Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 10:24 UK

Devon and Cornwall police may be forced to retire

Police officer
The force has to save 14m over three years

Devon and Cornwall Police could force some senior officers into retirement once they have served for 30 years.

An officer's standard term of service is 30 years, but it has been traditional to allow them to work on beyond that if they wish.

Critics said that, if such a policy was introduced, the force risked losing some of its most experienced officers.

Chief Constable Stephen Otter said it was one option being looked into in an effort to save money.

The force is taking legal advice about whether officers could be compelled to retire. The move could save it significant sums, particularly if the officers are in the higher ranks.

For example, annual pay for an inspector averages at about £50,000. For a chief superintendent, it is about £75,000.

Simon Hall, BBC SW Home Affairs Correspondent

I've spoken to several senior officers who are approaching 30 years of service.

None wanted to be interviewed on camera, but all told me the proposal was causing considerable concern and was damaging morale in the police service.

They argue it could mean vital experience was lost to forces.

Chief constables counter they have a duty to the public to use their budget in the most efficient way.

Whatever the debate, this proposal clearly demonstrates just how severe the pressures are on police funding and how forces are preparing for even more difficult times ahead.

The Devon and Cornwall force has to save £14m over three years. It expects to cut 180 officers to help achieve that.

But critics argue valuable experience would be lost and morale damaged.

Retired superintendent Ian McKenzie, who lives in Exmouth, said that new recruits would be particularly affected.

He said: "The fresh people who come in are people with limited experience, or perhaps even none at all.

"In that case, what is lost is very substantial indeed. What is gained is only money."

Mr Otter said that the force would work to maintain high levels of service.

He said: "We're not necessarily going to use this regulation. We're needing to look at legal advice to make sure that it is OK to use.

"But I think that the public would expect me to be looking at all options to make sure that we provide the most efficient service whilst protecting the actual quality and level of service they get."

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