Birmingham & Black Country

West Midlands police officers discuss forced retirement

"I absolutely love it... In two days' time I won't be able to do it any more."

Pc Ian Rees is being forced to retire under a regulation known as A19, being used to make officers with 30 years' experience or more go early.

West Midlands Police Authority has said it expected in the region of 300 officers up to the rank of Chief Superintendent would be retired under the regulation at the end of the current financial year.

The 55-year-old has spent 20 of his 34 years' service at the roads policing department on the motorways, and he was one of five West Midlands officers affected to address the media earlier.

'Poor cousin'

"It's not just a job. I mean it is a job, but it's a vocation as well," he said.

"It's something that I've always wanted to do...

"We lose, as we are going to, six people from the Central Motorway Police Group - the impact is going to be massive...

"You have a knock-on effect there with the number of patrols that you're going to have on the roads...

"There are about 40 officers, 45 officers... the priority will be seen to be the local policing units.

"Roads policing will be seen as the poor cousin of that."

Image caption Pc Ian Rees said he did not want to go

More than 2,000 of the country's most experienced police officers could be forced to retire by 2015 as forces try to cut costs, according to Labour.

Fully sworn police officers are servants of the Crown, not employees, so they cannot be made redundant under existing laws, but officers with 30 or more years' experience can be made to retire.

Ministers have said savings can be made without affecting front-line policing.

Det Con Tony Fisher, 50, has worked for CID in Stechford, Birmingham, and specialised in robbery from street crime to serious organised crime.

He said: "I'm not complaining about me. There are plenty of other people in lesser positions and struggle more than me. It's actually seeing what's happening to the police...

"I use the analogy, West Midlands Police are being a bit like the Villa [Aston Villa FC], going down and very quickly...

"You can even see now the front-line policing is affected, burglary detection rates, robbery detection rates are down, robberies and burglaries are going up and to be honest it's been quite soul destroying to see these changes."

Insp Mark Stokes, a specialist in crime reduction, who is finishing after 33 years' service, said: "I remember being on the picket lines during the miners' strike and feeling the same degree of empathy for guys there who are losing their jobs.

"Now it's our turn to feel that same kind of pain."

Det Con Tim Kennedy, who is being forced to retire after 31 years, said: "I don't think I'm past my sell-by date...

"It is a young man's job in some respects, but of course the older you get, the more experience, the wiser and the more professional you become."

In a statement, West Midlands Police said: "Contrary to some views, the loss of 649 officers and their combined experience over the next four years does not mean service and protection to communities will suffer.

"A huge proportion of these officers would have retired in any event."

It said the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) made "it necessary for West Midlands Police to save £126m over the next four years".

'Significant plans'

The force said: "As with other similar forces up and down the country our biggest overhead is staff and their wages so, whilst being a really tough decision to make, it was inevitable that cuts would have to be made."

It said "after careful consideration" the decision was taken some time ago to implement A19, "acknowledging that without doing so the challenges presented by the CSR could not be met".

The force added that it had "significant plans" in place to manage the departure of the 649 officers, saying "succession planning is part of core business".

Earlier, a spokesman said the number of officers affected by the rule was relatively small, 649 - out of a force of 8,500 officers - over four years.

Chairman of West Midlands Police Federation Andy Gilbert said it thought it was time for a royal commission.

He said: "If we don't have one, then there might not be a police force left in a few years...

"I think we need to decide what do you want the police to do and how do you want them to do it?"

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