Police numbers 'lowest for 9 years'
The number of police officers under the age of 26 has fallen by almost half in two years, it has been reported.
The 9,088 young officers working in England and Wales in 2009-2010 dropped to 4,758 in 2011-2012.
The sharpest drops of nearly two-thirds were reported by police forces in Cleveland, North Wales and Staffordshire, according to figures obtained by a Freedom of Information request by BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend.
In 2012 overall policing numbers hit their lowest in nine years, with around 10,000 fewer police officers than two years ago, following budget cuts which have slowed recruitment.
The largest decrease over the period was of 74% in Cleveland.
A spokesman for the force explained that its recruitment freeze would 'inevitably' impact on its share of officers in the lower age bracket, from which it mainly recruits.
"The reason for the change in the age profile of our officers is pretty simple," a spokesman for police and crime commissioner Barry Coppinger told the BBC.
"It is because we have not recruited officers for the past three years - a direct consequence of the funding reductions imposed through the Comprehensive Spending Review.
"In the past we have tended to recruit people between 21 and 25, so the recruitment freeze will inevitably have reduced the share of officers at the lower age bracket."
He added that the trend is likely to continue until it has the money to begin recruiting again.