Cleveland Police has one officer for every 450 people - seventh highest in country

Chief Constable Mike Veale. Picture: Rod Minchin/PA Wire
Chief Constable Mike Veale. Picture: Rod Minchin/PA Wire

Cleveland Police has one of the highest ratios of officers to population in the country despite concerns over cuts, it has been claimed.

Cleveland Police Chief Constable Mike Veale said on Friday that despite having "brilliant people doing a brilliant job" there were not enough officers to tackle crime because cuts were "too deep" and had gone on for too long.

Chief Constable Mike Veale.

Chief Constable Mike Veale.

But analysis by the Press Association found Cleveland has one full-time officer for every 450 people in its 566,000 population.

Neighbouring forces Durham and North Yorkshire had the equivalent of 552 and 607 people per officer respectively.

Cleveland has the seventh-best ratio in the country of full-time officers to people.

Wiltshire Police, where Mr Veale previously served as chief constable before joining Cleveland in April, was at the bottom of the list with one officer to every 721 people.

Darren Price.

Darren Price.

The analysis used Home Office data on full-time officers at every police force and compared it to Office for National Statistics population estimates from mid-2017.

Chief Constable Mike Veale said: “As a police officer of 34 years’ experience I can talk with some authority on the challenges we face. I have policed in rural areas and urban, in deprived areas and affluent, and I can say with authority that, to be frank, I do not have any time for those that use figures but do not understand them.

“Comparing police numbers and funding per head of the population is ridiculous and I’m afraid demonstrates a complete and very worrying lack of knowledge and understanding of how the police service actually works. It’s the equivalent of comparing medical spending between areas with younger and older populations, of course spending will be different; there are different challenges and demands. Those who rely on such figures either do not understand the challenges we face or are more concerned about spin than real people and real lives.

“To meet the needs of our communities we need an end to cuts and an increase in spending.”

Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland.

Barry Coppinger, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland.

Mr Veale said his force did not have enough staff and resources to protect communities and called on the Government to "give us the tools and we will do the job".

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, Barry Coppinger has called on the Government to take notice after funding to Cleveland Police has been cut by £39million (36%) in real terms over the past seven years, resulting in the loss of over 500 police officers and 50 police community support officers.

The chief constable was speaking after the Mail reported that volunteers in the Foggy Furze area of Hartlepool said they have no option but to take to the streets in the middle of the night following cuts to police in the town.

Almost every night, a handful of residents walk around the ward keeping an eye on homes, businesses and vehicles to try to ward off crooks.

Resident Darren Price came up with the idea of running patrols in his community after reported increases in crime in the area.

It comes as a BBC report revealed there were no police officers in Hartlepool to respond to emergencies at one point on a Saturday night due to all those on duty deployed elsewhere including having to transport suspects to Middlesbrough.

Cleveland Police has launched a consultation on plans to close the Custody Suite at Hartlepool Police Station and transport suspects to be questioned in Middlesbrough when they are arrested.

Mr Veale added: "These are complex issues and while simply crying 'austerity' is not good enough, no one in policing today can claim it isn't a factor.

"I would not be exhibiting the courage that my officers and staff deserve if I continue to say we have enough resources, if I continue with this commentary that things in policing are OK.

"They are not OK. The cuts created and caused by austerity are too deep and have gone on for too long.

"We have brilliant people doing a brilliant job but we do not have enough of them and the facts speak for themselves."

Shadow policing minister Louise Haigh told the Press Association that communities were being left unprotected because the Government has cut police forces for the last eight years in a row.

She said: "With police numbers at record lows it's little wonder that were seeing violent and sexual crimes soaring year on year whilst conviction rates plummet.

"This is the only Government in modern history that has cut officer numbers every year it has been in office and the crime we are now seeing is on their heads."

A Home Office spokesman said decisions about how police deploy their resources, including the size of the workforce, were operational matters for their chief constables.

But Giles York, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead on workforce, stressed that a force's effectiveness cannot be measured on officer numbers alone.

The Sussex Police Chief Constable said that while police forces are providing good services, policing was "significantly overstretched" and needed greater investment.

Mr York added: "Effectiveness of forces can't be measured on officer numbers alone. It is the service we deliver that matters to the public.

"The latest inspection of police forces in England and Wales found that this was good. But it also highlighted that forces have less money than before and are under strain as they deal with rising crime, demand that is more complex and an unprecedented terror threat with fewer officers.

"Some chief constables have already made it clear that police can only prioritise their resources against the greatest harm."

The Police Federation of England and Wales' vice-chair Che Donald said officers were having to do "more and more with less and less" due to funding cuts since 2010.

He added: "Forces are facing increasingly limited resources and tough decisions have to be made about what is prioritised. It is unrealistic for the Government to think this is sustainable.

"Even the Home Affairs Select Committee has backed us in calling for an urgent injection of funds into the police service - or face 'dire consequences'."