I worry when I see police overtime increasing, as it is with the coronavirus.
Overtime has in part gone up because the police have been asked to do not only their ‘normal’ job but extra duties that come with enforcing the restrictions or covering for colleagues who are unwell or having to self-isolate. This causes me concern for two reasons.
First, there is the impact on the budget. When the Covid crisis first began, Home Office ministers told Police and Crime Commissioners (in our weekly video conferences) to spend all we needed to and we would be fully reimbursed. As the months have gone by, the ministerial mood has changed and become far more cautious. ‘We are having robust conversations with colleagues in the Treasury about Covid spending’– is the latest. If we are not reimbursed, we shall be overspent by the year end (31 March 2021) and that is not a good starting point for the next financial year.
But more worrying is what overtime is doing to officers and staff. A little extra in the monthly pay packet is welcome, but the more overtime people work, the more tired and eventually sick a workforce becomes.
Tiredness can lead to errors. Absence through sickness puts even greater pressure on those still working. The longer it takes for us to suppress the infection, the more this situation will continue, and that makes me anxious.
So a big thank you to the Special Constables. Specials are people with a day job who have trained and qualified as police officers and who give their time voluntarily each month to work alongside other police colleagues.
If they had stepped back from volunteering as a result of the coronavirus, we could quite understand it. But when I look at the monthly activity of the Specials, they have done the opposite. In September alone, 126 Specials contributed 4136 hours. They attended 650 incidents, including 30 that were Covid related. This was an average of 33.3 hours per officer.
That all helps to relieve some of the pressure the force is feeling as a result of Covid that results in overtime. So, as I say, a big thank you to the Specials.
Die unendliche Geschichte?
The first mountain I ever climbed was Ben Hope in Sutherlandshire, one of the Munros. I recall how frustrating it was as you came to the final 600ft or so. Every time you thought you had reached the top, another ridge appeared and you had to soldier on. It seemed unending.
Sealing the Brexit deal seems rather like that. We have had so many deadlines come and go it seems as if we will never get there. My own feeling is that there will be not so much a big deal – there never was anything ‘oven ready’ – as a series of mini deals wrapped together. 95% of these are probably already done. Issues relating to crime and policing will be among them.
One consequence of leaving the European Union was that many agreements and protocols that we benefited from as a member state fell away and alternative ways of achieving something like the previous arrangements have had to be found. Things such as: being able to send back people living here who were wanted by European police forces and vice versa; exchanging data about missing persons or terrorist suspects; the European arrest warrant…. I recently took part in a national discussion around how all this is being managed. It has taken a lot of time and the alternatives will be more bureaucratic because we are no longer members of the club. I guess that something like this is happening in many other areas of negotiation, not just crime and policing.
So even if we leave ‘without a deal’, there will have to be deals. You can’t get divorced without divvying up assets and liabilities and making arrangements for the children.
… and Congratulations
It was good to see two people we have come across recognised in the recent Birthday Honours.
Former Chief Superintendent Nat Shaw had a distinguished career with the police and was very helpful to my office in recent years ensuring that we had well written reports for the Public Accountability Board meetings. She received the Queens Police Medal.
One of the privileges of my job is that you meet people across the county who work tirelessly in their local communities to improve the quality of life for those who live there. I met Sam Siddall and her colleagues at the Yorkshire Main Community Centre, where they run the Edlington Community Organisation. They are such an enthusiastic and cheerful group of people. It was good to see Sam recognised with an MBE. The last time we met she promised me cake on any return visit. Some things I don’t forget.
I hope you are staying safe and well.