POLICE officers are being pushed to the limit by cuts to the service, Hampshire Police Federation has warned.
Some bobbies are talking openly about working to rule or even striking – despite it being against the law – in protest against changes to pay and conditions.
Meanwhile John Apter, chairman of Hampshire Police Federation – which represents rank and file officers – last night warned increasing pressures on already-stretched officers could lead to errors of judgement during critical incidents: ‘This is an attack on policing,’ he said. ‘It’s not fair, it’s not balanced and it’s disproportionate and there’s going to be a negative impact on policing across the country if these 20 per cent cuts stay.’
He added: ‘If an officer makes an error of judgement dealing with a critical incident the consequences could be horrendous. Our fear is that officers are being put under immense pressure at the same time as their own financial pressures are being tested as well.’
Mr Apter spoke out after more than 2,000 off-duty officers – including 30 from Hampshire – attended an open meeting at Westminster to warn the spending squeeze could fuel crime.
Off-duty local officers from PC to chief inspector rank yesterday called on the government to negotiate as the cuts bite hard.
Already at least 450 jobs – including 170 police officers – have been axed as Hampshire Constabulary battles to save £50m by April 2015.
Mr Apter said he cannot support strike action but understands officers’ position. He said: ‘Police officers legally don’t have the right to strike, we accept that. However police officers are human beings. They have mortgages to pay, they have financial commitments to fulfil and they have a limit as to how far they will be pushed.
‘This coalition government needs to understand we are rapidly reaching the limit.’
Hampshire Constabulary Chief Constable Alex Marshall said: ‘The law doesn’t allow police officers to strike. Police officers are entitled to express their views and ask questions about matters relating to their pay and conditions and I have no issues with that at all.
‘I have said I will protect local visible policing in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and despite losing 450 officers and staff in the last 12 months I have protected that figure. It was 2,224 a year ago. It is now 2,230.
‘I’m very conscious not to put any of my officers under undue stress or workload.
‘For example officers protecting vulnerable people will not see any increase in their caseload.’
Top cop is determined to protect front line
THE front line is fully protected until at least April 2012, according to Hampshire’s top policeman.
But Chief Constable Alex Marshall says the force is doing all it can to safeguard front-line officers after that. He has also warned up to 300 police officer and 700 civilian staff roles could go due to spending cuts.
Only last month Hampshire Police Authority – which holds the force’s purse strings – approved the closure of 18 police stations to save cash. They include Southsea, Hayling Island and Petersfield.
And eight front desks in our area are under review.
Mr Marshall said: ‘These are extremely difficult times for policing. The cuts are real and I need to make £50m of savings in our budget over the next three years. I will look to save money on buildings and every other area of the constabulary with the intention of investing in the officers and staff who protect the public. So far I have been as good as my word and I will work very hard to keep those numbers in local, visible roles, despite having to lose more than 1,000 people in total.’