Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Nearly 10% of police 'off sick'

Almost one in 10 police officers in England and Wales is on sick leave or performing limited duties, figures claim

Almost one in 10 police officers in England and Wales is on sick leave or performing limited duties, according to new figures.

Almost 9,500 are on restricted duties due to ill-health, The Times reports. A further 2,000 are on long-term sick leave and have been off work for at least one month.

The figures emerged in data obtained by The Times after it submitted Freedom of Information requests on each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

A Home Office spokesman said the responsibility for decisions about whether an officer retires on ill-health grounds or placed on restricted duties was a matter for the Chief Constable of the force concerned.

The spokesman said: "Restricted duties allows officers who are unable to undertake the full range of police duties to remain a police officer with restricted responsibilities rather than to be retired on grounds of ill-health. Recuperative duties are a temporary arrangement while officers recover from sick leave."

There are 1,902 officers on long-term sick leave in England and Wales, according to the figures. These officers receive their full salary for the first six months and then half pay for the next six months, the newspaper found.

Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Peter Smyth said: "The continued refusal of the Association of Chief Police Officers to correct misleading stories about the men and women they are supposed to lead is appalling. The latest concerns the number of officers on sick leave or restricted duties.

"Should anyone doubt that policing is a hazardous operation they need only cast their mind back to the television pictures of the violence at Millbank during the student protest, which left more than 40 officers injured. At the time, the bravery of the police earned the praise and thanks of Government ministers. The injured officers, of course, will number among those who appear in the figures for sickness and officers on restricted duties.

"There persists a widespread misunderstanding about the nature of restrictive duties which Acpo and Home Office officials refuse to correct, unless they do not understand it themselves. The term covers many scenarios - for example an officer whose hearing has been damaged may no longer be able to carry a firearm or wear a surveillance earpiece but can carry out the full duties of a frontline officer.

"Officers who should retire because of ill health are not being allowed to do so. Why? Because Acpo promoted a policy under which no more than six officers per thousand can leave the service in this way."

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