When I joined the job, the country had something like 115,000 police officers. That’s something like about 1 officer per 486 people.
In those days I worked in an area which had 4 police stations.
During that time, all 4 police stations were open to the public. Three of them for 24 hours, the 4th closing at midnight. They all had a police officer on the desk available to speak to any member of the public who called in.
Each police station had its own shift of officers. They started & ended their tour of duty at that nick.
We had the following resources:
Nick 1: 7-8 officers on the shift, 1 sgt, 1 area car, 2-3 panda cars (manpower x4 to cover the 4 shifts)
Nick 2: 6 officers, 1 sgt, 1 area car, 2 panda cars (manpower x4 to cover the 4 shifts)
Nick 3: 2 officers, 1 car (manpower x4 to cover the 4 shifts but 1x sgt covered all 4 shifts)
Nick 4: 3-4 officers, 1 area car (didn’t work night shift), 1 panda car, 1 sgt. Night shift area car coverage via Nick 3. (manpower x4 to cover the 4 shifts but 1x sgt covered all 4 shifts)
In addition, each shift had an inspector who covered all 4 nicks (that’s 4 inspectors) there was a rural car at nicks ,2 & 4 covering 7am to midnight. We usually had foot patrols in at least 2 of the 4 town centres. Most of the surrounding villages had a beat bobby and the estates in the towns had neighbourhood officers.
Three of the 4 nicks had custody suites, although we weren’t so touchy-feely in those days; they were called ‘cell blocks’.
Fast forward to 2006.
As the government is so keen on repeating, we have the highest number of police officers now than at any time in the history of the world; some 140,000. That works out at about 1 officer per 428 population.
So that’s an additional 25,000 officers to the time I joined.
Naturally you’d expect the figures related above to have been boosted somewhat. Nothing could be further from the truth.
None of the 4 police stations has a police officer on the front desk. Indeed only 1 of them is open to the public for any significant period of the day and that closes at 10pm. Two may be open for a couple of hours if sufficient civilian staff are around, and even then they have to call a police officer in to take reports of stuff they are not allowed to deal with. One of them is not open to the public at all.
None of the 4 nicks has a custody suite (well, not strictly true as 3 of them still have a cell block, they are just not used). Prisoners from all 4 areas have to travel to the neighbouring sub-division to share their custody suite. (no wonder there are never free cells on a weekend night shift).
Two of the 4 stations no longer have a front-line shift based there. 3 of them are covered from nick 1.
Nick 1: 5-6 officers, 1 sgt, 1 area car and 2 or if lucky 3 cars which must cover nicks 2 & 3 between them.
Nick 2: 0 officers, 0 patrol cars.
Nick 3: 0 officers, 0 patrol cars.
Nick 4: 2 officers, 1 area car.
In addition there is 1 rural car for the whole area (sometimes). There are no village bobbies. There is a community teams which equates to the old neighbourhood officers but they don’t deal with most of the stuff the front-line officers have to. There is 1 inspector per division so the 4 nicks here share the inspector with the neighbouring subdivision. There is no foot patrol coverage except when the community team are in the town.
On a night shift after 2am there is 1 double-crewed car covering nicks 1, 2 & 3 and 1 double-crewed car covering nick 4, that’s 4 officers for the whole subdivision plus a sgt.
The public have never had it so good.