Going Off Half-Copped
I have read in the papers this week that officers in the Met can earn up to £52,000 in overtime (on top of their basic salary). Just two questions:
- Do Met officers actually have lives?
- How do I transfer?
Overtime is a double-edged sword. As soon as you state the amounts officers are earning, they are labelled money-grabbing whingers. But if they say they want to go home on time, they're considered to "lack dedication". It is written into police regulations that officers MUST obey an order to stay on duty, return to work or abandon leave if there is an operational requirement for it. It used to be the case that "operational requirement" meant one of two things: either a resource-intensive incident has occurred spontaneously, or a high number of officers on another shift have called in sick and cover is needed.
But in the Twenty-First Century world of shoe-string policing, overtime is now being worked forcibly for any of the following reasons:
- An event is coming up that has been known about for months, such as a football match or royal visit, and there is no resilience in police numbers so officers are "offered" rest day working.
- There's a shoplifter at Boots and no one to arrest him.
- The next shift has an officer in court.
- It's quite a busy day in Blandmore.
At this point you might be thinking "well that's the job of a police officer". In actual fact there is no shortage of volunteers most days when the inspector tells us someone has to stay late to cover the next shift. There is also no shortage of officers working two out of three rest days to cover other teams, and thereby ending up doing 100-hour weeks. By extension, no shortage exists of officers attending jobs tired, driving around in breach of all kinds of safe-driving policies and making elementary mistakes or showing lapses of attitude/professionalism.
To the untrained eye, the numbers might not be adding up. There are more police than ever before, so why is all this overtime needed? The trouble is that all resources have been stripped from the front-line to meet with the government's vision of "Neighbourhood" and "Strategic" policing. No longer is it acceptable to have shift officers just going spare in case of emergency, they must all be assigned to squads and units. There is a glut of officers in special teams who do all kinds of good work when they're on duty. But they don't work 24/7 shifts and so they can't be called on so easily to cover shortfall. It is the front-line shift officers who work overtime, and we are now each doing the job of two police officers. Which is how police forces are routinely disguising just how unmanned the front-line really is. It also effectively means Blandshire Constabulary is paying time-and-a-third to an officer instead of employing another one at flat time.
In the wacky world of 21st Century Policing, this is how we save money.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.