Police forces have hired more than 6,000 officers in the first year of the Government’s recruitment drive to sign up 20,000 by 2023.
The overall provisional headcount of officers in England and Wales is now 135,248, according to Home Office figures to the end of December.
This includes 6,620 hired as part of the 20,000 pledge, a quarterly report on the progress of the scheme said, suggesting the recruitment campaign has exceeded its first-year target of 6,000 by March 2021.
So far, 121,016 applications to become a police officer have been received since the campaign was launched in October 2019.
Data gathered since April indicates 40% of new recruits are women and around 10% – of those who stated their ethnicity – were from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.
Online assessment centres were set up amid the coronavirus pandemic, in a bid to keep the recruitment drive on track when face-to-face meetings had to stop as buildings shut.
The new recruits are in addition to those filling existing vacancies or joining police forces as a result of other job adverts – taking the total number of new officers who joined the 43 forces in England and Wales between November 2019 and December last year to 14,585.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said she was “delighted” the first-year target had been exceeded.
Boris Johnson vowed to swell the police service to more than 140,000 officers by mid-2022 as part of his bid to become Prime Minister.
Officer numbers in England and Wales fell by more than 20,000 between 2009 and 2018.
When the recruitment drive was announced, some police chiefs called on the Government to make sure the 43 forces in England and Wales received their fair share of resources.
The forces with the highest recruitment target for the first year are the Metropolitan Police (1,369), West Midlands (366) and Greater Manchester (347).
Those to receive the lowest numbers of new recruits this financial year are Warwickshire (41), Dyfed-Powys (42) and City of London (44).
The Government is using headcount figures to measure the number of police officers now being hired, saying this is the “most appropriate way” to track recruitment rather than looking at figures for full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, because new recruits tend to start their career on a full-time basis.
Quarterly police workforce figures, also published on Thursday, said the number of FTE officers was 132,467 at the end of September, up almost 3% since March.
The total FTE workforce of officers, staff and PCSOs was 216,155, up by more than 5% on the previous year.
At the end of March officer headcount was 131,576, according to the latest available data.