Police officer numbers in England and Wales

Published: 11th Apr 2018

The number of police officers in England and Wales has fallen by just under 20,000 between September 2010 and September 2017.

There were 122,000 police officers in September last year. Counting those from the British Transport Police and those on secondment it was 125,000.

These figures refer to the number of full time equivalent officers (or how many there would be if you added up all their hours to make full time roles).

The number of police officers in England and Wales is the lowest recorded level since the late 1980s. To make a consistent comparison over time, we have to use figures from March each year. Policing is local too, though. If you live in Merseyside, you won’t be directly affected by what’s happening to police numbers in Gwent.

The staffing picture varies across the 43 police forces of England and Wales. 42% of forces have gained officers in the year to September 2017, with Humberside Police seeing the biggest rise in numbers (8%). 58% have lost officers, with West Midlands seeing the biggest drop (-5%). You can check your area by looking at table A1 of this House of Commons Library research.

You might also care about the number of frontline officers. There’s no hard and fast definition of who fits that description. The official definition has changed several times. At the moment, officers are categorised as one of frontline (like response teams, neighbourhood policing and front desk roles), frontline support (such as intelligence) and business support (such as training).

Using that breakdown, there are 14% fewer ‘frontline’ officers since 2010. But the proportion of all officers who work on the frontline has risen a little, from 91% to 93%.Again, that varies. In March 2017, West Mercia Police had 96% of their officers on the front line, compared to 86% for Dorset.

Correction 16 April 2018

We changed the headline from "Police officer numbers in England" to "Police officer numbers in England and Wales".


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