Agenda item


Purpose of this report: to provide an update on Surrey Police’s delivery of the Government Police Officer uplift programme and wider commentary on key workforce planning issues.



Lisa Townsend, Police and Crime Commissioner

Damian Markland, Head of Performance and Governance, Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

Key points raised during the discussion:

  1. The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) explained that Surrey was on target to meet its Officer uplift target and now had more police officers than at any other time in its history. A panel member asked whether BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic group) targets were met during the uplift recruitment programme. 40.2% of officers recruited were female and 6.5% from a Black, Asian, Mixed or Other background. The Commissioner said that she was broadly content that the Force reflected local ethnic demographics although an exact mirroring was preferable. Statistics provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that 14.5 % of Surrey’s population was BAME. On female representation the Commissioner reported being very pleased. Surrey was one of the most equal Forces in the country in terms of male/female representation.


  1. A member asked about the attrition rates for women and ethnic minorities. The Commissioner assured the Panel that strong governance arrangements were in place to monitor and oversee attrition and workforce development. Officers from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) were fully represented on relevant boards including on the equality and diversity inclusion board. OPCC had were working on an equality framework for its staff and were actively involved in the development of the Force’s race action plan. The Chairman asked for a fuller answer to be provided in writing. (Action i)


  1. A member asked about the financial penalties that would be incurred if officer numbers slipped below the stated threshold (2,253). Was the Commissioner worried that this threshold might be reached? The Commissioner responded that this was not a concern. The Force projection was for uplift milestones to be met for September and March 2023/24. Options for an additional entry route in January were being assessed in case further recruitment became necessary to address attrition.


  1. The PCC was asked about attrition amongst probationers.  The report showed probationer attrition rate standing at 32%.  This was a clear issue. The Commissioner explained that it was a problem faced by all Forces. Surrey was working hard to understand why officers leave. The Commissioner highlighted governance arrangements in place to monitor attrition including through the Capacity Capability and Performance board, Strategic Resource Management meetings and regular Joint Force Retention reviews. A number of changes had been implemented to ease the pressure on student officers including improved study guidance, changes to the timing of knowledge assessments and a reduction in volume. The programme structure had been redesigned with improved guidance and better oversight of the protected learning days. It was important supervisors were appropriately informed to support their student staff. The OPCC continues to monitor progress in this area closely.


  1. A member questioned detective capacity and the 30% attrition rate for Police Now Detective Probationers.  The Commissioner explained that the Force had undertaken a review into the Police Now programme to understand the challenges. The main findings were that it teaches policing in a generic not Surrey-specific way which can make the transition into Surrey more difficult than the other in-house entry routes. In addition Police Now students were not entitled to protected learning time. This made the additional demands of the programme particularly challenging for those with caring responsibilities or a family. Police Now was no longer central to Surrey Force recruitment.


  1. A member asked about Contact Centre capability. The Commissioner explained that the centre was now up to full numbers and that the Force was ‘overrecruiting’ in this area. A small capability gap remained while staff were being trained but did not impact on the rest of the service. Recruiting and retaining Contact Centre staff was a top priority and the Force had done an excellent job improving this situation.


  1. The PCC was asked about the reasons cited for leaving by officers in exit surveys.  The Commissioner explained that the key reasons were salary, pressures of university work, time off being cancelled or not approved, night/weekend shifts and the effect on family life. Being a police officer requires a significant degree of service and dedication and some find the demands and pressures of the job are not for them. The Force initiates conversations early on with those thinking of leaving to find out why and to support them to stay where possible. A member emphasised the importance of alleviating the issues outlined and addressing the reasons given for leaving in order to retain as many members of the Force as possible.  The importance of making expectations clear to new joiners during recruitment was highlighted. They should be aware at the outset what policing involves. It is a 24/7 service so there will always be a requirement to work unsociable hours.


  1. A member noted that the strength figure for police officers was significantly higher than for police staff (99.8% Vs 88.98%) and asked which area of staff vacancies caused the most impact or concern. The Head of Performance and Governance explained that the force control room and contact centre were the biggest issue in terms of staff vacancies. Many checks and measures had been implemented to keep staff in post and reduce attrition.  The other pressure point was around technical skills, IT and fleet management. It was easy for those with IT skills to earn considerably more in the private sector. The Head of Performance emphasised that staff were intrinsic to frontline operations in many areas including in relation to online paedophilia and that it was important not to draw too much of a distinction between officers and staff.


  1. A member noted the response provided in writing to a panel member regarding numbers of Surrey police officers currently suspended or on restricted duties and questioned why, unlike the Met police, Surrey would not publish these figures. The Commissioner responded that the threshold to instigate an investigation was low and ultimately many cases were deemed not to require further action or found not to warrant formal misconduct proceedings. Providing statistics on pending cases could potentially mislead the public regarding the size and scale of inappropriate behaviour within the force with a corresponding and undue impact on public confidence. A member questioned whether a breakdown of the reasons for suspension could be provided if not the numbers.  The Commissioner maintained that this was not possible.


  1.  The Commissioner was asked about plans to make it easier for Chief Constables to sack rogue officers and what impact this would have.  The Commissioner thought that Chief Constables should be able to remove officers where they were not suitable but noted that the work undertaken by legally qualified Chairs to oversee Police Appeals Tribunals was also incredibly important. A balance should be struck.


  1. A member asked about the proportion of the Force not fully operational due to ongoing training. How long would it take for a normal recruit to get to the stage of being fully operational? The Commissioner explained that training happened throughout an officer’s career through continuous learning, training and updating skills. There was not a clear transition point from partly to fully operational.


RESOLVED: The Panel noted the report.


Actions/Further information requested:

i)              OPCC to respond in writing to Cllr Kennedy’s question regarding attrition rates for women and ethnic minorities.


Supporting documents: