The number of British police officers working second jobs has risen dramatically, with forces reporting an average 369 per cent increase in paid, non-police work and outside business interests since 2005.
Details obtained by The Independent on Sunday under freedom of information rules reveal that practically every force in the UK recorded an increase in the past five years, with half of forces seeing numbers more than double. Serving policemen and women have declared part-time work ranging from security consultancy to modelling, fine art dealing, teaching and even massage.
Last night, critics of the practice said the declared figures are merely "the tip of the iceberg", with many officers working second jobs but not disclosing them – a disciplinary offence. They said the figures highlight a need for a radical reform.
Total police authority spending has risen to £14.5bn a year, with pay increases in recent years boosting the average police officer's salary to £30,000. Police numbers are at an all-time high of 153,000.
Of these, at least 8,618 police officers have second jobs or outside business interests. These include very senior officers – on six-figure salaries – including three Metropolitan Police Commanders and Strathclyde's Chief Constable. The total number is higher than previously thought: a 2009 survey by Police Review magazine found only 4,300 willing to admit to holding second jobs.
Scotland Yard, the UK's largest force, had the highest number of officers with outside registered business interests, 3,957 in 2010. The number of new business interests registered in that force rose from 333 in 2005 to 496 in 2009. West Yorkshire saw officers registered more than triple from 104 in 2005 to 335 in 2009. Strathclyde, Scotland's largest force, witnessed a six-fold increase, from 25 to 154, over the same period – including Chief Constable Stephen House, who registered a buy-to-let property.
Some officers use skills learned on the job: in Cheshire they offer lessons in street survival and personal safety for women. Others, not so much: one Nottinghamshire officer is registered as a part-time chimney sweep.
The Association of Chief Police Officers insisted the increase is largely due to changes in reporting rules. Many officers cite reduction in overtime payments as the reason for seeking additional income, suggesting that the problem is likely to grow as public-spending cuts bite. Nevertheless, a report by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said the total bill for police overtime was £400m last year and had risen 90 per cent over the past decade. Overtime spending has not been reduced by the growth in police numbers, which increased by more than 15,000 between 1998 and 2009.
"We have regularly given generous pay settlements to the police," Labour's police spokesman, David Hanson, said. "I don't think there is a need to do it for income. Police need to do their job, and it is for chief constables to make sure that they are doing that."
But there is growing concern that the practice is diminishing police effectiveness. "It is a worry that so many police officers, some of them high ranking, are taking second jobs," said Matthew Elliott of The Taxpayers' Alliance. "We need a police force that is focused on catching criminals and serving the community. They are well compensated and often have an overtime option for extra cash, so second jobs are unnecessary in many cases."
Rick Muir, of the Institute for Public Policy Research, said the figures highlight the need for police reform which had been ducked by successive governments. "It implies they have the time to do another job, which is worrying considering how much money we've pumped into the police service," he said.
A Home Office spokesman said: "This is a matter for individual forces. Police regulations require officers to declare additional jobs to their chief officer, who will decide whether the job is compatible with the officer remaining a member of the force."
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