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Police numbers 'at record high'

9 June 09 10:57 GMT

The number of police officers in Scotland has reached a new record high, according to official statistics.

The country's chief statistician said police strength stood at 17,048, an increase of 373 on the previous quarter and a rise of 814 since March 2007.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said it was the first time that Scotland had more than 17,000 police officers.

He said the figures showed the Scottish Government was set to reach its target of 1,000 extra police officers by 2011.

The latest quarterly increase included 17 new officers in the Tayside force, 25 in Northern, 30 in Grampian, 37 in Lothian and Borders, two in Dumfries and Galloway and 249 in Strathclyde.

Mr MacAskill said: "For the first time on record there are now more than 17,000 police officers in Scotland, serving our communities and policing our streets.

"With increases in all eight forces, we are delivering a more visible policing presence, deterring crime and reassuring our citizens.

"As the recent police projection study made clear, we will meet our commitment to recruit 1,000 additional officers and by March 2011 the number of officers in post is expected to be at least 1,000 more compared to 31 March 2007.

"These latest figures show we are well on course to meet that commitment."

Mr MacAskill said the continuing increase was partly the result of the the direct recruitment of new officers, over and above the recruitment plans of individual forces.

Feel safer

He added: "Our chief constables should be congratulated for redeploying their officers and delivering more police on our streets as this government delivers record numbers to our police forces."

The Scottish Government announced in January 2008 that it would make an additional £40m available for policing over the following three years, in addition to an extra £54m announced in November 2007.

Opposition parties have previously cast doubt on the government's ability to deliver an additional 1,000 officers by March 2011.

Labour's justice spokesman Richard Baker welcomed the latest figures, but warned that local authority police boards may not be able to continue funding so many officers next year.

Robert Brown, the Liberal Democrat justice spokesman, said the test would be whether the extra officers made people feel safer in their communities.

The Scottish Conservatives claimed credit for the rise in police numbers, with spokesman Bill Aitken saying: "Every single police officer above 500 extra is as a direct result of our pressure on the Scottish Government in the 2008 and 2009 budgets."

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