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GMP Federation

“Police Officers are shattered before they even start their shifts.”

31 May 2018

“Police officers are knackered, they’re burnt out, they feel like they are not offering a good service. Officers are shattered before they even start their shifts.”

That was the stark warning to the Police Federation of England and Wales’ annual conference this week.

PFEW Roads Policing Lead Jayne Willetts led a session to discuss the growing problem of officer fatigue, and she admitted to delegates she is frustrated by the issue.

She said: “We are so short on numbers and demand from the public is never ending, yet we cannot fulfil the basic need that we all have to take a quick bite to eat, have a rest, just chill out for 10 minutes. Police officers say they don’t even have the chance to go to the toilet.

“I don’t like the idea of officers telling me they’re taking work home because they don’t have time to do it on shift. Officers are working on their annual leave so they can catch up.

“But when they do want annual leave they are told they can’t have it for months. It’s no wonder people are off sick.

“Officers are not being taken seriously when they say they are tired.”

The breakout session also heard from psychologist Dr Paul Jackson, who is an expert in the effects that fatigue can have on shift workers.

He told delegates: “Fatigue is not something you can overcome by willpower. When you’re fatigued you need sleep.

“You cannot do shift work without being fatigued. But it means we need better understanding of the causes the extend of the problem and what we can do about it.

“People working shifts have cumulative sleep difficulties. If you’re working shifts you’re changing your body clock and it has a cumulative effect. All of this is exacerbated by operational demands.”

He explained that people working shifts have cumulative sleep difficulties – particularly on night shifts when officers are trying to sleep when their body clock thinks they should be awake and alert. 

Delegates also heard about a vicious cycle of fatigue caused by cancelled rest days and delays in taking annual leave entitlement.

Dr Jackson added: “Rest days are days that should be kept sacrosanct to enable you to recover from previous days’ work and enable you to prepare for following days.

“If you are working on rest days you are reducing your ability to rest properly. Staffing issues are a real challenge, but if you don’t manage fatigue we get a vicious cycle and the situation will only get worse and worse.”


March 2024