CUTBACKS at Wiltshire Police are pushing officers to the limit of their capabilities, with complaints of exhaustion and fatigue on the job triggering a new force-wide survey this week.
Wiltshire Police Federation, the staff association which represents Wiltshire’s rank and file police officers yesterday launched a study into the effects shift working is having on police officers in Wiltshire.
The programme, which is being run by company Third Pillar Of Health, will examine the extent, impact and causes of tiredness and fatigue among officers.
The organisation’s chairman, Mike White, said complaints have been consistently raised by officers for the past two and a half years, since shift patterns were changed by senior officials.
“We are looking at ways we can better manage fatigue of officers,” he said.
“We will consider changing the shift pattern to try and make it less fatiguing.
“There are people saying, ‘we are tired.’ Within Wiltshire the cuts over the last few years has left us trying to get as much as we can out of what we’ve got.
“We had a big re-organisation and changed the shift patterns, which officers raised concerns about.”
The biggest concerns have been raised by response officers, those who are out and about in their vehicles, responding to frequent emergency calls across their area.
Intermediate reviews have been carried out over the period since the cutbacks came in, but no overhauls of the patterns have been put in place.
Mike said the shifts in question, were worked on a five-week pattern, giving officers two weekends off in that period.
One of those weekends off-duty is preceded by a Friday evening shift which finishes at 4am or 5am on a Saturday morning, leaving officers disgruntled and tired.
“It’s not really a weekend off,” said Mike. “This is causing one of the issues, it’s also the officers complaining about the rotation of the pattern.
“An officer might be working a couple of nights followed by a couple of days, and then into day-shifts.
“The evening shifts are also a sticking point, with start times of 6pm and finish times of 3am.”
At least five other police forces across the country, including Hampshire and North Yorkshire, are commissioning Third Pillar to run these fatigue surveys.
Theyi nclude statistical analysis, as well as simple feedback from officers.
The decision to re-organise the shift pattern is one which was seen as necessary and useful at the time it was made, though Mike now accepts things need to change.
“We acknowledge, we accept, we realise and understand we need to have cops on at the right time at the right places,” he said.
“It was a senior command decision and there was a consultation in doing it.
“The change in shift pattern was necessary and was made with the best intention. We are now identifying problems with it.
“Problems have been raised in the past and as of yet we have been unable to bring about any changes which have satisfied the officers working this pattern.”