Chief Constable George Hamilton addresses PSNI stresses

Chief Constable George Hamilton
Chief Constable George Hamilton

“I am committed to supporting my officers and staff.

“Policing today is a more complex job because society is more complex. There are no clear dividing lines between what is a health problem, what is a social problem or what is a community safety issue – there are grey areas and there is overlap. That means caring for others, dealing with vulnerability, protecting life and upholding the law are currently part of what police might do in any given day.

“During the course of a shift, an officer could be responding to a serious sexual assault, dealing with people who have significant mental health issues, attending a violent incident, or offering support to a severely traumatised family. The fact is, policing is one of the most complex, challenging public services. Police officers intervene in people’s lives in a way that few other agencies do.

“To support police officers and staff we have an extensive Occupational Health and Welfare Department which is recognised as being one of the best in UK police services. Our range of services include 24/7 counselling, specialist psychology, physical fitness and physiotherapy, with a true focus on well-being. We also have local ‘Well-Being Committees’ established across the service, which encourage healthy lifestyle choices and facilitate health promotion initiatives, with gyms across the police estate for use by officers and staff.

“Over the course of the last 12 months I have met with many officers and staff, I value their views and have acted on issues they wanted addressed, one of these being protected rest days. This supports officers and gives greater certainty when planning for family and personal commitments.

“We have to work within budget restraints to enhance efficiency and effectiveness, which means making difficult decisions whilst prioritising resources to keep people safe.

“Through Programme for Government we are working with our public sector partners to collaboratively address the challenges and complexities that we all encounter.

“I am committed to supporting my officers and staff so that they can effectively respond to the most vulnerable in our community. Significant progress has already been made with our colleagues in the health and social services sector to address aspects such as mental health.”

On four days on four days off shift patterns, Mr Hamilton said: “The four day shift pattern does not provide operational flexibility nor does it provide the best service for victims of crime. We need to have the right number of people in the right place when our demand is at its highest and four days on and four days off does not meet this need.”

As regards instances of half pay, Mr Hamilton said: “We have a Management Attendance Policy which is governed by regulations set by the Department of Justice. We have sought to exercise flexibility within this framework and each case is assessed on an individual basis. We will continue to work with our staff associations whilst adhering to regulations, to ensure that exceptional cases are handled sensitively. We are currently reviewing our practices to ensure a fair and consistent approach is taken right across the organisation.”

See also: ‘We want police chiefs to support us on the ground’

Also read: Federation offers suggestions on how to tackle stresses