11 August 2018
The Government should be investing the millions of pounds being spent on police overtime in England and Wales employing more officers.
That’s the response of the Police Federation of England and Wales as figures reveal that more than £1.7bn has been spent on police overtime in the whole of the UK since 2013.
Reacting to data obtained by the BBC via Freedom of Information legislation, PFEW Chair John Apter, said: “These figures represent the hidden reality of the cost policing. In the last financial year alone the money that has been spent on these payments in England and Wales could have been used to fund more than 10,000 new constables.
“And when faced with the choice of working extra hours for a few more pounds in their pay packet or having another crew mate available to back them up I know which most officers would choose,” he said.
“The scale of the payments provide further evidence of the increasing disconnect between the demand officers are facing compared to the capacity they have to deal with it.
“And it must be noted that they only refer to the overtime that has been claimed. Every day thousands of officers will start their shifts early, finish late or use their rest days to catch up on work just to keep on top of their own workload; and not claim those hours back,” he continued.
Since 2009 police officer number have reduced by 22,000 – over the same period police recorded crime has increased with spikes in serious violent crime being experienced in many areas.
“Officers are increasingly expected to plug the gaps created as the service is stripped back to the bare bones,” said Mr Apter.
“Policing is a vocation – it is not a ‘nine to five’ job and if officers are in the middle of dealing with an incident they cannot just down tools and clock off the moment their shift is due to end. As such overtime is sometimes inevitable and often compulsory; but it should not be used as a crutch to prop up the service enabling it to meet ordinary day to day demand.
“It’s a false economy – they are robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said.
The stresses being faced by forces across England and Wales was highlighted by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary Tom Winsor in his latest State of Policing report where he acknowledged it is often the “get the job done” attitude of front line police officers which keeps the service from breaking point.
And the PFEW’s own Demand, Capacity and Welfare research reveals that officers are experiencing unprecedented levels of work related stress as their workloads increase exponentially. With 80 per cent of officers saying they have suffered from stress, low mood and anxiety and 92 per cent of those stating their psychological difficulties had been caused or made worse by work.
“It seems simple to me – instead of overloading already struggling officers the Government should use that money – and more – to recruit additional officers to ease the burden currently being shouldered by my members,” Mr Apter concluded.
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