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Patel praises 'personal sacrifices' of COVID-19 returnees

Retired officers who have returned to duty to help during the COVID-19 crisis have been thanked by the Home Secretary. Half of the UK’s police forces have called on former officers for help.

Former officers have been carrying out a range of duties including interviewing victims of crime, weapons sweeps, driving vehicles, delivering PPE and answering 999 calls.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the volunteers had “all made personal sacrifices” by potentially exposing themselves to the virus.

She said; “I want to say a special thank to of those that have returned to the police, and to the families supporting them. The nation is in your debt.”

Although, according to the National Police Chiefs’ Council, illness rates have not gone above average levels during the COVID-19 outbreak, 20 forces have called back retired officers as part of emergency resilience plans.

When the idea was first proposed, there was a mixed response from current and past officers – especially those who had left during the austerity era over their treatment.

The National Association of Retired Police Officers, which represents around two-thirds of former officers, said former officers had skills and experience which could take the strain off of frontline officers but warned of the health risks.

It said: “We feel it is for each retired officer to make their own decision whether they wish to volunteer or not, taking into account their own individual circumstances and we would fully support those who wish to volunteer to assist the Police service and help the vulnerable at this challenging time.”

Among the forces to appeal to former staff was Greater Manchester Police.

“We will be able to offer a range of roles from working on the front line, dealing with local investigation to supporting our call handling function and taking reports from the public,” it said during its appeal for help.

But the emergency call-up hasn’t been entirely smooth. There have been delays with some forces in getting background checks cleared and the Metropolitan Police’s bid to re-engage with former officers got off to a bad start when a letter was sent out with the wrong names on them.

The Home Secretary heard first-hand the experiences of a group of former officers who had come back to report for duty during a video conference call.

Priti Patel She said: “I spoke to four retired officers who have returned to the policing family. They already dedicated their careers to keeping us safe - as firearms officers, neighbourhood police, chief inspectors and superintendents.

“Yet they have all made personal sacrifices to serve the public once again, supporting the police as they fight the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.People join the police to make a difference and that instinct does not stop in retirement. That is why we recently relaxed pension tax rules to encourage experienced former officers who want to return in these times.”

Chief Constable of South Wales Police Matt Jukes, was also part of the conference call.

He said: “There are now about 20 forces who are retaining people beyond the point at which they could have retired. We’ve got people back doing everything from driving vans delivering PPE as volunteers, through to call handling on 999 calls, and people working right at the front line.”

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