Devon and Cornwall Police Force drops controversial 'retirement' 30-year rule
A controversial measure which has seen Devon and Cornwall lose 10,000 years of policing experience in the last 18 months was suspended yesterday.
Devon and Cornwall Police invoked a pensions clause in April last year requiring all officers to retire once they had completed their standard 30-year term of service.
Since then around 350 officers, who would have had the option to stay on, have been forcibly retired.
At the time, senior officers and the police authority said the move was necessary after the Government imposed four-year budget cuts totalling some £50 million.
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But the much-criticised policy was suspended yesterday following a vote at the final meeting of the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority which will be replaced by the incoming police and crime commissioner following elections in November.
The Police Federation in Devon and Cornwall, which represents, constables, sergeants and inspectors, had consistently opposed the measure and has taken dozens of cases to employment tribunal claiming age discrimination.
Branch chairman Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts welcomed the authority's decision but said the force had "lost more than 10,000 years of policing experience" while the policy was in force.
"While we welcome the decision we are cognisant of those officers who have been forced to leave," he said. "They may well now be asking why they had to go, particularly those who have left in the last financial year."
Sgt Rabbitts said only 12 of 43 forces in the country had opted to use the clause – known as A19 – to balance the books in light of the Government cuts. None, he said, had taken the "draconian" approach of Devon and Cornwall Police. He added: "I am not sure that we have been made fully aware of the rationale for the decision."
Members of Devon and Cornwall Police Authority debated the decision behind closed doors. It followed a review of the policy which was ordered in March.
After the meeting, Mike Bull, chairman of the authority, confirmed it had suspended the use of A19 with immediate effect.
"I understand this is an emotive issue for officers and we were disappointed that we had to invoke regulation A19.
"In an ideal world we would not have wanted to compulsorily retire any officer. The impact of the Government grant cuts made reductions inevitable and led to A19 being invoked.
"The next few years remain a challenge but we are confident that the changes we have made to the way we deliver policing in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will ensure that people continue to receive an excellent service from us."