THE chief constable of Dyfed-Powys Police has set out how police officer numbers are calculated as a spat between a Carmarthenshire politician and the force’s commissioner continues.
Mark Collins, and commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, said comparing officer numbers over a decade did not reflect significant changes undertaken by the force.
They were responding to Carmarthenshire’s Labour group leader, Cllr Rob James, who said the number of officers based in the county was down from 356 in 2008 to 208 in 2018.
He said the Freedom of Information response from the force also showed officer numbers were down in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire by a similar proportion, but the response noted that the force’s structure had changed and that the figures were not comparable.
Cllr James, though, said there were now fewer bobbies on the beat from county to county – and claimed that the Plaid Cymru commissioner was “failing in his duty to protect our communities”.
Cllr James said: “These figures that show a dramatic decrease in police numbers are extremely worrying and reinforce what communities are saying across Dyfed Powys – there are simply not enough police officers in our areas.”
He said urgent action was needed, and claimed “there was little evidence that our commissioner has grasped the nettle over the last three years in tackling this important issue”.
Mr Llywelyn said comparisons were not valid because some divisional-based officers, like roads policing and CID, were now recorded centrally.
The commissioner said police staff numbers had risen by 4% since he began his post in 2016.
“I have ploughed funding into dedicated teams to support frontline officers and have invested in resources to support the most vulnerable in our communities,” said Mr Llywelyn.
“I will not be held to account by numbers on paper alone, but by the difference I am able to make to individuals’ quality of life.”
Mr Collins said police officer numbers across the force’s four counties were 1,219 in 2009 and 1,163 this year. The total headcount, including backroom staff and community support officers was 2,054 a decade ago and 2,032 now.
Referring to the structural changes, such as recategorising roads policing officers, he said: “These officers did not physically leave the area within which they were originally based, but no longer appear in data specific to a county.
“To compare data over a 10-year period, also suggests policing operates in a static world. It doesn’t.”
The chief constable added: “Crime no longer happens only on our streets and our policing structure has adapted to reflect this.
“Crime happens behind closed doors between individuals known to each other and it happens online between people who have never met in person.”
Mr Collins said the force had to factor in these issues and that taking “a very simplistic view of numbers on paper” downplayed the public’s expectations of their police service.