Special report: Fears for welfare of under-pressure South Yorkshire Police officers

South Yorkshire Police officers on patrol in Page Hall, Sheffield

South Yorkshire Police officers on patrol in Page Hall, Sheffield

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Under-pressure police officers will end up paying the price for departmental mergers in South Yorkshire, union representatives fear.

The South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said those left on the frontline when numbers dwindle will face even more pressure than they are already under.

He said morale is ‘non-existent’.

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Neil Bowles, branch chairman, said: “The cuts have had a devastating effect on local policing, and more is to come.

“Officers are over-worked, over-stressed and not allowed to take their due rest. They do not have the time to deal with every case fully and, because of the pressures of demand, mistakes are bound to be made – officers are only human.

“Sooner or later they will suffer burn out and go sick, causing more work for their colleagues left behind.

“The threat of terrorism has never been so great, even during the troubles in Northern Ireland. Not only to the public, but members of the Armed Forces and police are now considered legitimate targets. One of our greatest weapons against radicalisation has been community policing, yet the Government are causing cuts there as well.

“Overtime has always been a management tool to entice officers to work long hours to solve particular problems, or to police events without abstracting officers from their normal day-to-day work.

“Historically, South Yorkshire Police has appeared to have a bigger overtime budget than other similar forces. I was asked why is this the case, my response is we do not have enough officers to do the job.

“Ten years ago, most officers would accept a bit of overtime if offered.

“Not now – our members want to see their families or just have a rest from the workplace pressures. Officers do not choose to work it, they are ordered to work it.

“In the last two years, we have seen more officers leave the force, mi- service without an immediate pension, because they have had enough, they have been beaten.

“In fact so many are going, the force will have to recruit more officers than planned, which is all very good, but we are losing the experience. Who will be left to teach, coach and mentor the young in service?

“The only winners here will be criminals and those wanting to cause harm. The losers will be the law-abiding majority of the people in the county.

“We all joined to make a difference, to help people and lock up criminals.

“In the last six years, we have lost nearly 600 officers, and probably a larger number of police staff posts.

“It would be like removing all the staff from the Doncaster area, and then letting the rest of the county cover their own area and Doncaster as well.

“The work has not reduced. The population has increased by almost 10 per cent, demand for policing has increased.”

Jim Lucas, branch secretary, said: “It is inevitable that due to the cuts forces will have to look at ways of delivering a service to the public with less funds.

“To balance the books, forces are having to look at ways of making the savings work. As it stands we are merging certain aspects of policing with colleagues in the North East.

“Will this provide what we as a force delivered in the past? No.

“Officers are already stretched with work; days off are cancelled to provide a response and to ensure public reassurance.

“The reduction in funds does not mean there is a reduction in the calls the force receive, it does not reduce incidents that officers have to attend.

“The Federation have maintained throughout the austerity measures that the service will suffer.

“The Government state you can do more for less. All you get with less, is less.

“We understand savings had to be made, all we ask is that those savings are done in a way that forces do not suffer providing a quality service.

“South Yorkshire Police has a job to do and a service to deliver. With the cuts already made and further cuts to come we have to be mindful there will be increased pressure on officers in delivering that service.”