THE Chief Constable of Essex Police, Stephen Kavanagh has blasted officers who take sick leave to nurse hangovers.
Mr Kavanagh spoke out after figures revealed that his officers were taking an average of 12 days off sick each year.
Mr Kavanagh said: “If you look at the overall numbers, compared to other forces, there is a group – a small group, but a group nonetheless – abusing the process.
“If they can’t get time off, they take it sick. If they have a heavy night, on occasions they are taking days off. They will be challenged and, if necessary, they will be dealt with.’
Mr Kavanagh was speaking 100 days after taking over the role and compared the record of his men unfavourably with nurses at nearby Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex and the military.
He said: ‘We should be much better than where we are at the moment.
‘Nurses at Broomfield Hospital have an average of seven days off a year, while my officers are off for more than 12.
‘Policing can be a stressful occupation, but so is being a nurse or a member of any other emergency service or the military.’
The chief constable said he wanted to help those who were genuinely unwell but pledged he would ‘challenge’ those who abused the sickness management process.
‘Every time someone throws a sickie they are letting their mates down, they are letting the community down,’ he said.
‘And the only people who suffer are their friends who then have to pick up their workload.’
Mark Smith, chairman of the Essex Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, agreed that sickness had got out of hand but blamed high stress levels for the added absences.
He said: ‘Police officers are suffering – they are under pressure and more is being heaped on.
‘Managers don’t have time to follow sickness procedures and we are not on top of it. There is no welfare system and the stress is too much.’