“There’s more demand on a smaller and poorer organisation and eventually staff will suffer and will break.”
That’s Gloucestershire Police Federation Chair Steve James’s view on the increasing levels of fatigue in policing.
This summer, a survey carried out by Oscar Kilo and the College of Policing revealed that 45% of police officers frequently reported having less than six hours’ sleep and that shift workers were more likely to experience poor sleep quality and lower levels of emotional energy.
Steve said that Gloucestershire Police officers were suffering from more fatigue than normal due to the pressures of policing COVID-19. He said: “We are having some issues with fatigue in our force; we temporarily moved officers onto 12-hour shifts instead of the normal shifts and for some officers that went on for three or four months. We are potentially looking at doing that again.
“On top of that, officers, like everybody else, are having to deal with working from home and partners working from home and the disruption of childcare, plus the additional workload that’s been put on from enforcing COVID regulations. And all on top of the fact that we’ve still got 20,000 fewer officers in England and Wales.
“We’re never going to find that magic box of officers and the ones we have coming are still three years away from being fully trained. So what answers have we got? For one there’s the question of whether the police should be the primary enforcement agency for COVID legislation. Is that an extra burden that the force doesn’t need? Aside from the fact that it’s harming long-term policing community relations, it also has a short-term impact.
“There’s been a longstanding question of what are the police for and what do they do? Year on year we take on more work and through austerity other public sector organisations have seen their budgets and staffing cut and we’ve taken that workload from them. And then there’s the increasing complexity of policing – safeguarding, cybercrime. It’s put more demand on a smaller and poorer organisation and eventually staff will suffer and will break.”
Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, Service Director for Oscar Kilo, warned that it couldn’t become the accepted norm that officers were constantly exhausted.
He said: “I believe fatigue is the next big thing after mental health issues and we need to reduce the stigma about fatigue as it is kind of accepted that everyone is exhausted.”