Birmingham & Black Country

West Midlands Police officers invited to work for free

West Midlands Police officers who have been forcibly retired due to budget cuts have been invited to return to policing and work for free.

Officers made redundant by West Midlands Police have been sent letters inviting them to apply to be Special Constables - volunteer police officers.

The officers left under regulation A19 through which staff with 30 years service can be forced to retire.

A spokesman for the force said the idea had come from a retired officer.

He said: "West Midlands Police were approached by an officer who was retiring under A19 and rejoining as a Special Constable.

"He wished to write to his colleagues to ask them to consider remaining as a Special Constable on retirement.

"Retiring officers can offer unique skills and experience which could benefit our communities if they are interested in volunteering as a Special Constable.

"West Midlands Police will support officers retiring under A19 who wish to consider this option."

The police authority has previously said it expects to lose 649 officers over the next four years through forced retirement under regulation A19 of the Police Pensions Regulations 1987, where their retention would "not be in the general interests of efficiency".

Former police officers who have received the letters have expressed shock at the suggestion they should consider returning to work for free.

Martin Heard, who was forced to retire at the end of March after 32 years with the force, said he received a letter two weeks after leaving.

"I had a letter through the post asking me if I'd consider coming back and doing the same role as a special constable, as a volunteer," he said.

"I was shocked. On the one hand they're saying they don't need me, and then they're asking me to come back in the same role."

'Salt in wounds'

Mr Heard, whose work in the All Saints area of Wolverhampton earned him the "Copper's Copper" award last October, now plans to start work as a delivery driver for a catering company in his home town of Bromsgrove.

He said he was "devastated" at being forced to leave the force.

"It was a bit of a kick in the teeth really," he said.

Tony Fisher, who was forced to retire as a detective specialising in tackling robbery, said the cost-cutting move was a "slap in the face" after 33 years in the force.

The former detective constable is among hundreds affected by the plan as part of efforts to save tens of millions of pounds in the wake of government spending cuts.

"I was a detective for 26 years and I just don't see how that role fits in any way as a special constable," he said.

"It's a bit of a slap in the face to get rid of you and then say 'do you want to come back for nothing'. It was adding salt to the wounds."

But he added that the force was "between a rock and a hard place".

'Horribly blunt'

At least 13 police authorities have so far chosen to implement regulation A19.

But Britain's most senior police officer, Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson, has described the provision as a "horribly blunt tool" which he "hopes" not to use.

At Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Labour leader Ed Miliband accused David Cameron of "broken promises on policing".

Mr Miliband told MPs that on the eve of last year's election, Mr Cameron had said that any cabinet minister coming to him with proposals for cuts in front line public services would be sent packing.

The Labour leader said: "2,100 experienced police officers with over 30 years experience are being forcibly retired."

He cited Mr Heard as an example of a beat officer being forced to retire only to be invited to return as an unpaid special constable.

Mr Miliband added Mr Cameron could not defend the cuts.

Mr Cameron responded: "Decisions about police numbers will depend on the decisions made by individual chief constables in individual parts of the country.

"The question is not 'should the budget be reduced?' Of course the budget has to be reduced.

"The question is 'who is going to cut the paperwork, who is going to get rid of the bureaucracy, who is going to trust the local managers to make sure we get police on the front line?'"

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