POLICE chiefs have outlined how they will bolster officer numbers over rest of the year to meet government targets.

Hampshire Constabulary still needs to recruit a total of 171 frontline police officers by January 2021 to comply with a national effort to increase the number of officers, set out in September 2019.

The force's headcount of officers stood at 2,776 at the end of March this year, provisional data from the Home Office shows, which is an increase of 68 from last year.

While Hampshire Constabulary have had space since September to employ 2,791, this number hasn't been reached due to officers either retiring or leaving the positions.

But now, police chiefs have pledged that a further 171 officers will be recruited by January 2021, to ensure the government quota is achieved, which will be made up of 15 officers to fill the positions of those who have left, and a further 156 new recruits.

Assistant Chief Constable Craig Dibdin said: “Our recruitment plans are going well, with eighteen new officers starting training in April and the same number scheduled for May.

“We are both replacing officers that leave and bringing in 156 extra officers under the national uplift project. All 156 of these will have started their training by January 2021.

“The biggest increase in these numbers will come from September 2020 with a new approach allowing for larger intakes of officers each month. It is important though to be realistic about the timeframe for training all of these officers, which extends into 2021.”

This forms part of the first update on the Government’s national commitment to bolster frontline policing across England and Wales with 20,000 additional officers by March 2023.

Figures show 3,005 recruits joined up across all 43 forces in the first half-year of the uplift programme, putting them on course to meet the collective goal of 6,000 by March next year.

Across all forces, the headcount stood at 131,596 – a 5% increase on March last year, about half of which was accounted for by the hiring scheme.

It is understood many of the new recruits are already out patrolling the streets, either as part of their training or having completed the course.

Chairman of the National Police Chiefs Council Martin Hewitt, said his organisation was working with the Home Office to keep recruitment going despite the challenges posed by the pandemic.

He said: “Our new recruits have joined at an extraordinary time for us all, in the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency, where on top of their core duties they are supporting a national effort to help doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers to fight this virus and save lives.

“Their recruitment – and that of future recruits – will enable us to provide an even better service to the public and reduce crime.”