Lancashire Police has invited officers from other forces to make a move to the county - to help the constabulary maintain an experienced workforce as it takes on hundreds of new recruits.
The region has been allocated 153 officers as part of government plans to increase numbers nationwide by 6,000 over the next twelve months. Existing local recruitment plans mean Lancashire will take on a total of 300 new frontline staff in that time.
The force also recently opened a “transferee window” to attract 50 existing officers from outside the county. Around 75 staff applied from other forces - more than half from neighbouring Greater Manchester.
The constabulary’s chief constable Andy Rhodes told a meeting of the county’s police and crime panel that the nationwide recruitment drive meant that Lancashire could be left with a “very inexperienced frontline”.
Acknowledging that it was “a nice problem to have”, he added: “To become competent [as an officer] takes years - so transferees are hot property.
“If we can bring in people who have got eight or ten years’ service - who are already detectives or firearms officers - then we’re getting people who hit the ground running.
“Nationally, 75 percent of the frontline will have had less than three years’ experience. They’re pretty good at all the digital stuff, but in terms of becoming experienced and productive, that takes some time,” Ch Con Rhodes said.
The panel heard that Lancashire Police always attracts plenty of applications when it is recruiting new officers - but only one in ten of them is successful. New roles are often filled by the county’s own police and community support officers (PCSOs) or police staff wanting to move into policing duties.
There are two routes that new recruits can follow into the force - a three-year degree apprenticeship or two-year conversion qualification for those who already have a degree. The University of Central Lancashire provides the courses which are funded by the constabulary.
New recruits spend nine months in training and then continue to combine classroom-based learning with putting their knowledge into practice on the streets. Trainees also receive a starting salary of £23,500.
A special course has recently been designed for those who want to become detectives. They will complete the usual first year of training before moving onto a separate area of study. Ch Con Rhodes said that the option was intended to prevent aspiring detectives from leaving the police disillusioned because they had to spend the first few years of their career “rolling around with drunks”.
The meeting heard that a likely best case scenario for Lancashire would be if it were allocated a total of 450 new officers over the next three years as part of the government’s medium-term plans to create 20,000 new recruits.. But that would still leave it 300 short of the 750 lost during a decade of austerity, which saw recruitment frozen completely for four years.
Ch Con Rhodes said that he was disappointed that the calculation for how many new officers the county should receive had been based on post-austerity staffing levels, which he said had widened the gap in relation to other forces.
Lancashire has been forced to cut £85m from its budget over the past ten years, because it relies more on a reduced government grant than on the money it can raise from council tax. However, Kent Constabulary - a compatible force - has seen its budget fall by £15m over the same period and has shed only a quarter of the number of officers lost by Lancashire since 2010.