Such was the headline in The Times recently. It got me thinking. Have they? Have they really?
For some reason that I cannot quite guess The Times relied on the Freedom of Information Act for their figures. Police Forces are well known for avoiding and refusing FOI requests, or simply not responding. Why not use the twice-yearly publications from the Home Office covering the whole of England and Wales? Not only are ALL 43 Forces included, they contain much more detailed information. Maybe that’s the problem, detail gets in the way of the story?
The article in The Times included claims such as
Resignations at the Metropolitan Police, the country’s biggest force, jumped from 337 in 2011-12 to 626 in 2015-16, according to figures obtained through a freedom of information (FoI) request.
During the same period resignations more than doubled at both Avon and Somerset Constabulary and Northumbria police
At Thames Valley resignations rose from 56 in 2011-12 to 100 in 2015-16. In Kent they rose from 50 to 94. Greater Manchester police had 48 resignations in 2011-12 and 77 in 2015-16. West Midlands police saw resignations rise by nearly 70 per cent over the period.
I normally like a numbers challenge so I decided to check it out. Was this a real story or just a bit of lazy headline-grabbing? Initially I thought that the examples such as Avon & Somerset were not really that dramatic as the actual numbers were small. Time to take a closer look.
The first thing I noticed was that the Thunderer correctly pointed out that their figures for resignations were additional to Resignations, but there are other reasons/methods for leaving the Service.
The first thing to look at was how many had left in total, for any reason.
The first three years were high, as expected, as the Home Secretary’s wishes began to bite, but then we see a spike in 2015/16. What does that represent? Let’s take a look at the reasons for leaving the Police Service. I totally ignored Transferees as they leave one Force and join another, so the net effect on Policing England and Wales is nil.
The one thing that immediately becomes apparent is that more officers are definitely leaving the Police Service in the last two years. After the initial purge by Theresa May, it calmed down a bit in 2013-2015, but between 2015 and 2017 the rate has crept back up again and is almost as high as it was in 2011/12.
But what about Voluntary Resignations? At first glance it seems that they are indeed close to being double in 2015/16 as they were in 2011/12 as claimed by The Times. Close but no cigar. However I did note that Voluntary Resignations have increased year on year every single year, without exception, since 2011.
Then I had a clever (sneaky) thought. Don’t count numbers, count percentages. Counting numbers tells you MOST of the story. If you want the full story count the numbers as a percentage of (a diminishing) Establishment.
So I looked at Voluintary Resignations and Total Leavers as a percentage of the relevant Establishment for the year in question. Lo and Behold a slightly different picture emerged. Across the whole of England and Wales (NOT including BTP) Voluntary Resignations in 2015/2016 were indeed double the figure for 2011/2012. And what is more that percentage continued for 2016/2017. Not only was The Times right, but it is actually worse than they thought because that rate has not yet diminished.
I also noted that, although the numbers are small, Dismissals have risen by over 60% between 2011 and 2017. Is this a coincidence or part of a darker plan?
The Police Service is not only shrinking, it is shrinking at a much faster rate than previously. I have to admit that The Times were not only right, but the reality is actually slightly worse than they claimed.
The good news is that this is not a problem. The College of Policing tells us that this is not a problem.
People enter and move around external industries all of the time – there is a healthy churn of experience and skill.
So it’s healthy, a Healthy Churn. Thank God for that, I was beginning to think that there was a #CrisisInPolicing.