West Midlands Police ask officers forced to retire to return as volunteers
Hundreds of the country's most experienced police officers who were forced to retire under a legal loophole are being encouraged to return to West Midlands Police force as unpaid special constables.
Six retired officers, all with more than 30 years experience with West Midlands Police, said they had been sent letters asking them to return in similar roles but as volunteer special constables.
Martin Heard, who was forced to retire at the end of March after 32 years with the force, said he was shocked when he was asked to consider coming back to do the same job for free.
Two weeks after being forced to leave, he said: "I had a letter through the post from the police, my former employers, asking me if I'd consider coming back and doing the same role as a special constable, as a volunteer
"I was shocked. On one hand they're saying they don't need me, and then they're asking me to come back in the same role."
Mr Heard, whose work in the All Saints area of Wolverhampton earned him the "Copper's Copper" award last October, now plans to start work as a delivery driver for a catering company in his home town of Bromsgrove next week.
He said he was "devastated" at being forced to leave the force. "It was a bit of a kick in the teeth really," he said.
At least 13 police authorities have chosen to implement regulation A19, a power which says officers who have served 30 years or more can be "required to retire" if their retention would "not be in the general interests of efficiency".
But Britain's most senior police officer, Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, has said the controversial provision was a "horribly blunt tool" which he "hopes" not to use.
A total of 3,260 officers with 30 years experience or more could be affected by plans to implement regulation A19 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987, according to figures released by Mrs May last November.
The police service needs to cut its wage bill after the Government said funding would fall by 20% over the next four years.
Forcibly retired police officers invited to return as volunteers
Labour says police forces are forcing 2,100 of the most experienced officers into early retirement, some of whom are then being asked to rejoin on a voluntary basis.
Police officers with more than 30 years experience who have been forcibly retired because of budget cuts are being asked to return as part-time volunteers, Labour has disclosed.
The shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said 13 police forces have so far confirmed plans to force more than 2,100 of the most experienced police officers in England and Wales into early retirement by 2015. A further nine forces are considering similar action.
Chief constables have no legal powers to make police officers redundant, but can forcibly retire those with more than 30 years service with 28 days notice under an obscure A19 provision of the police pension regulations on grounds of efficiency of the force.
A Labour survey of current police budgets reveals that 13 out of the 43 forces, including the West Midlands, North Yorkshire and Surrey, have already decided that 2,124 officers should be compulsorily retired using the A19 regulation by 2015 in order to make up for 20% cuts in Whitehall police funding.
The issue was raised at prime minister's questions by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who cited the case of PC Martin Heard, who is being forcibly retired after 32 years as a neighbourhood officer in Wolverhampton.
Heard received the "Copper's copper" award from the Police Federation last year, and some weeks after he was forced to retire, he got a letter asking him to rejoin the force as a special constable on a part-time unpaid basis.
He was among a group of experienced officers being retired under A19 due to meet the home secretary, Theresa May, today. Others included Detective Constable Tim Kennedy, a recognised specialist in serious acquisitive crime, Sergeant Dave Hewitt, who is 48, with 32 years service, and is one of the youngest officers in the country to be retired, and Inspector Mark Stokes, a leading specialist in crime prevention.
Cooper said Heard was not alone in being asked to rejoin on a voluntary basis, adding: "You couldn't make this up.
"Senior, experienced officers are being forced out by the pace and scale of the Tory-led government's cuts, then asked to come back and do the same job for free because everyone knows they are needed in the fight against crime."
In the Commons, Miliband claimed the policing cuts demonstrated that the prime minister had broken his pre-election promise to send any cabinet minister who came to him with proposals to cut frontline services packing.
Cameron told Miliband: "Decisions about police numbers will depend on the decisions made by individual chief constables in individual parts of the country.
"The point I would make is that we see, in case after case, that there are far too many police officers in back-office jobs doing paperwork and carrying out corporate development work who should be on the front line.
"Responsible chief constables are getting these police officers out on the front line to fight crime, and crime under this government is falling."
He accused Labour of "complete and utter hypocrisy" over police numbers, citing Alan Johnson's admission when he was home secretary before the general election that he could not guarantee numbers would not fall in the event of the party remaining in power.
"The question is not should the budget be reduced – of course the budget has to be reduced," said Cameron.
"The question is who is going to cut the paperwork, who is going to get rid of the bureaucracy, who is going to trust the local managers to make sure we get police on the front line? These are steps we are taking, and steps his government never took."
Blue Line Comment
Forcing some of our most valued and experienced officers to retire is bad enough. With all due respect being pad to the good work of the specials, asking officers who have put 30+ years of commitment and experience into the job to come back on an unpaid basis is a really insulting and disrespectful kick in the teeth. It is also a measure of the arrogance and ignorance of senior officers who would even consider such an insulting proposition. Seems like more of a political gesture than a serious operational suggestion to us.
Wednesday, 4 May 2011
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