Norfolk police shift patterns to be reviewed

Controversial police shift patterns are to be reviewed in Norfolk, as representatives of the rank and file warn than some officers are becoming 'nocturnal'.

The shifts were introduced two years ago under former chief constable Ian McPherson in an attempt to ensure more officers were on duty at the busiest times. But the changes, which replaced the previous 12-hour shifts with eight and 10 hours stints and fewer days off, have proven unpopular with many officers.

Norfolk Police Federation claims the need to provide public order policing in nightclub districts during evenings and weekends means a disproportionate number of officers are working night shifts

Now Norfolk police is reviewing the way the force is run in preparation for funding cuts. This will include a review of shift patterns.

David Benfield, general secretary of Norfolk Police Federation, said: 'There is no prospect of us returning to 12-hour shift patterns - they would not be suited to the challenges we face nowadays.

'But there are a number of aspects of the existing shift patterns which we believe simply don't work.

'The introduction of 24-hour drinking laws and the demands this places on public order duties means a significant number of officers need to be deployed to night or half-night shifts.

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'The result of this is some teams are almost nocturnal and this has an impact on our presence during day light hours, particularly in terms of response officers.

'We're not expecting sweeping changes but, at a time when it seems certain officer numbers are going to be reduced, it makes sense to re-examine the situation and we welcome the fact the chief officer team has shown a willingness to do that.'

A statement on the Norfolk Police Federation website said: 'Whilst all areas identified within the announcement are important in their own right we particularly welcome the inclusion of shift patterns within the review as we have been canvassing for a critical evaluation for some considerable time on behalf of our members.

'Assurances have been given to all three staff associations that there will be full consultation throughout the review period.'

When the current shift pattern was introduced, officers were balloted over whether or not they would accept it.

Despite widespread opposition, officers voted in favour of it as, had it been rejected, Mr McPherson could have forced another pattern upon them. Chief constables have the right to introduce eight-hour shift patterns without the consent of officers.

Mr McPherson said the arrangement would 'allow us to put more officers on the streets at the times when they are needed'.

Officers expressed concerns that they would have fewer rest days and sickness may increase - sickness has actually fallen across the force since the shift pattern was introduced.

The force is currently reviewing all aspects of its work to cut costs. This includes a review of backroom functions and civilian redundancies are expected along with a 10pc reduction in police officer numbers.