The warning from the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation comes after 154 police officers applied for voluntary redundancy. A total of 80 will be allowed to leave and will be replaced by new recruits.
The redundancy programme, known as a Voluntary Exit Scheme, aims to cut costs by allowing older officers on higher wages to leave and new ones on lower salaries to join. It can be introduced so bosses can manage the size and mix of a workforce, with the number of officers allowed to leave decided by its command team.
The force is set to lose £2.5 million in government funding over the next year. Losing officers at the top of their pay grade and replacing them saves £100,000 per officer over six years. Zuleika Payne, chairman of the South Yorkshire branch of the Police Federation, said: “When it comes to voluntary severance for police officers, as a staff association we are only too aware of the impact that this will have on both the organisation and the local communities within the county.
“While a severance scheme may serve to achieve what is required of the service in a fiscal sense, ultimately South Yorkshire Police stand to lose vast swathes of experience and expertise from the organisation.
“Corporately this is also seen as a means of ‘refreshing’ the organisation as the service continues to employ new police officer recruits into the organisation.
“There is certainly an appetite amongst officers to apply for voluntary severance as it provides an opportunity to exit the organisation in pursuit of another career path.
“There may be those officers who are not well enough to complete their service and who do not meet the threshold for an ill health retirement. In these circumstances it may be the most appropriate way to leave the organisation.
“The fall in officer numbers has meant fewer officers absorbing more and more work, to the point that officers are completely exhausted and burnt out.
“Coupled with the risks associated with being a police officer, one can fully understand why individuals wish to leave.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “We are currently operating the national Voluntary Exit Scheme for police officers.
“The scheme is now closed for new applications but from this recent round we had 154 applications and have agreed 80 to leave the organisation by October 2017, all of which will be replaced by new recruits.”