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Detectives moved back into uniform roles to bolster response teams

Staffing pressures due to COVID-19 are beginning to build across the country.

Police Scotland is moving specialist officers to response work due to sickness while Northamptonshire Police has confirmed  a system-wide major incident covering hospitals, care homes and emergency services due to a shortage of staff has been declared in the county.

Detectives and other specialist officers are being deployed in uniform roles to cover COVID absence, Police Scotland has confirmed.

The force is moving 300 officers from specialist functions to support colleagues in local divisions from Monday.

And 258 probationary constables currently undergoing training at the Scottish Police College will also be deployed to local policing divisions.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Speirs said: “We are working hard to maximise the availability of officers and staff in frontline duties to ensure that we continue to provide a highly effective policing service to our local communities.

"Omicron is having a significant effect on the country and Police Scotland is included in that. The welfare of our officers and staff is paramount and has been throughout the pandemic.”

Other forces have also moved to cover positions – and extra enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has 10% of officers either ill or self-isolating and had already moved to 12 hour shifts last month to cover roles.

Forces in England have taken similar approaches and the National Police Chiefs’ Council is continuing to monitor sickness rates.

So far, other than Northamptonshire, current levels of absence are within resilience plan limits. Even at the height of the first wave, sickness rates did not reach emergency levels.

A Norfolk police spokesman said: “Planning for and responding to emergencies is our daily business and this planning ensures we can continue to deliver our core services while responding to urgent calls and protecting people from harm.”

It’s part of a wider stress on public sector staffing levels due to the virus. Schools in England are reporting one in three staff are absent and 200 Army officers have been sent into London and Manchester hospitals to bolster staff.

Police Scotland sought to reassure staff and the public that service levels would not be impacted.

ACC Speirs said: “As a national service we can quickly flex resources and move people to where they are needed and respond to increased demand and high absence levels.

“By deploying these extra resources we can support local policing and keep people safe during this critical time.”

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