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'We need more officers'

Leicestershire Police has seen the second biggest percentage decline in officer numbers in England and Wales.

Statistics published by the Home Office show that on 30 September 2016, the Force had 1,794 officers, a decrease of 5.8 per cent or 104 officers than 12 months previously. In September 2015 there were 1,904 officers.

The Force comes second only to Nottinghamshire, which had a seven per cent decline, a reduction of 124 officers.

Nationally there has been a decrease of 2.2 per cent.

Tiff Lynch, chairman of Leicestershire Police Federation, said: "Just a few weeks ago we mentioned that we believed officer numbers were at an unacceptable low and this just adds weight to our belief.

"The work our officers do on a daily basis, stretches them to the limit. The bottom line is we need more feet on the street. We are in desperate need of more officers.

"Not long ago we were stretched to the limit, dealing with several high-profile and major incidents. Officers are exhausted and on their knees yet carry on out of goodwill and dedication to the job.

"I know the Force is currently recruiting more officers, but even with these in post, it will not bring us up to the strength of 2009 when we had around 2,300 officers."

She continued: "If the reduction in officer numbers had brought a reduced workload with it, things may be different. But it hasn't.

"We are the service that people rely on, that people turn to when they need help. We are dealing with more patients with mental health issues than ever before and we are picking up the slack where other organisations are struggling to deliver their services.

"It really is quite simple - for us to be able to deliver the service that the people of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland expect and deserve from us, we need more people."

Nationally, as of 30 September 2016, the figures show there were 122,859 police officers, a decrease of 2.2 per cent, or 2,715 people than in the previous 12 months. This leaves one officer per 460 people in England and Wales.

Of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, 36 recorded falls in police officer numbers in the year ending 30 September 2016 compared to 12 months earlier. Half a dozen forces saw an increase, including Surrey Cheshire and Kent Police which gained the most (2.2 per cent, 1.9 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively). Forces employed 198,228 personnel - including officers, civilian staff and PCSOs - at the end of September. It is the first time the total workforce figure has dipped below 200,000 since 2003.