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Short-term measures to fill posts 'could harm officer welfare'

Forces must not risk “wrap around” support for officers to meet recruitment targets or COVID-19 demands, the Police Federation has warned.

Forces are meeting shortages and COVID-19 challenges such as promotion exams by finding quick fixes but the Police Federation say officers across the ranks, including Specials, are not getting full support as a result.

Forces have been using the field promotion mechanism to enable unqualified officers to step up into acting roles such as sergeants. But the Federation has renewed concern that they are in high risk, supervisory roles without the knowledge to be fully effective and are not getting the full backing of their seniors.

He told Police Oracle that fears over meeting government recruitment targets and fears over staffing levels during the crisis had led some forces to make panic decisions that would impact on officers over time.

He said: “You’re putting both the organisation and the individual under a great amount of stress and pressure.”

Concern has also been raised over the legal protection for Special Constables who are increasingly taking on the same duties as full-time staff.

The Federation has now been told that the legislation allowing Specials to join the Federation is being drafted by the Home Office ready to be included in the Police Protection Bill due in the autumn.

He said: “Over the last few years, Specials have been deployed in frontline duties. The impact on them, both within the Police Service and in their day jobs has been significant. To have some representation in the workforce is what they need.”

The College of Policing reacted to the COVID-19 crisis by moving exams on line and Police Oracle reported last week on the latest updates for the autumn.

Mr Bamber said the Federation was backing the changes as a short-term measure but warned it would only be for the duration of lockdown.

“Should the exams this year become the model for the future? The answer is no. The integrity of the system is vital. Not only because we are police officers but because that’s the way exams should be. Our reps are asking for reassurance that integrity will be maintained. If I wasn’t hearing that, I would be concerned but I am,” he said.

He said the Fed wanted forces to ensure that officers, both full and part-time, were not forgotten because of a focus on meeting recruitment targets across the ranks and the pressures of COVID-19.

He said: “It’s the wrap-around support that must not be compromised. Individuals and organisations are taking risks they don’t need to be taking to meet demands.”

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