Huge response to South Yorkshire Police’s 'biggest ever' recruitment drive

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Around 1,600 people have already responded to what South Yorkshire Police has called its biggest ever recruitment drive – but more applicants are still wanted.

The force is seeking to take on more than 1,000 new police officers over the next three years – boosting its ranks by around 720, allowing for the replacement of departing staff.

That represents an increase of nearly a third from the 2,412 officers it had at the beginning of the year, and the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, Stephen Watson, says it is the biggest recruitment drive since the force was formed in 1974.

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Since the new openings were announced over the summer, Mr Watson revealed more than 30,000 job seekers have visited the force’s website and around 1,600 have registered to apply.

Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, says the force wants to hear from anyone who thinks they have what it takes to become a police officer (pic: Chris Etchells)Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, says the force wants to hear from anyone who thinks they have what it takes to become a police officer (pic: Chris Etchells)
Stephen Watson, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police, says the force wants to hear from anyone who thinks they have what it takes to become a police officer (pic: Chris Etchells)

South Yorkshire Police was already seeking to bolster its numbers by 220 before the Government announced plans in July to hire an extra 20,000 officers nationally, of which the force expects to get around 500.

It intends to take on 238 new officers by the end of next March, 377 during the following year and 431 in the 12 months to March 2022 – a total of 1,046.

Mr Watson said he was pleased with the initial level of interest but urged more people to apply to ensure it can recruit the best possible candidates.

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“There’s never been a better time to join South Yorkshire Police,” he said.

“Not only do we have really exciting careers to offer people with the right attitude, aptitude and values, but they will be joining a force which is very much on an upward swing.

“We were recently announced as the most improved force in the country for the third consecutive year, and we’ve gone from pretty much bottom of the pile to the top tier.

“We’re delighted with the level of interest so far and I would urge anyone who feels they have it in them to do the job to seriously consider applying.

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“The more applicants we get the better choices we will be able to make on behalf of the public, because this has to be about getting the right people rather than simply the right number of people.”

Mr Watson added that applicants should recognise the job comes with ‘certain stresses and strains’ and can be ‘traumatic’ but he claimed ‘there’s no career as rewarding’.

There are a huge variety of roles within the force which new recruits could fill, but it is looking to bolster three areas in particular:

Investigation of crimes affecting society’s most vulnerable, from fraudsters targeting older people to child exploitation and human trafficking

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Work to reclaim the proceeds of crime from those ‘living the good life using ill-gotten gains’

Greater police presence on the ground within communities, to keep criminals ‘on the back foot’

One of the new recruits’ tasks will be to help continue the huge increase in the use of stop and search powers, which is one of the key tactics being used in the fight against knife crime.

During 2018/19, the number of people stopped and searched on South Yorkshire’s streets increased by 400 per cent from the previous year, explained Mr Watson, and he wants that figure to rise further to help catch anyone ‘stupid enough’ to carry a knife.

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“We arrested over 1,500 more people last year compared with the year before, and that’s a sign of things to come,” he said.

The recruitment process for new police officers is a rigorous and lengthy one – with applicants required to pass a number of stages, from a formal interview and written test to role-playing scenarios and a medical – and it typically takes between three and five months to complete.

But Mr Watson said he doesn’t want this to put people off, and he insisted those applying will be given all the support they need.

He added that the force is encouraging people from all backgrounds, and at any stage of their career, to apply.

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Although most applications so far have been from those starting their careers, equal consideration will be given to older candidates looking for a change of direction, with ‘some life experience and the ability to problem-solve in a practical way’ viewed as a bonus.

Mr Watson added that all new recruits – whether they have been through university or not – will end up with a degree-level qualification once they have completed their training.

For those who have not been to university, he said, it is a chance to gain those qualifications while earning and without racking up the debts today's graduates face.

The force is still seeking to increase the proportion of female officers and those from ethnic minorities, who are underrepresented, to better reflect the community it serves.

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Mr Watson said support is available for people from ethnic minorities who are keen to learn more about roles within the force, but that there are no targets and nor is there any preferential treatment for candidates from those backgrounds.

“It’s about widening the gate, not lowering the bar,” he added.

For more information about how to apply, visit