Letter: Ban overtime pay to improve the police

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The Independent Online
AS A retired police officer and a contemporary of Ian McKenzie, I support his article, 'First, change the culture' (4 July).

The most important step to professionalise the police is the proposed abolition of overtime pay. I spent more than 20 years in the CID. When I was appointed a Detective Constable in 1964 I was paid a Detective Duty Allowance each week as compensation for the overtime which I worked.

In those days CID officers worked long hours. Our normal week consisted of alternate days, 9am to 5pm one day and 9am to 10pm the next, and often longer. The allowance did not compensate for the amount of overtime worked but we were happy because we were treated as professionals and, as such, not restricted to time when investigating crime.

I think it was in 1975 that the Detective Duty Allowance was abolished and payment for all overtime worked was instituted. By this time I was a Detective Inspector at Tower Bridge police station. Overnight the professionalism of the CID was kicked out of the window. The emphasis on me as a supervising officer was to see that my staff did as little overtime as possible, because they were being paid for it.

You had situations where crime squads had unlimited allocations of overtime and CID officers working alongside them doing the day-to-day work were restricted. This caused internal resentment, morale suffered and the service to the public deteriorated rapidly.

On the subject of stops in the street under the 'sus' laws. As a probationary constable I was attached to Tooting police station in south London. My source of suitable names for my list of stops was a disused graveyard in Church Lane. You obviously had to alter some of the dates of birth, and some first names, eg Ebenezer. As far as the person's address was concerned, I always showed this as 'no fixed abode'.

Graham Ward

Bishop's Stortford, Herts