Police officers were forced out of their jobs after 30 years’ service because of a “financial tsunami” triggered by the Government’s spending review, the chief constable of Devon and Cornwall told an employment tribunal yesterday.
Shaun Sawyer, who took over the top post at Devon and Cornwall just a week ago, said the constabulary “agonised” over the decision but that a budget black hole meant the policy had to go ahead.
Five police forces have been taken to employment tribunals after hundreds of officers were forced out of their jobs.
Under regulation A19, officers below chief officer rank with 30 years’ service can be made to retire.
A handful of test cases are being heard at the Central London Employment Tribunal on behalf of the officers made to step down. Nottinghamshire, North Wales, South Wales and West Midlands police forces join Devon and Cornwall in contesting the allegations.
At Devon and Cornwall it was decided that 700 police officers and 350 members of police staff would have to lose their jobs to make up the budget shortfall.
Mr Sawyer, who was deputy chief constable of the force when the decision was made in December 2010, admitted A19 was “indirectly discriminatory” on grounds of age and that legal advice was taken to make sure its use was “justified”.
He told the tribunal yesterday: “This was an extremely difficult choice for the chief constable, not an easy way out, and the least worst decision to make to deliver an efficient force.”
By autumn 2010, the force – then led by Stephen Otter – realised it would have to save at least £44m over the course of the next four years, following on from the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR).
In his statement to the tribunal, Mr Sawyer, who had been acting chief constable since March 2012, said: “The decision to recommend the use of A19 was agonised over, as was the decision to reduce the number of police staff.
“Reducing the number of police officers went against every fibre of what was, for me, 25 years of policing.
“However, we felt that it was necessary to achieve the most efficient and effective force we could in light of the budget available to us.”
Other measures considered included amalgamating Devon and Cornwall Police with other forces – but it was decided that would not be viable, the tribunal heard.
Cost savings on matters as small as hanging baskets were included as part of the financial review, Mr Sawyer said.
“There was a financial tsunami facing public service and policing in particular,” he said.
Admitting it was an emotive issue, he described policing
as a family he has grown up in for more than quarter of a century.
“I have great pride in the force,” he told the tribunal. “We have lost some excellent officers.
“But this was about efficiency and effectiveness. This was the decision, and I still maintain the only one that could be taken.”
Under cross-examination from Paul Gilroy QC, representing claimants from the Police Superintendents’ Association, he admitted cost was
a “significant part” of the
“I am aware that the claimants contend that the rationale for A19 was solely or overwhelmingly a matter of finance,” Mr Sawyer said in his statement.