POLICE officers working across Essex are currently owed almost ten thousand rest days and have lost more than 1,500 hours to overtime, it has been revealed.
The statistics outlined in a freedom of information request reveal that officers are owed 9,512 rest days – the equivalent of 26 years and around three days per officer.
Rest days are used by officers to recuperate and Essex Police documents outline how there must be a minimum of two rest days in every 14-day period. When they are required to work on these days the time can be claimed as overtime, making them entitled to overtime pay.
However, the data also shows that officers are also owed 1,582 hours of overtime.
A spokesperson for Essex Police, said: “Our officers and staff are dedicated professionals who work hard to tackle crime and keep the county safe.
“Sometimes this means we ask them to work on days off and we’re grateful to the commitment they show.
“There are times when we require officers to work such as large planned and unplanned incidents or specific policing operations, but we try and minimise this and give people as much notice as possible where we can.
“Over the last year we’ve seen a number of events which have led us to ask officers to work on rest days and we appreciate the understanding from officers, and their families, when we ask them to work on their days off.
“Time off is important for the health and wellbeing of staff as time to rest and spend time with families and loved ones. We recognise the impact on officers and as a force we have invested in our ‘Feel Well Live Well’ programme as well as occupational health support and are signed up to other support.”
Essex Police describe the Feel Well Live Well programme as being designed to support the needs of officers and staff. It’s objective is to support wellbeing by “equipping police officers and staff with strategies and tools to deal with everyday life”.
The freedom of information findings also revealed 72 officers up to the rank of inspector had taken sick days in 2017 due to stress – a decrease on previous years, with 110 taking time off due to stress in 2016 and 113 in 2015.
However, these figures are only for district teams and do not include county-wide teams, nor do they include those who have suffered from post-traumatic stress.
The police spokesperson added: “We consider our officers and staff as family and, like family, we make sure we look after each other.
“We continue to support our staff to try and bring them back into the force in the best possible health.
“Our officers and staff deal with a range of challenging situations and it’s really important we provide them with the support they need to deal with such circumstances.”
The county’s police has been strained since major cuts resulted in the loss of hundreds of frontline officers, the closure of several police stations and cuts to PCSOs who play a key part in neighbourhood policing.
In an effort to boost numbers Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, has announced an increase of £24 in council tax bills to pay for 215 extra officers across the county.
It comes after a rise of £12 last year which allowed the police to recruit 150 officers, many of which are completing their training and joining forces over the coming months.