed it had maintained that target - by just 10.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "We have always said that police numbers will fluctuate and this publication shows they are moving towards 1,000, continuing to exceed the target while keeping costs down.

"Alongside Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority, we are strongly committed to delivering 1,000 extra officers."

He said extra officers were already being recruited ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

'Better flexibility'

Deputy Chief Constable Rose Fitzpatrick said: "The creation of single service has allowed us better flexibility in allocating police officers to the right place at the right time to help keep people safe.

"By establishing a new policing delivery model, we can ensure every division has access to every kind of specialist support without geographical boundaries. This allows Police Scotland to protect and enhance local policing for our communities.

"Police Scotland continues to maintain police officer numbers at a minimum of 17,234 to meet the Scottish government's commitment and we have a rolling recruitment programme to ensure we maintain this resource."

Scottish Labour's Graeme Pearson MSP, said there had been "a far greater reduction in the number of police officers actually on our streets, tackling crime".

He added: "With the loss of thousands of civilian jobs, we have police officers sitting behind desks and not out on the streets.

"Kenny MacAskill might simply want to talk about the headline number of police officers. But if they aren't out on the streets doing what they're trained to do, then it isn't much to shout about."

Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell MSP said: "There is no doubt a visible presence of police on the streets helps detect and deter crime.

"That's why we stipulated that 1,000 extra police officers had to be secured to work on Scotland's front line.

"The fact we are now only just within this critical number - and with so many complaining of filling back office roles - is extremely worrying."

Meanwhile in England and Wales, there are fewer police than at any time in the past 11 years, with numbers expected to drop by more than 15,000.

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