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Monday, 17 December, 2001, 14:28 GMT
'Low morale' on the front line
Police officer on traffic duty
Plans to cut to overtime payments have provoked anger
Many officers are considering whether their future lies with the police service as the government proposes changes to their pay and conditions, a police sergeant with 22 years experience tells BBC News Online.

"I'm a sergeant on the front line and I already have to manage the shortages on the front line" says Sergeant Pat O'Riordan, refering to his daily battle balancing resources and priorities.

The government plans are widely seen as a "kick in the teeth" to a service already under pressure, and many of his colleagues are considering leaving the force the officer says.

There are a lot of officers who are seriously looking at what they're doing, about whether they should carry on with it

Rank and file police are "absolutely livid" about proposed changes to their pay and conditions.

And Sgt O'Riordan said officers in Brentwood, Essex, were ready to join the national campaign against paying overtime at normal hourly rates and changes to sick pay and other allowances.

Most were "reluctant" to take action, but were prepared to support the call for mass protests and a work to rule because they want to "show how strongly they feel".

'Quite depressing'

Sgt O'Riordan, who works in the custody suites and on patrol, said the public cost of enforcing the proposed changes would be a weaker police force and a greater risk from crime.

"There are a lot of officers who are seriously looking at what they're doing, about whether they should carry on with it.

Police officers
If officers refused overtime, policing could be affected
"I know experienced officers with quite reasonable amounts of experience who are thinking about going back to what they were doing before. It's really quite depressing."

The biggest threat to most officers, especially those with families, was the decision to cut overtime from its present level of time-and-a-third, Sgt O'Riordan said.

He said many officers would simply refuse to work extra hours paid at the standard rate, leaving them dependent on basic salaries.

"If you're an ordinary officer in the home counties I don't see how it's enough to get by," he added.

The effect would also be felt by the public, with the number of police on duty cut and investigations into serious crime slowed down, he said.

'Smear campaign'

Sgt O'Riordan said many officers had been left feeling they have little public support, with the government trying to portray them as workshy.

"If they can get the public to think police officers are lazy they can use that to make sure there's no public sympathy for the changes they want to push through."

Sgt O'Riordan said action had to be taken unless the government backed down, adding: "People are livid, absolutely livid, about the proposals."

"I'm not at all happy about what they're doing."

The BBC's Danny Shaw
"The law prevents the police from going on strike"
Glen Smyth, chairman of the Met. Police Fed.
"The efficiencies are only going to come if we are able to recruit the support staff"
See also:

29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police anger over Blunkett reforms
02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Plan to reform 'failing' police
26 Jun 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett lives up to hard man image
11 Sep 01 | UK Politics
Top police recruits to be fast-tracked
12 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett reveals police reform plans
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police red tape targeted
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