Suffolk: Police chiefs defend ‘macabre’ bonuses awarded to officers called to deal with ‘unpleasant incidents’

Both the Suffolk Police Federation and the countys Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, pict

Both the Suffolk Police Federation and the countys Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, pictured, defended the action of awarding bonuses to officers in exceptional circumstances. - Credit: Archant

Police chiefs in Suffolk have hit back at criticism of “macabre” bonuses awarded to officers who have to deal with particularly unpleasant incidents or crimes.

It has emerged the force may give extra payments for tasks considered “over and above” usual duties – such as dealing with an extremely difficult fatal road accident.

Yesterday, there were questions over how appropriate the bonuses were not just in Suffolk, but other police forces. Nationwide, officers have been given extra payments between £50 and £500 for dealing with unpleasant incidents.

The Taxpayers’ Alliance said bereaved family members may find it “particularly macabre”.

However, both the Suffolk Police Federation and the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore defended the action, saying the payments were handed out only in exceptional circumstances.

Matt Gould, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, rejected any suggestion officers were profiting from personal tragedies.

“These are over and above, additional tasks that no amount of training can prepare officers for,” he said.

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“These are traumatic incidents that not everyone can cope with. They are picking up charred remains of bodies from house fires and picking up decomposed bodies out of rivers with their own hands, so I think it is only reasonable they are recompensed alongside emotional support.

“The payments are properly assessed and are not automatically given out. I would be very surprised if any officer was paid twice in their career. Forces spend £1 per officer per year on average and Suffolk Constabulary won’t be far out of those parameters.”

In a document obtained under Freedom of Information laws, Suffolk police said the payments may be dispensed for the “handling of a badly decomposed body, dealing with an extremely difficult fatal road accident or investigating an extremely unpleasant offence or incident”.

It is understood that paramedics and firefighters are not recompensed when they handle dead bodies. But Mr Gould argued rank-and-file officers play a much more involved role when tackling unpleasant incidents.

Mr Passmore said he supported the principle of officers receiving bonuses – as long as they were issued for “above and beyond” incidents which breached the call of duty.

But he suggested the payout system should fall in line with other emergency services, adding he will be asking for an explanation why the police model differs to that of firefighters and the ambulance service when he seeks clarification with the force’s chief constable Douglas Paxton.

Robert Oxley, campaign director of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “Bereaved family members and friends may find this particularly macabre at a time when they will be under incredible pressure.

“This is a very difficult part of the police officer’s role, and it is vital that the right support is in place, but throwing bonuses at the problem is not the solution.”