Letter: Sheehy report shows ignorance

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The Independent Online
Sir: The report produced by the committee headed by Sir Patrick Sheehy, chairman of BAT Industries, is, as described by Alan Eastwood, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, arrogant, hectoring and dismissive (report, 21 July). I would also describe it as ignorant. BAT Industries and others can switch their machines off at a given time and go home. Police officers cannot.

Hundreds of arrests are made each year by 'off-duty' police officers because a police officer is required to exercise his or her power 24 hours a day if the occasion arises. Under Sheehy we would have an eight-hour-a-day, five-day-a-week police officer.

The Sheehy restrictions on overtime would also bring conflict with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, as an officer cannot go home at the end of a shift and leave a prisoner in the cell until he or she returns to duty. We tried 'no overtime' in the Eighties; it resulted in two sets of officers having to attend court instead of one. Are we going to have night and weekend courts so that officers do not have to incur overtime attending them?

The Sheehy attitude to pay is quite disgusting. Is an officer really expected to put himself or herself in danger, work shifts for seven days a week, have one weekend in four off-duty, have leave cancelled because of public commitments and work a basic 40-hour week, for the same salary as a clerical officer on a 39-hour week and a nine-to-five shift?

Sir Patrick should join police on a violent demonstration. He would then see how stupid his requirement is for a 60-year-old (or more if the officer joined after the age of 20) to have to carry out such duties. The reason police officers have to retire by 55 is because they are usually not physically capable of carrying out the full range of police duties.

Short-term contracts would destroy the police service. How can you expect a young person to devote his or her life to a public service, knowing that he or she can be dismissed at the end of each period? Who is going to decide the criteria for further employment? Unlike the other emergency services, police officers cannot work for another employer in the same profession if their contracts are not renewed.

I think there are many ridiculous statements in this report. Of course the service needs to be reviewed from time to time, and any constructive comment is to be welcomed. But having Sir Patrick and his committee review the police service is as ridiculous as having me review BAT Industries.

Yours faithfully,

TERENCE F. MATTHEWS

Hornchurch, Essex

The writer is a former inspector with the Metropolitan Police.

(Photograph omitted)

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