COMMENT: Has the thin blue line finally reached breaking point?
The national debate about the strength of the thin blue line has surfaced once again after Prime Minister Theresa May said there was no direct link between a rise in violent crime and a reduction in police numbers.
Her claim was almost instantly disputed by Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick, who said ‘there must be some link.’
Today we see another aspect of the debate as we reveal the rising cost of sickness absence to Hampshire police, with £18.5m lost to absence in three years.
Senior bosses predict the cost of officers being absent and the number of ill-health retirements will hit £25m over the next three years.
The picture emerging is that the added strain of working with fewer numbers is putting police under greater strain, with detriment to both their physical and mental wellbeing.
A report by deputy chief constable Sara Glen said police were being forced to work longer on the front line due to cuts in numbers.
Ageing officers are being exposed to trauma ‘for a longer and more sustained period, she warns in the report requesting £1.9m funding to protect wellbeing.
Now Hampshire is to become the first force in the country to subject new recruits to psychological screening to ensure they are robust enough to take on the job.
And crime commissioner Michael Lane has granted extra funds to improve in-house care, and save £2.7m by cutting overtime, sickness and retirement on health grounds.
The police, like many in the public and private sector, are asked to do more with fewer resources, and there comes a time when that just won’t work.
Solutions like counselling and screening can only be seen as mere sticking plasters if the truth is that the police need more people to get the job done.
Nobody wants to dial 999 and find there is no answer...