Police officers ‘run ragged’ and unable to take breaks – union chief

Police officers are so overwhelmed they are regularly unable to take any breaks during shifts, according to Scotland’s police union boss.

Speaking at a Holyrood committee Calum Steele, general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, also told MSPs that officers were routinely having to stay beyond their working hours due to being overworked.

“Large numbers of the police service don’t get a break during the course of their working day, don’t get a break during the course of their working week,” he said.

“From the moment that they come in, to the moment that they leave, they are run ragged and can’t catch a breath. They can’t even go for a toilet break, never mind having a sandwich or a quick tea or coffee.”

Scotland’s police and fire services were centralised in 2013, having previously been regional organisations, and have since been under review to assess the impact upon operations.

Mr Steele raised concerns that the focus of some officers – on complex, specialist work such as historic child abuse cases and anti-terrorism – had led to other parts of the force becoming stretched.

“The police service at this point in time does not have the budget to pay for the officers that it’s got,” he said.

“We have police officers in all areas working ridiculously long hours, we have stripped out ranks in supervision which introduces its own risks.

“Undoubtedly these will turn out to be realised in years to come when problems with a lack of supervision will show what a lack of supervision has always shown – that eventually you get to a point of critical mass and you end up being criticised for it.

“There needs to be a return to first principles. Stop talking about the ‘big’ and just look at the practicalities of the here and now.”

Chief Superintendent Ivor Marshall, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said he believed the need to centralise the service was necessary due to the impact of austerity in Scotland’s public sector.

However, Mr Marshall said in the process of enacting the bill in 2012, the impact it would have on staff was not accounted for.

He said: “We’re a business which is really about people – people delivering a service to the people of Scotland. There wasn’t really a focus on the people side of it, the officers and the staff.

“Thankfully now that’s starting to be recognised and addressed.”

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