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Its Not Just Dorset – West Mids Federation Speak Out

Posted on the 19 January 2012 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

With the words of PC Nick Manning still ringing in our ears, the Federation Chair of West Midlands Police Federation has spoken out about officer numbers.

The statement claims force officers are “working well beyond maintainable limits”.

In a letter to Chief Constable Peter Fahy, Chairman Elect Ian Hanson said response teams were “stretched well beyond capacity”. Hanson was responding to Mr Fahy’s comments over concerns raised by an anonymous officer who said Mr Fahy was “out of touch” over proposed cuts to the force.

Greater Manchester Police is undergoing a phased shedding of 3,000 posts, which will see it lose 23% of its workforce by 2015 to help save £134m after its annual budget was cut. Hanson said that while he appreciated “the difficult position policing is in”, there was a “massive strength of feeling amongst GMP officers”, which had been summed up in the anonymous letter.

Huge insecurity

“Officers are working well beyond maintainable limits and they cannot sustain this pressure much longer,” he said.

“Response teams are barely able to function on a normal day and then when an incident occurs they are stretched well beyond capacity.

“Officers are seeing their numbers depleted and, despite what some local commanders may tell force command, things are starting to come apart.”

The unnamed letter writer, who signed themselves “A Very Disgruntled Greater Manchester Police Officer”, claimed morale amongst officers was “certainly the lowest I have ever known”, officer safety was “being neglected” and promotion opportunities had been taken away to leave “a very stagnant working environment”.

They said they were “going to have to look at a second job to supplement the money lost and that is before anyone changes to my pension”.

In his response, Mr Fahy said he understood “the financial pressures on all staff, the huge insecurity faced by police staff and the threat to pensions”.

“There is no point in pretending that morale is good at the moment in the police service or indeed anywhere in the public service,” he said.

“There is a serious assault on living standards, staff are being asked to do more and we feel that the public and politicians do not recognize the value of what we do.

“That said, every day staff do amazing things to serve and protect the public and I believe the majority of police officers are realistic about the financial situation the country and ordinary people out there are in and are grateful for having a job they love doing.”

Mr Hanson said he believed 2012 could be the “most difficult year” in the history of the force.

“The Olympics and the potential for yet more disorder looms on the horizon,” he said. ”The government expect a demoralised and weary police service to step to the fore. ”I am sure they will do their best, however they are only human.”

I wait with bated breath to see the response of West Midlands to this latest outbreak of honesty from their very own Federation. No doubt any considered response will come from the pen of an officer with absolutely no first hand experience of response work as it has been for the last 12 to 18 months.

My advice to any officer considering, or having been tasked with, producing such a document would be to spend a few days turning out to violent domestics and public order incidents in a single crewed capacity. Hoping that the next incident will not be the one where the suspect decides to cross that line and take out the copper. Knowing that if he does, the nearest backup is not just around the corner, its in the next town and too far away to save you.

Clever political word-play may keep your Chief happy and demonstrate a consistent ’on message’ approach when you go for that next pip or crown but it won’t stop one of your officers being beaten to death with his own baton in a dark corner of a housing estate! It’s time to admit the truth before someone pays the price.

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