Police sickness levels at five-year high as East Yorkshire officers face 'more pressure'
SICKNESS levels among police officers are the highest they have been for five years.
Officers in the East Riding have the highest sickness rate, with 5.56 per cent of hours officers were due to work lost to sickness in the first half of last year.
In Hull, that figure was 3.55 per cent, with a force average of 3.64 per cent.
The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, said the increasing rate could be linked to added pressure on officers because of falling numbers.
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More than 200 police officer jobs have been cut since the force was told it would have to slash £30m from its budget in 2010.
By 2015, that number is due to exceed 400.
Steve Garmston, chairman of the Humberside branch of the federation, said: "We can't say it is definitely because the numbers are falling, but it is an explanation we have to closely guard against.
"We have warned that with reducing numbers of police officers on the streets, more pressure will be brought to bear on those who remain and the expectation that we can do more with less may prove to be unrealistic.
"Ensuring that attendance is managed effectively, therefore, is as key a priority for the chief constable and the police and crime commissioner, as it is for the federation.
"The statistics will continue to be closely monitored to make sure the public are getting the best service we are able to provide in these difficult times of austerity."
The Mail understands the high level of sickness in the East Riding is partly due to several long-term cases.
The new divisional commander, Chief Superintendent Richard Kerman, is believed to have made bringing the sickness rate down one of his priorities.
Mr Garmston said: "There is an issue in the East Riding, but measures are being put in place to reduce that. It is at odds with the rest of the force.
"The figures quoted are concerning, but they should be taken in perspective.
"The percentages can be disproportionately affected when the figures are based on a smaller numbers of officers than in previous years."
Between April and October last year, 19,923 hours were lost to sickness in the East Riding, with 18,329 hours lost in Hull.
Five years ago, 19,836 hours were lost to sickness in the East Riding over a year-long period, with 29,760 lost in Hull.
Clare Baggs, of the force's human resources department, said: "Although there has been an increase in absence rates, performance is good when compared with the national average for the police service.
"We remained below the national average across all groups of staff for 2011-12."
The figures were released following a Freedom of Information request by the Mail.
The force refused to give details of the reasons for the absences as it would exceed the time limits set out in the Freedom of Information Act.