On Sunday I was a guest on the BBC Sunday Politics show, talking about the current and future proposed Police budget cuts in Sussex (and throughout the UK). You can view this, about 35 mins in, on: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01b4h6z/Sunday_Politics_South_East_29_01_2012/
Whilst I understand that there have to be cuts across all areas of life in these tough times, the method the Government has handed to the Police, of forcing all officers below Assistant Chief Constable, to retire after 30 years service, is folly. This is a letter I wrote last week to Police Minister Nick Herbert:
You may remember we had coffee at Mitre House two years ago, after Jeremy Hunt introduced us.
I’ve spent a great deal of time with Sussex Police over the past fifteen years, both in my capacity as Patron of Sussex Crimestoppers, and when undertaking research for my crime novels. As a result I have a very privileged insider understanding of how the Police Force operates at many levels.
Whilst all of us understand the need for budget cuts in all areas, including the UK Police Forces, the introduction of A19 last year has had a far more devastating effect than I believe anyone outside of the Police realises. Chief Constables are being forced into A19 as the only expedient way to meet the budget reductions. Because it is such a blunt instrument, the A19 approach is not targeting the non-frontline staff, as was hoped, but targets the really experienced officers in frontline policing, performing critical roles. A19 was originally introduced in order to enable Chief Constables to have a means of compelling staff, who they considered deadwood, to retire, but it is now being used to force all officers, below ACC rank, to retire after 30 years service. Whilst this may sound sensible in principle, in practice it is in many cases, utterly crazy, and ultimately counter-productive to the need for savings. I’ve been invited on the BBC 1 Politics show, which I am recording this afternoon and which airs at midday on this coming Sunday, to talk about it.
You have been quoted in today’s papers as saying that frontline policing will not be affected, but A19 most certainly is and will will continue to affect this. In brief summary, many police officers join up in their late teens, and as a result their 30 year retirement falls due in their late 40s, or very early 50s – a time when they are at their peak of experience, and in most other organisations would have close to two decades of active and useful working life ahead of them. Instead they are being tossed out into a very uncertain job market, for most of them their careers over. Examples of people being affected by this include Sussex’s Head of CID, the current Divisional Commander of Brighton and Hove, a brilliant man by all accounts and much respected, aged 48 and being forced to retire next year: Sussex’s most experienced Senior Investigating Officer, aged 49 who has seen 17 murder suspects convicted, and is also a senior hostage negotiator and firearms commander; one of the top Public Order Intelligence officers; the senior Schools Liaison Officer; a highly experienced Child Protection Detective Inspector; a specialist Public Order and Firearms Chief Inspector; a District Commander; a highly experienced Drugs Intelligence Officer; the Head of Intelligence; the Head of the Criminal Justice Department. These are just some examples of very fine men and women, in this age bracket, all forced or being forced shortly to retire by A19. But it is not just about senior police officers – it is about highly valued and committed officers at all levels. An example of this is PC Christina Wilson-Law, who joined Sussex Police in 1980 at the age of 18, who in March 2011 received the Queen’s Police Medal for services to the community have served 30 years on Response – when the average length of service on Reponse is only 3 years. She has now gone as result of A19. A dedicated officer almost impossible to replaced who would have happily continued her career for several more years.
The impact this will have on frontline policing is, in my view and in the view of all police officers I have spoken to, whether affected or not, going to be very severe indeed. I strongly urge you to rethink before, on February 16th, the Sussex Police Authority has to decide whether to sanction the extension of A19 for a further year. There must be a way in which the Chief Constable can be allowed to be selective rather than having to lose such talented and enthusiastic people wholesale.”