Back-to-back shifts during London riots, jubilee and Olympics leave no time to go home, claim Scotland Yard officers
Metropolitan police officers have been sleeping on floors, under tables, in cupboards and even in branches of McDonald’s because back-to-back shifts leave them too little time to go home, it has been claimed.
Officials say Scotland Yard has been ill prepared to cope with an extraordinary sequence of events, including last year’s riots, the diamond jubilee and the Olympics.
Officers have been working 12-hour shifts, often timetabled so as to allow them little time to rest or commute. The situation is exacerbated by police claims that they need more officers and by the fact that only four in 10 Met officers actually live in Greater London.
Officers who spoke of their plight to the London radio station LBC 97.3 said many have been forced out of the capital by high house prices and rents. The Met, under continuing pressure to cut millions from its budget, has been closing police accommodation blocks.
One unnamed officer told the station that, desperate to sleep, he used bolt cutters to gain entry to a closed police building.
The claims were seized upon by the Metropolitan Police Federation. “A lot of it rings true,” said its chair, John Tully. “During the jubilee there were officers sleeping on floors because they had long periods of duty and a short time between those periods of duty. I have never known morale as low as this.”
Tulley said the federation had sought to raise the issue with local managers throughout the force. “Their response is ‘tough it out’. Nothing will be done until something goes wrong. Some of these officers are protection officers with firearms; driving officers. We need officers who are 100% fit and refreshed and ready for the job.”
Tully said the federation has been trying to raise concerns with the mayor, Boris Johnson, but repeated formal requests for a meeting with his deputy mayor for policing, Stephen Greenhalgh, have been ignored. “I think the mayor has a lot to answer for,” said Tully.
For his part, Greenhalgh said he did not know of officers sleeping rough and had not been told of the federation’s request to meet him. “I am shocked to hear these experiences,” he said, adding that the force has been under “unique pressure”, particularly from the Olympics – the UK’s “largest peacetime operation”. London should, he said, “be able to house more of its police officers”. Greenhalgh urged local councils to prioritise the claims of working professionals.