Labour have warned of “a gaping hole at the heart of the Met” after new figures showed the force had 1,209 vacancies for police sergeants and constables as of May 2014.
The figures have been obtained by Joanne McCartney, the party’s policing and crime spokesperson on the London Assembly.
Ms McCartney has long been critical of changes to the way local police teams are deployed and has previously expressed concern that some boroughs and neighbourhoods will be left with insufficient numbers of officers.
According to her figures, fourteen boroughs had vacancy rates of over 6%, while vacancy rates in five boroughs were in double digits.
The highest percentage of vacancies was in Harrow which had 15% of its sergeant and constable posts unfilled. Waltham Forest had the highest overall number, with 72 vacancies from a budgeted allocation of 664 officers.
The Mayor has previously promised to keep officer numbers “at or around” 32,000.
However earlier this year a Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary report warned this may not be possible to sustain and suggested further cuts in Government grants could force the Met to reduce officer numbers after 2016.
Commenting on the new figures, Ms McCartney said: “It is an absolute scandal that police numbers have been allowed to fall this low, and these vacancies are leaving a gaping hole at the heart of the Met.
“Whilst a small churn in the number of officers is to be expected, these are deeply concerning figures. When a force has up to 15% of its positions unfilled we need to ask not only what impact that has on policing, but why it was allowed to happen in the first place.
“Either the depth of officer morale is so low they are haemorrhaging officers, or these posts are being kept open to keep costs down. Either way, the Mayor should take immediate action to ensure our police force is up to strength and vacancies are filled as quickly as possible.”
A Scotland Yard spokesperson said the situation has changed since May with around 31,200 in post by the end of August 2014, adding that the force is on track “to grow officer strength back to c. 32,000 by 2015/16.”
They commented: “The Met’s budget for this year was based on being able to afford systematically to increase officer strength during the year to our target of c. 32,000, just as we are doing.
“We did not plan for (nor could we have afforded) 32,000 officers throughout the year; so it is simply inaccurate to suggest we are running with high vacancies against our budget.
“Our training school is full of new recruits and on average a further 250 new recruits will start their training each month over the rest of this financial year.”