Police overtime payments reflect effective use of resources

From: David Crompton, Deputy Chief Constable, West Yorkshire Police.

YOU published a front page lead and editorial comment on the use of overtime payments in the four police forces in the region (Yorkshire Post, March 20). The figures that were published were, as the article stated, for a three year period.

Overtime in the Police Service ensures that we can provide the flexible and surge provision of uniformed police officers at precisely the time that public need them. Fortunately, we have staff who are willing to respond flexibly. Unlike some professions, they have no choice. It is right that they should be paid on the occasions that their services are needed either on extended hours or on a rostered rest day.

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Much of our work is driven by events outside of our control. We cannot clock off in the midst of serious disorder, when searching for a vulnerable missing child or running a murder enquiry. Such unplanned events can consume thousands of staff hours, particularly of officers in key specialist roles.

Furthermore, the figures quoted in your article, include planned overtime so that we deal with football matches and other commercial events without stripping away the bobbies from local communities. We recoup money from commercial organisations which offsets the cost to the public.

The contextual statistic that is most powerful is that in the 2012/13 budget, we have, in West Yorkshire Police, set aside only three per cent of the total wage bill for overtime spending – 97 per cent of the budget will be spent on the normal time wage bill. What we get for the three per cent is incredible flexibility to brigade officers at times that suit the management of the Force to address unusual and unexpected events. Most people surely want to know that the Force is there not only to deal with day to day issues but also, where demands warrant it, to carry on working past the end of a shift to prevent or resolve disorder, to get boots on the ground to look for missing people, or to make the enquiries in the golden hours following a critical incident.

The job of policing does not tend to accord with precise shift patterns (although 97 per cent of all needs can be met in this way); a critical incident will often need all the resources that you can muster. Speaking professionally, this is an incredibly effective use of resources and should be acknowledged rather than condemned.