WEST Mercia Police says it has met its target to recruit new officers by April as part of the government's national recruitment drive.

Despite the challenges that Covid-19 has presented police forces, the government is still ahead of schedule to bring in the promised 20,000 more officers by 2023.

With an aim of attracting 6,000 new recruits in England and Wales by April 2021, figures released recently show that the total uplift nationally is already 6,620.

Out of this figure, West Mercia Police has recruited 93 officers in year one, which means that the force has met its target for 2020/21. West Mercia Police now has 2298 officers, the highest level in a decade.

The force's latest intake of 20 Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) student officers joined on January 25, with the next intake of 40 Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP) student officers – 16 of these on the brand new Detective Constable DHEP route – joining on March 15.

Meanwhile, representation of officers from ethnic minority backgrounds has risen to over 2.7 per cent, the highest level the force has ever seen.

Similarly, the proportion of female officers now stands at an all-time high of 32.6 per cent.

This is a significant increase of 11.56 per cent of women police officers across all ranks over the past year.

The allocation of new officers for the next financial year is 91, with 40 of these to be student officers joining through the PCDA or DHEP routes, posted on patrol and deployed to Shrewsbury, Telford, Hereford, Worcester, Kidderminster and Redditch.

Meanwhile, 13 officers will join Safer Neighbourhood Teams and 17 detectives will be posted to Herefordshire, Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Worcestershire, as well as the force's headquarters at Hindlip Hall.

Rachel Hartland Lane, director of business services at West Mercia Police, said the recruitment drive was a 'once in a generation' chance to increase the diversity of the force.

"The national uplift campaign has given us a once in a generation opportunity to improve diversity in policing, as well as contributing to our highest number of officers since 2010," she said.

"We are now a more representative force than ever before, but we still have a way to go to be truly reflective of the people we serve.

"We have an aspiration to see approximately 5 per cent ethnic minority representation among our officers by 2025, and of course, in order to truly be representative of our communities, the proportion of female officers needs to nudge upwards to 50 per cent.

"While we are currently closed for recruitment for student officers, this will change as we head towards the spring, giving us the perfect opportunity to further increase our representation via our new officers through our different entry routes."

Meanwhile Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, added: "The communities of West Mercia have made it clear that visible policing is one of their top priorities, and I am delighted that the force has achieved its target for the recruitment of new officers in 2020/21.

"I have also promised an additional 91 officers through my 2021/22 budget to fight crime and further improve police visibility and accessibility.

"This uplift of 91 officers, through my budget, equates to 399 additional officers since May 2016.

"Importantly, the figures also indicate that the recruitment programme has increased the number of female and ethnic minority officers, which will have the positive effect of ensuring that the force more accurately reflects the communities it serves.

"This, in turn, will further improve the trust our communities have in its police force."