Police officers around the country are at “breaking point” with increasing numbers of them suffering from stress-related illness, according the Police Federation of England and Wales.
Steve White, chair of the national Police Federation, said: “Our members up and down the country are telling us day in, day out [that] they have reached breaking point.
“Forces are now in the position of having to stretch their workforce as far as they can and this cannot be the best way to continue providing a top quality policing service.”
Mr White was talking as it emerged that a large rural force has seen the number of days lost due to depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress and other mental problems almost double.
Devon and Cornwall, which has also just seen a significant reduction in officers, has seen a 46 per cent rise in sick leave taken by officers suffering from mental illnesses.
And the force has seen a reduction of officers from just over 3,300 to 2,851, said its local federation.
Nigel Rabbitts, chairman of the Devon and Cornwall Police Federation, said: “Our concern is that there has been a dramatic rise in some of the stress-related psychological disorders which coincides with the reduction in numbers.
“This needs further investigation and early intervention to protect officers and mitigate the cause and effect.”
But the force disputed the figures, claiming that several sub-categories of absences had been missed from the federation’s figures and absences had remained largely “consistent”.
Ch Supt Steve Swani, a spokesman for the force, said: “The underlying reasons for psychological disorders are principally personal issues relating to relationships and factors outside the workplace.”
The number of officers suffering from stress-related illnesses has also gone up at Essex Police, according to the force’s federation chair Mark Smith.
He said: “The cuts will continue, there will be fewer frontline officers, pressure will continue to pile onto officers. Government cuts are the foundation for many problems and the sickness comes on the back of some of the things that have already been created.
“For instance; workload pressure because of falling officer numbers; pressure of not being able to get annual leave because officers are being used in other officers leaving fewer officers behind, sickness levels because when someone does become sick it maybe isn’t being addressed early on – there’s been a lack of investment in occupational health and welfare.”
And at West Midlands Police a survey of rank and file police officers revealed last year they have more than twice the national average stress levels – and one in two PCs wants to leave the job. The survey showed 38.4% of constables and 45.2% of sergeants reported experiencing work-related stress.
Date posted: July 3, 2014