29.03.11

Labour Claims Police Forced Retirement is Reducing Police Numbers

More than 13 police forces have confirmed they will take advantage of a little used pensions regulation to side step a prohibition on redundancy in the police service.

Over a thousand police officers are set to be pushed into retirement as forces seek to cut costs, according to the research by the Labour Party.

In details obtained through freedom of information applications, it was found that 13 forces intend to use Regulation A19 of the Police Pension Regulations, which allows officers to be compulsorily retired “on grounds of efficiency of the force”.

The Regulation applies to regular police officers other than chief officers, deputy chief constables or assistant chief constables after 30 years service.

The use of the rule is controversial since officers cannot legally be made redundant, and critics say that forcible retirement may be used as an alternative cost-cutting measure. Questions are being asked as to whether the actions of those police authorities involved are contrary to the spirit of the Regulation since it clearly states that it applies where:

“….a police authority determines that the retention in the force of a regular policeman to whom this Regulation applies would not be in the general interests of efficiency….”

It is by no means clear that the decisions of police authorities concerned are connected with attempts to improve efficiency of the force.

Questions could arise as to the legal meaning of these words, “interests of efficiency of the force”. It might be argued by some police that their own personal performance is not in question and that contrary to their retirement boosting efficiency, it could undermine it.

The Labour research claims that in their sample of forces 1,138 officers will be affected by 2015, and if this pattern were repeated in other forces then the overall figure would be more than 2,000.

The finding was part of a wider survey of police intentions in which it was claimed that 27,500 jobs will go over the next four years.

“Some of these officers are the experts in their fields and internationally respected for what they do in the fight against crime,” said shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper. “The home secretary must realise that you cannot make 20 per cent frontloaded cuts to the police without losing the very crime fighters we need. The Home Secretary is taking unacceptable risks with public safety and the continued fight against crime.”

The Government disputes Labour’s figures and says that forces should be able to handle the level of cost saving required without resorting to forced retirement. Police budgets are being cut by 20 per cent over the next four years, including a 4 per cent cut in the first year.

The numbers of forced retirements are also disputed because the majority of officers who reach 30 years of service retire voluntarily.

Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN, comments: “In some forces, officers who have been retired have subsequently become community support officers or taken up other administrative roles. Often this can be a perfectly acceptable and useful way of continuing a person’s active working life. However, the notion of imposing forced retirement on someone in this way without any real assessment of their fitness to work or the value of their contribution  is contrary to the ending mandatory retirement which the Government has committed itself to under the repeal of the default retirement age.”

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