STRETCHED police are being forced to work long shifts as the force is fighting to cope with sickness, demand and major events.
High-profile events, including the America’s Cup World Series in Portsmouth, have attracted ‘additional security’ after terror attacks in Europe have led to a knock-on for routine policing.
It comes as the force has had to reduce its number of officers from 3,756 in 2010 to 2,895 as of May this year due to cuts of around £80m by the Home Office since 2010.
Just last week 999 response officers covering Fareham and Gosport were told to work a 12-hour shift.
Use of the shifts – about two hours longer than usual – was last enforced when police in Hampshire covered for colleagues who had been sent to deal with the 2011 London riots, when local officers’ rest days were also cancelled.
John Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman, said officers regularly go beyond their hours to protect the public during critical incidents but this should not be used to ‘sustain policing’ after cuts.
He told The News: ‘The summer months are always going to be testing and challenging with the America’s Cup, Isle of Wight Festival, Bestival and special events.
‘The demands on policing are greater than ever and this summer has highlighted – with the record low numbers of police officers we now have – how we have no resilience to cope with that demand. Police officers have had their leave restricted and some are now having to work extended 12-hour shifts to make sure safe levels of policing are maintained. Officers can’t refuse to work extended shifts, it is something they have to accept.
‘This impacts on their work/life balance and in some cases their health.’
He added there was an increase in sickness due to ‘unrelenting pressure’.
Police officers have had their leave restricted and some are now having to work extended 12 hour shiftsJohn Apter, Hampshire Police Federation chairman
Volunteers from the Special Constabulary – unpaid officers and staff – have been drafted in to cover the demand.
A cocktail of sickness leave, extra security for events following terror attacks, emergency leave and the sheer number of major public events has led to the use of 12-hour shifts.
Hampshire has the second highest number of events in the UK and this has increased by 55 since last year.
Chief Superintendent David Powell said terror in Europe, sickness and unexpected emergency leave had led to ‘exceptionally high demand’ with officers also being paid overtime.
He said: ‘Public safety and officer safety are paramount which is why we have adopted these arrangements and the EU working time directive is applied.
‘We are in the midst of a very busy summer, but we are coping with an increased demand on our resources.
‘Occasionally this means that we require people to stay on for overtime and to look at alternatives such as 12-hour working. We consider tactical options such as overtime and moving people across the force area, before introducing 12-hour working to meet our demand.
‘These options remove the need to cancel rest days, which may ultimately have a bigger impact on the welfare of officers and their families.’
He added that so far in the last two weeks 47 officers have been required to do 12-hour shifts. The force could not provide figures for any other overtime.
Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, Michael Lane, who is currently consulting on setting a policing plan, said the use of 12-hour shifts was not related to cuts in policing.
He said: ‘Some people go too quickly to the reduction in numbers that have happened in the last few years.
‘I’ve inherited a good police force with excellent people.’
He said he trusted chief constable Olivia Pinkney to protect communities.