1. The Commissioner explained that Kent Police was required to find over £9million in cost savings this year, irrespective of the precept level set by the Government. There was some flexibility in setting the precept, equivalent to £1 per month for a Band D property, and this combined with the cost savings, savings made in the OPCC, and the use of some reserves gave the Chief Constable the ability to recruit up to 200 additional officers and over 80 police staff in 2018/19. The Force had seen positive results in terms of the numbers of people going through the recruitment process. The Commissioner said the Force was hopeful it would be in a position to announce the recruitment of the additional 200 officers, making a total of 400, by January 2019.
2. There had been an increase in female recruits and these now made up 38% of new officers. There had also been an increase in the number of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic recruits, but the drive continued to better reflect the population the Force served.
3. The Commissioner had worked hard to publicise the Force’s recruitment drive, holding a blue lights jobs fair and visiting diverse communities to encourage applications from all backgrounds.
4. A Member commented on the variety of activities that the Commissioner had been involved in to publicise the recruitment campaign and asked what had been most productive? The Commissioner explained that is was difficult to quantify what had worked, one individual action might have led to several different outcomes. The Commissioner considered that people appreciated the personal touch such as the blue light jobs fair which was attended by residents from all over Kent.
5. Referring to para 9 of the report, Members considered that Kent Police was not representative, particularly from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities. A Member asked how the additional officers had made a difference across Kent. The Commissioner explained that he was confident that the Diversity Inclusion Team was making progress with different groups to encourage applications from all backgrounds. The Commissioner agreed to circulate information outside the meeting relating to BAME applications vs officers appointed.
6. A Member commented that a prime area for recruitment was the military; they asked if it was possible to join the Force with visible tattoos and whether there were height restrictions and eyesight requirements? The Commissioner confirmed that it was possible to have tattoos and join, but they would be assessed and should not depict violent imagery or be where they can’t be covered up, such as on the face, neck and hands. There were no height restrictions on joining but applicants did undertake health screening and were required to pass a fitness test. The Commissioner stated that his priority was to boost policing numbers, however he was concerned over the available funding if the Government didn’t make the right choice over Police Pension payments.
7. The Commissioner commented that if changes to police recruitment required all applicants to have a degree it would limit opportunities for developing a diverse workforce and certainly have hampered the Force’s recruitment this year. Policing has changed, and with emerging challenges such as cybercrime there was a need to have a balanced workforce.
8. One Member asked for further information about where the additional resources were to be placed? The Commissioner explained that some of the additional officers were to be placed in the rural policing team and some in the Roads Policing Unit (an additional 7 to their current 91). Recruitment was currently open for a new Crime Squad to deal with volume and serious crime and also Sexual Offences Liaison Officers. Over half of new recruits were being placed in local policing roles, including Response, Community Policing and Vulnerability Investigation Teams.
9. A Member asked about the timeline from application to initial deployment and also the cost of the recruitment process. The Commissioner explained that the team had been looking at ways to speed up the recruitment process and it now took approximately four months for an individual to start with the Force. Officers spent 19 weeks at Kent Police College, 10 weeks on Division for investigatory training, and were then deployed. The length of the application process had been halved but there was a standard training programme before officers went out on the streets.
10. In response to a question the Commissioner said he would report back to Members on the costs of the recruitment process. The drop out rate of applicants was low.
RESOLVED that the Commissioners progress report on recruitment of additional police officers be noted.