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Stressed police have 'no time for job'

PUBLISHED: 11:09 31 May 2008 | UPDATED: 20:32 05 July 2010

POLICE officers in Suffolk do not believe they have enough time to do a good job, a new survey has shown.

A special stress study by Suffolk Constabulary shows police officers are suffering "unacceptable" stress levels because of increasing demands which stop them from "serving their community".

POLICE officers in Suffolk do not believe they have enough time to do a good job, a new survey has shown.

A special stress study by Suffolk Constabulary shows police officers are suffering “unacceptable” stress levels because of increasing demands which stop them from “serving their community”.

It revealed how unreasonable workloads and deadlines were responsible for causing high levels of stress among sergeants and inspectors, while chief inspectors and higher-ranked officers felt excessive overtime and having to take work home was putting them under extreme pressure.

Union bosses said last night the results of the survey were “no surprise” and claimed police officers in the county were having their rest days cancelled in order to carry out extra work.

Angela Mercer, secretary of Suffolk Police Federation, said: “Suffolk Police Federation were consulted in relation to the stress audit and welcome this work carried out on behalf of Suffolk Police Authority.

“It did provide interesting information which needs to be analysed further and Suffolk Police Federation will be involved in this project.

“It's not surprising to us that police constables feel that they are constantly chasing performance targets set by the Government which appear to be unreasonable to the officers who just want to serve their community.

“Constables feel that the new crime recording and demand for ticks in detection boxes is more about supporting Government agenda than the true value of local service.

“Constables are having their rest days cancelled to carry out extra work and this is being closely monitored by Suffolk Police Federation.”

The survey, which was carried out in September last year, interviewed 1,560 police staff about aspects of their work, including workload demands.

The results were graded into three categories - an acceptable level of stress, a medium or moderate level of stress and an unacceptable level of stress.

Although the overall stress score for the organisation was in the “acceptable level of stress” category, chief inspectors, sergeants, inspectors and police constables all fell into the “unacceptable level of stress” when asked about certain aspects of their work.

And in a report to Suffolk Police Authority, due to be discussed next Friday, June 6, the force warns levels of stress will inevitably increase further as a result of reduced staffing levels and tighter budgets.

The force is currently trying to reduce police officer numbers from 1,340 in 2007/08 to 1,318 this year by limiting recruitment of student officers and not filling posts when officers leave. There are also plans to restrict recruitment of police staff to temporary and agency appointments.

Ms Mercer said: “We understand the Chief Constable has his hands tied in relation to efficiency savings which have been a target of this current government. But it's a sad day when officer numbers are being cut to save money.”

A Suffolk police spokesman said: “Suffolk Constabulary wants to ensure that officers and staff remain happy in their work and any sign of increased stress is taken extremely seriously.

“Overall, the findings of the audit show that stress levels remain relatively low within the force, however, there were some areas highlighted which are being investigated to see what action can be taken to reduce stress for officers and staff.

“It should be noted that this particular audit was done at a time following one of the biggest investigations in Suffolk and we also believe that the findings were heavily influenced by announcements about the restructuring proposals to address the financial situation facing the constabulary.”

The report outlines a series of measures the force has taken to improve stress levels among staff.

It said discussions had already taken place with the Superintendents' Association and the Police Federation which had led to changes to working practices to ensure that where senior officers have to work weekends or evenings, they are able to take appropriate rest periods afterwards.

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