More than 500 recruits needed as police expansion plans are prepared in South Yorkshire

Police are to launch their biggest recruitment drive for more than a decade in South Yorkshire to find the 500 new officers needed in the next few years as the service expands and to cover retirements.

By Paul Whitehouse
Sunday, 30 June, 2019, 19:47
New faces: Hundreds of new officers to be recruited to serve communities like Barnsley in the years ahead

The service has announced three separate sets of expansion plans since the turn of the year, which will see the force swell by 220 by 2022, but it is known the real total of new recruits needed will be in excess of 500, because of retirements and other leavers.

Now it is preparing a major recruitment campaign to ensure it can attract candidates with the right qualities the service will need in the years ahead.

It is expected that some new officers will be existing PCSOs, who switch over to officer roles to continue working in the communities they already serve, but the bulk of the fresh constables will be fresh starters.

Chief Constable Stephen Watson and Police and Crime Commissioner Dr Alan Billings have found the money for the additional staff through a range of measures, including internal economies, rebalancing how neighbourhood policing teams are staffed – with more officers and fewer PCSOs – and using additional cash raised through Council Tax.

Mr Watson said: “What is really significant is that while this is a net growth in the number of officers, we have to replace those who naturally leave, it means recruiting in excess of 500 constables; our biggest recruitment drive since 2008.

“In the coming weeks we will be launching our latest recruitment campaigns and we are looking at people of a really high calibre, who will undertake really valuable roles.”

Policing is an increasingly sophisticated career path and the South Yorkshire force has been engaged in the Police Now scheme for some time, offering roles to candidates hand picked for their talents and allowing them to find new ways to tackle the common problems which affect the county’s communities.

In future, officers are increasingly likely to be graduates or to start a policing career under a system which involves working to further their education as the service looks to ‘professionalise’ the job in much the same way as others in the public sector with similar responsibility levels.

“This is about more police doing more policing and doing it well, in the public interest,” said Mr Watson.

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“It is very good news because it adds significantly to the momentum of the force,” he said.

South Yorkshire Police has gone through a renaissance in the last few years, from a low point where it was ranked at the bottom of the country’s league table of police by Government inspectors, to a point where its improved service has been recognised in the last two years.

Many traditional functions had been scrapped, including neighbourhood police and local CID offices, with police horses moved out to West Yorkshire and collaborations established with other forces which provided disappointing results.

Those changes have since been unravelled with revitalised neighbourhood teams proving successful enough to reduce demand on ‘response’ colleagues who answer 999 calls.

Some of the extra officers to be recruited will be used to bolster neighbourhood teams further still, but the most recent announcement – of 92 additional staff – will help to provide the force with more firearms officers, dog handlers and specialist investigators.

Full details of how those staff will be deployed are still being worked out by senior officers and recruitment will come gradually between this year and 2022, to allow the force adequate opportunity to recruit, train and embed the new staff into the existing force.