Sunday, May 31, 2009

Law & Order : £1m cost to taxpayer of suspended Police Officers

Reports by the Sunday Herald newspaper reveal that £1million of taxpayers money is being spent on keeping Police officers suspended for various reasons, including criminal charges.

Additionally, reports in the newspaper reveal that two Police officers have been on suspension for four years !

The Sunday Herald reports :

Police under fire as two suspended officers spend four years on full pay

New figures reveal £1m cost to taxpayer in wages for disciplined officers
By Paul Hutcheon, Investigations Editor

SCOTLAND'S POLICE forces are under pressure to reform their disciplinary systems after it emerged that two officers have been suspended on full pay for nearly four years each. Thirty-two officers across Scotland are currently suspended, at a cost to the taxpayer of around £1 million pounds.

They face allegations relating to drug offences, excessive force and "corrupt practices". The figures were handed to the Sunday Herald following a freedom of information (FOI) request to the country's eight police forces.

Each force was asked for the number of suspended officers, the total wage bill racked up during their disciplinary investigation, how long each officer had been off work and the offences they were accused of.

Six officers are currently suspended on full pay in the Grampian force. Four have been off for less than a year. However, another officer has been suspended for two-and-a-half years, while a colleague has been suspended for nearly four years. The total wage bill, according to the organisation, is at least £282,926.

Eleven officers in Strathclyde Police, Scotland's largest force, are suspended on full pay. Four have been away from the front line for less than a year, six for over one year, while an unnamed officer has been off for three years and nine months. Neither Grampian nor Strathclyde would confirm why their officers had been suspended.

In the Lothian and Borders force six officers are currently suspended - the longest being for 15 months. All six are suspected of committing criminal acts, four of whom have been reported to the procurator-fiscal. The wage bill for the six during the disciplinary procedure comes to £165,906.

In Tayside, two officers are suspended on full pay following allegations of drug offences, a breach of data protection and alleged corrupt practices. The force declined to put a figure on the wage bill on the grounds it was "personal data".

Fife Constabulary, however, said that the total cost to the taxpayer of suspending three of its officers was £120,188.95. The force confirmed that each of the three was facing "criminal and or misconduct investigations".

A senior police source, while defending an officer's right to receive full pay while on suspension, said it was "ridiculous" for a case to drag on for four years.

Tory MSP Bill Aitken said: "It is clearly in the best interests of both the individual officers and the taxpayer that these matters are disposed of as quickly as possible. Where the allegations do not concern alleged criminality, these suspensions should be dealt with in days, rather than weeks."

Raymond Pratt, the deputy general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, said: "Whether an officer is suspended is a matter purely for the deputy chief constable. We believe it should be used in only the most serious cases and for the shortest possible period of time. We cannot comment on particular cases but we are concerned about the adverse effects of lengthy periods of suspension on officers and their families."

Superintendent Iain McGrory, the head of professional standards at Grampian Police, said: "In line with employment law, we cannot comment on individual cases, especially so when criminal proceedings are still active.

"But the decision to suspend a member of the force is given very careful consideration and clearly it is not in anyone's interest for that suspension to last any longer than necessary."

Chief Superintendent John Pollock, at Strathclyde Police, said: "The force is fully committed to ensuring a proper balance between the need to protect the public, protecting individual officers and to provide value for money and sustain confidence in policing.

"Having reviewed our approach to suspension, we have reduced the number of officers currently suspended."

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