Devon and Cornwall Police overtime sparks fatigue fears

Police officers - generic The number of police officers has fallen from 3,500 to 3,090, Devon and Cornwall Police said

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The Devon and Cornwall Police Federation has called on the force to find a solution to the issue of officers working "excessive" hours as a result of funding cuts.

Sgt Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the federation, said some officers were working 10 to 12 days in a row.

The organisation has written to the Chief Constable to voice its concerns.

The force said officer welfare was "very important" and it was working to minimise the effect of the cuts.

Start Quote

The choice of turning it [overtime] down is pretty slim”

End Quote Sgt Nigel Rabbitts Devon and Cornwall Police Federation

It said for the first time in three years it has recommended the recruitment of new officers, but it would require a "significant" training period before they could impact on the front line.

Sgt Rabbitts said: "There's been a reduction in police officers but the demand in police services has stayed constant."

He said the federation was concerned about fatigue and saw no reduction in officer demand in the foreseeable future.

"The choice of turning it [overtime] down is pretty slim as there's no-one else to do the work," Sgt Rabbitts added.

'Olympics cover'

Devon and Cornwall Police said policing was a stressful occupation and a number of support measures were in place.

It said it had invited the Police Federation and Superintendents' Association to work with the force to ensure it had "the right numbers of officers, in the right place at the right time".

Deputy Chief Constable David Zinzan said the force had been forced to make significant savings and major changes to its ways of operating in order to maintain its level of service with less people.

"The demands on our organisation remain a challenge and it is recognised that we have used overtime as part of our resource model to meet that demand," he told BBC News.

"The last year in particular has seen officers in this force supporting the Olympics as well as the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

"All these factors mean we have been required to make use of overtime to fill gaps when needed."

Shift patterns

The deputy chief constable said officers know they may be required to work overtime, but he said it was "mainly done on a voluntary basis".

He said measures had already been put in place to reduce the need for overtime, including the recruitment of additional police community support officers (PCSOs) and special constables.

The force is also looking again at its shift patterns and organisational structures to ensure officers are in the right places during peak demand periods.

"We would like to assure our communities that we are focussing on providing appropriate levels of policing resource where it is needed." Deputy Chief Constable Zinzan added.

In June, the force said it had saved more than £18m over the past three years, made 300 redundancies and closed a number of police stations.

The number of police officers has fallen from 3,500 to 3,090.

The force is aiming to cut £51m from its £285m budget by 2015.

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