A police force which advertised for trainee PC positions at the new salary of £19,000 was forced to withdraw the ad just three hours later – after receiving 100,000 hits in the first five minutes.
Wiltshire Police is the first force in the country to launch an open recruitment drive since the Government’s spending review slashed the starting salary by £4,000.
But the wage cut did nothing to deter applicants and the force website crashed after receiving more than 200,00 website visitors in the first hour alone.
The application window was closed completely after two-and-a-half hours and staff now have to sift through a vast swathe of application forms.
But Mike White, chairman of Wiltshire Police Federation, said he feared the deluge of applications could lead to a drop in the quality of recruits.
“I think this is partly down to the current economic climate and the fact that few forces have recruited openly like this for a number of years,” he said.
“Our concerns are that there will be a knock-on effect with the quality of recruits and this may not become apparent until they have been in the job for a number of years.
“We also fear that at this level of salary we will see a drop in the number of mature applicants – those who already have families with mortgages and other commitments.
“These people have good life experience, which is an important quality in a police officer, but they may have to take a substantial salary drop to join the force.”
Wiltshire Police is looking to recruit around 25 rookie officers who are due to start work later this year and in early 2014.
Like most forces across the country, a recruitment freeze has been in place in recent years and no new staff were taken on between September 2009 to summer 2012.
The only way to apply for the new jobs was via the force website and a holding page was put in place on Wednesday, the opening day.
But minutes after the application process went ‘live’ at 4pm the site crashed due to “high volumes of traffic”.
It was back online by 4:05pm but the whole site was closed by 6.30pm after the deluge of applications.
A spokesman for the force said: “There was a five-minute delay in the recruitment tool being live due to the fact that we had over 100,000 hits in the first five minutes. However, IT managed to get it up at 4.05pm.
“In the first hour there were 282,500 hits on the website for the recruitment.
“The Wiltshire Police website temporarily had a holding page placed on it due to the high level of traffic we had been receiving.”
Applicants who succeeded in getting through to the application page had to undergo a three-stage process taking 30 minutes.
The entire application process will take around 46 weeks from the initial application stage to the date employment will commence.
Speaking ahead of the recruitment launch, Mark Levitt, the force’s resource manager, said: “We’re looking to get a pool of people – a good few dozen people – to cover vacancies that we foresee coming up over the next couple of years.
“The vacancies and the gaps that we’re getting at the moment are due to a large number of people who are reaching the end of their service, following big intakes at the end of the 70s and beginning of the 80s.
“But we’re looking for applications from right across all age groups within the community.
“In particular we’re underrepresented with minority groups and so we’ll very much welcome applicants from those groups.”