Essex: Force could lose ‘most-experienced’ officers in cost-cutting plans

COST-CUTTING plans which include the compulsory retirement of police officers after 30 years’ service would deprive the county of its most experienced crime-fighting detectives, it has been warned. A move by Essex Police to implement the controversial A19 section of the Police Pensions Regulations – which would allow the force to retire its longest-serving officers – has been condemned by a group which represents police officers.

Tony Rayner, chairman of the Essex Police Federation, said that using A19 to enforce mass redundancy was a “misuse” of the regulation and would be “dreadful” for the county.

“At a stroke they could sweep away the most experienced detectives, firearms officers and highly skilled people on the force, leaving Essex with a huge skills gap,” he said.

Essex Police has to make savings of about �40 million over the next four years, with the first cuts of �17 million coming in the financial year 2011/12.

Chief Constable Jim Barker-McCardle has confirmed that in the region of 400 police officers and 800 support staff could lose their jobs as the force looks to meet its tough new budget targets.

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Because police officers are employees of the Crown and do not fall under normal employment law, they cannot be made redundant.

“No decision over the use of A19 has been taken in Essex,” said Mr Barker-McCardle. “I’m giving a presentation to the Essex Police Authority on January 27 covering a whole range of issues on staff pay and costs and an analysis on A19 will be included.

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“A19 is a regulation enabling the police to retire officers with 30 or more years’ service. In the past Essex Police has always encouraged officers to stay on and allowing A19 would have the reverse effect, requiring police with considerable experience to leave.

“A number of forces around the country have decided to do this and we will discuss that option on January 27.

“Currently the only alternative to A19 is reducing the number of police officers through natural wastage – people retiring or moving to other jobs. At the moment the natural turnover is about 140 police officers a year and this may prove enough.

“It remains our starting point that we want to lose as few people as possible and have the minimum impact on the delivery of frontline services.”

Mr Barker-McCardle added that they would continue to provide an efficient service to the public with less staff by looking at different shift patterns so that more police officers are working when demand is highest.

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