PO­LICE ‘CRI­SIS‘ AS REST DAYS RACKED UP

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - WILL HAY­WARD, RYAN HOOPER and IS­ABEL TOGOH news­desk@waleson­line.co.uk

POLIC­ING in Wales has been la­belled “in cri­sis” af­ter tens of thou­sands of rest days for of­fi­cers were can­celled due to staffing short­ages.

Of­fi­cers at South Wales Po­lice cur­rently have 16,613 out­stand­ing rest days with a fur­ther 19,244 al­ready can­celled. In to­tal 35,857 rest days have not been taken.

Split among the 2,962 of­fi­cers in the force, it adds up to 12.5 missed days per of­fi­cer. And fig­ures do not in­clude pub­lic hol­i­days or oc­ca­sions when of­fi­cers were on call.

The sit­u­a­tion is not much bet­ter in north Wales. North Wales Po­lice owed 65,436 hours or the equiv­a­lent of 6,543.5 rest days based on an av­er­age of a 10-hour day. Split across the force’s 979 of­fi­cers, it works out at over 6.5 days per of­fi­cer.

The fig­ures come from a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest from the Press As­so­ci­a­tion.

Gwent and Dyfed Powys Po­lice re­fused to give the fig­ures.

Calum MacLeod, chair­man of the Po­lice Fed­er­a­tion in Eng­land and Wales, said can­celling rest days – the equiv­a­lent of a week­end off dur­ing a work­ing week – was hav­ing a wor­ry­ing im­pact on morale, men­tal and phys­i­cal health, and ef­fi­ciency.

Across Eng­land and Wales, al­most a quar­ter of a mil­lion rest days are owed to 70,000 po­lice of­fi­cers.

A typ­i­cal full-time of­fi­cer would ex­pect to have around nine rest days in a stan­dard month, al­though some forces said of­fi­cers could be paid in­stead of re­ceiv­ing the time back.

Mr MacLeod said: “I think this paints a pic­ture of what polic­ing is like in Eng­land and Wales at this time – polic­ing is in cri­sis.

“We do not have the re­sources at the mo­ment to meet the de­mands of the pub­lic – whether that be in an event, a ter­ror­ist in­ci­dent, or whether that be from a po­lice of­fi­cer’s per­spec­tive of ac­tu­ally achiev­ing their rest days.

“It’s re­ally im­por­tant that any­body has rest be­tween their shift pat­terns, be­cause if that isn’t hap­pen­ing, what you tend to find is peo­ple get­ting fa­tigued very eas­ily. If that isn’t hap­pen­ing and rest days are be­ing banked, it’s a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion for the pub­lic, it’s a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion for polic­ing and it needs to be ad­dressed.

“The Gov­ern­ment needs to take this sit­u­a­tion se­ri­ously be­cause it’s quite clear the model is not work­ing. Of­fi­cers put their lives on the line for the pub­lic day af­ter day.

“They need to lis­ten, they need to lis­ten quickly, be­cause if they don’t we are on the brink of dis­as­ter.”

Ac­cord­ing to best prac­tice, po­lice forces should re-rota rest days when they are can­celled.

Chief Con­sta­ble Richard Lewis of South Wales Po­lice said: “Last year, South Wales Po­lice were re­spon­si­ble for polic­ing the world’s big­gest sport­ing event, the Champions League Fi­nal, which was held in Cardiff and there­fore had ma­jor ram­i­fi­ca­tions for of­fi­cers’ rest days in South Wales Po­lice.

“In ad­di­tion to this, our of­fi­cers’ rest days were also duly af­fected by the height­ened ter­ror alert in 2017, which was raised na­tion­ally to crit­i­cal, and the other many sport­ing and ma­jor events that our two cap­i­tal cities at­tract, Cardiff and Swansea, plus ad­di­tional spon­ta­neous and planned events held across the force area.

“Can­celled rest days oc­cur in or­der to en­able the op­er­a­tional ef­fec­tive­ness to chang­ing de­mands on the po­lice.

“For our po­lice force, we are of­ten polic­ing events that are Welsh na­tional events such as the Six Na­tions or we are polic­ing events that are UK events, such as the re­cent Joshua box­ing fight.”

He added: “More than ever, we are mind­ful of po­lice of­fi­cer welfare and health and well­be­ing is on the top of our agenda.

“Of­fi­cer num­bers have dra­mat­i­cally re­duced over the last seven years and so more pres­sure is on a smaller pool of of­fi­cers that we can draw from. Re­silience is down and de­mand is up.

“The range and num­ber of events that oc­cur across our po­lice force is vast and hap­pen­ing most week­ends. This makes it dif­fi­cult to re­al­lo­cate rest days im­me­di­ately and we haven’t got the money to pay over­time to of­fi­cers ei­ther.”

The fig­ures com­pound Home Of­fice data re­leased last sum­mer which re­vealed there were 123,142 of­fi­cers of all ranks in Eng­land and Wales at the end of March last year, which the re­port said was thought to be the low­est num­ber since 1985.

Home Sec­re­tary Am­ber Rudd later told po­lice lead­ers to fo­cus on cut­ting crime in­stead of lob­by­ing the Gov­ern­ment for more money.

Mr MacLeod said: “We do not have the re­source to en­gage with the pub­lic, all we’re do­ing is fire­fight­ing, go­ing from one call to the next call, deal­ing with one cri­sis af­ter an­other.

“That can­not con­tinue. If we can­not en­gage with the pub­lic and gain in­tel­li­gence from them, our polic­ing model fails in this coun­try.”

A Home Of­fice spokesman said: “Polic­ing, by its na­ture, can be a very chal­leng­ing and de­mand­ing job and it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of chief of­fi­cers – sup­ported by the Col­lege of Polic­ing – to en­sure that good man­age­ment sys­tems are in place to sup­port of­fi­cers in their work.”

> Calum MacLeod

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