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Union says government must restore police force to pre-austerity levels

A Suffolk police officer and police community support officer on patrol in Ipswich  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A Suffolk police officer and police community support officer on patrol in Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Police officer numbers should be returned to pre-austerity levels if the government wants to tackle serious violence, union chiefs have said.

UNISON warned that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's promise to recruit extra police officers was not enough to halt the rise in serious and violent crime.

The union called on the PM to replace the number of police staff and police community support officers (PCSOs) lost since 2010.

Mr Johnson recently announced the recruitment of 20,000 officers and confirmed enhanced stop-and-search powers for all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

He also hosted a roundtable at Downing Street to discuss cutting crime and improving the criminal justice system with the police, probation and prison leaders.

A review of local policing saw the number of PCSOs fall 40% in Suffolk last year - from 81 to 48 - with the force moving 104 officers into Safer Neighbourhood Teams.

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Numbers have fallen from 173 to 41 between March 2010 and 2019 - leading UNISON to warn that repeated cuts risked public safety.

National officer for police staff, Ben Priestley said recruiting new officers was necessary - but not enough without crime scene investigators, specialists in cybercrime and data analysts.

"Just as doctors alone can't run a hospital, officers can't patrol the beat and tackle crime without police staff and PCSOs working alongside them," he added.

"Suffolk must bring back PCSOs and ministers must restore the entire police workforce to 2010 levels, not just part of it."

UNISON said it had written to the police minister, National Police Chiefs' Council and Association of Police and Crime Commissioners to urge support for its campaign.

Suffolk police and crime commissioner, Tim Passmore met the local Unison secretary this week and promised to discuss other resource implications, in order to maximise effectiveness of extra officers, upon confirmation of full details of the recruitment.

"It is excellent news the new government has placed law and order at the top of the agenda and announced that 20,000 extra police officers will be recruited over the next three years," he added.

"Details of what this will mean for Suffolk are yet to be clarified, but having spoken to the Prime Minster and Home Secretary last week, I emphasised the point that Suffolk must have a fair share in the uplift of new officers."

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