06 October 2017
A campaign launched today to increase the number of volunteers in policing will add to public safety, but must not replace the need for more frontline officers.
This was the message from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) following the launch of the ‘Step Up’ campaign that aims to encourage more people to support their local police by donating their time and expertise as unpaid volunteers.
It is estimated that there are currently more than 38,000 people working in over 200 different volunteering roles across the 43 forces, donating over five million hours a year.
Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said:
“There is no underestimating the fantastic contribution volunteers make. Put simply, policing could not function without them. However, their role must be to support police, not replace them.
“As crime evolves, so must policing. Roles and opportunities are vast and the need for specific expertise in areas including cybercrime is ever increasing. But we must be able to utilise and develop the skills that already exist.
“Forces need support beyond volunteering. They need the ability to draw breathe, allowing their officers and staff the time to achieve their full potential, but a fire-fighting culture of moving from crisis to crisis makes this nearly impossible.”
While forces continue to recruit officers, it is often to fill the gap of those leaving or retiring from policing. Overall officer numbers reduced by a further thousand in the last twelve months to a level not seen since 1985.
Pressures also grew on police budgets recently when the government announced forces must fund 1% of the recently announced 2% pay award. Many chief constables and police and crime commissioners have spoken out on how this will ultimately compromise public safety.
Mr White added: “There is little hope on the horizon that budget pressures will ease. The role of volunteers has never been more important and driven by the same desire to protect others, officers will continue to welcome their support, but this is not a long term sustainable solution.”