CUTS in bonuses could lead to an exodus of specialist police officers from Essex, it has been warned.
Firearms officers, dog handlers and Special Branch cops are among those at risk of quitting Essex Police in the wake of the Government’s decision to axe special priority payments (SPPs) reports thisistotalessex.co.uk.
Such payments were targeted at officers that had significantly more responsibility than the norm or had specially demanding working conditions, or were in roles that presented the force with special difficulties in recruitment and retention.
The fear is that specialist officers could resign from Essex Police and join London’s Metropolitan Police, which pays its bobbies £6,501 more per year.
The warning was issued this week by PC Mark Smith, the chairman of the Essex branch of the Police Federation, the body which represents rank and file officers.
He said: “There is a danger that we could lose specialist officers.
“Take firearms officers – we have quite a large number in Essex but the Met needs a huge number.
“If you’re offered £6,500 a year more then that is going to make people think.”
Besides axing SPPs, the Government has frozen police officers’ pay for two years and asked them to pay additional pension contributions, further factors which, PC Smith said, could tempt his colleagues to follow the extra money and join the Met.
Officers who could benefit the most are those who live in parts of Essex such as Brentwood and Grays which already border the Met’s policing area.
Such officers would be able to take up a job just over the border and commute into the capital without the need to relocate, although they could be re-deployed to another part of London at some point in the future.
Met and City of London police are also entitled to subsidised rail travel.
Paul Manning, 65, an ex-assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: “You can’t deny that there is an attraction for someone to carry on doing the same job that they are doing now for £6,500 a year more.
“Working for the Met, in the capital city, has a cache of its own too.”
However, he stressed: “I don’t foresee a mass exodus of people from Essex Police in the near future. I think it will be containable.”
Essex Police has firearms officers permanently deployed at Stansted Airport. Other armed personnel are out on patrol across the county each day, including in Brentwood.
SPPs were axed on April 1, after the Government accepted the recommendations of an independent review of policing carried out by lawyer Tom Winsor.
In November 2010, the Gazette reported how Essex Police had paid its officers more than £10 million in bonuses, including SPPs, in just three years.
At the time, the force’s deputy head of human resources, Kevin Kirby, defended the payments, saying: “SPPs are used particularly by provincial forces like Essex, where we need to keep specialist officers who might otherwise join a larger neighbouring force.”
A spokesman for Essex Police said this week: “We do not anticipate the removal of SPPs leading to any significant change.”