Thousands of successful police applicants are waiting to start their jobs as forces implement recruitment freezes, it has emerged.
The Metropolitan Police – the UK’s largest police force – has forced 2,000 applicants to go onto a waiting list as it has implemented a recruitment freeze, the Independent has reported.
West Midlands Police said it had 240 police officer applicants who had passed all stages of the recruitment process and were waiting for a job, while a further 500 were currently being assessed. And in Gloucestershire, nearly 100 candidates who were successful at the first stage of the 2009 recruitment process have since been told that their applications have been deferred until 2011.
The news comes just weeks after Lincolnshire Police force received 1,500 application forms to join as a police officer in just two hours. Senior recruitment officer David Freeman put the application boom down to it being the only force in the country actively recruiting.
A spokesman for the 33,000-strong Met said it was considering what to do with its applicants, who are yet to undergo police training.
He said: “We have around 2,000 candidates in the system waiting for a start date. This is due to a number of very successful recruitment campaigns last year, coupled with far fewer officers leaving than expected, largely due to the current economic position.
“This has left us with more candidates than vacancies, which is not what we predicted when we embarked on our campaign,” he added.
Metin Enver, a spokesman for the Police Federation, which represents officers across the UK, said the figures were “regrettable, but not at all surprising”.
“We have been saying for some time that the recession would impact upon police officer numbers and this is the start of it,” he said. “But it is about money, and the police service will lose out on quality candidates if people are told there is a 12 or 18-month wait before they are taken on.
“The embarrassing thing is that these are people who have started the process and have been accepted, and then the goalposts have been moved.”
Other forces with waiting lists include Cleveland Police, which has 102 successful recruits waiting to be placed, but a spokesman said this was normal and not due to economic constraints. Leicestershire has told 51 recruits they will not be allowed to start training for at least a year, while Cumbria has 59 recruits on a waiting list.
Other forces, including Greater Manchester Police, announced a complete recruitment freeze from April this year.
However, Avon and Somerset Constabulary said it continued to have vacancies and that it was a possibility that those told to defer their applications by other forces may apply to them instead.
The news comes as police leaders meet to discuss cost-cutting measures – all 43 forces in England and Wales are expected to find total savings of £545m by 2014.