Essex force has highest number of officers taken off frontline
Almost one in 10 police officers were on ‘restricted duties’ in Essex during the last year, according to the Home Office.
Figures for the 2014/15 financial year showed that 289 of the county’s 3,167 officers (9.1%) were not fully deployable.
A further 57 (1.8%) were defined as being on ‘recuperative duties’ and unable to fulfil a substantive role due to injury, accident, illness or medical incident.
Essex had the highest proportion of the 4,694 officers in England and Wales on restricted duties, which can mean doing office work for non-medical reasons. Three forces – Greater Manchester, Hampshire and Sussex – did not provide figures.
Essex Police said it was reviewing all officers subject to permanent medical restrictions and would consider the advice and support provided in each case in order to maximise numbers available for full operational duties.
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But, they pointed out, a number of officers had returned straight to work in the last few weeks, despite facing extreme conditions in the line of duty. They provided examples of officers returning immediately to duty after being shot at, assaulted, having rescued a man at sea and arrested a murder suspect while off duty.
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Police and crime commissioners have been at the forefront of identifying high levels of restricted duties and time lost due to sickness.
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“Sadly, police officers routinely face the risk of being injured whilst helping to keep our communities safe, and it is right and proper that they receive the best possible support as they recuperate.
“In Essex, it is a concern that a significant proportion of officers are on restricted duties and this, and sickness absence, is under active management by the chief constable and regular review by me.”
According to government guidance, a fully deployable officer will generally be able to demonstrate a number of core capabilities, including the ability to sit for reasonable periods, to write, read, and use the telephone, the ability to run, walk reasonable distances and stand for reasonable periods, the ability to exercise reasonable physical force in restraint and retention in custody, and the ability to work a full range of shifts.
Reasons for being put on restricted duties could include failure to pass a fitness test or personal safety training. A small number could also be under misconduct investigation.
Mr Alston said: “Some officers are placed on restricted duties whilst disciplinary or conduct issues are being investigated, and those investigations can take months or even, somewhat frustratingly, years. However, the actual nature of the restricted duties placed on officers are sometimes relatively minor, meaning the officers are able to continue to play an important part in policing Essex.
“I am also conscious that levels of psychological or stress-related illness remain high amongst police officers, and I expect high quality support to be offered to all officers who require it.”
Deputy Chief Constable Matthew Horne said: “Every day the men and women of Essex Police do amazing things and whilst the number of officers on medical related restrictions is high, we work hard to ensure that wherever possible they still make a valuable contribution to keeping the county safe.
“We are reviewing all officers subject to permanent medical restrictions and will consider the advice and support provided in each case so that we maximise the numbers available for full operational duties.
“Officers in the last few weeks have been shot at, assaulted, have rescued a man at sea and arrested a male wanted for murder whilst off duty. All have returned straight to duty.”
Of Suffolk’s 1,178 officers, 73 (6.2%) were on restricted duties, while 32 (2.7%) were on recuperative duties during 2014/15.