West Midlands Police reveal 'major challenge' after absences soar during pandemic

Hundreds of West Midlands Police officers missed work as the force's absence rate hit nearly six per cent at the height of the Covid pandemic, new figures reveal.

The absence rate for officers at West Midlands Police hit nearly six per cent during the pandemic
The absence rate for officers at West Midlands Police hit nearly six per cent during the pandemic

In March last year 391 officers (5.9 per cent) and 215 police staff (5.6 per cent) were absent from work, according to a Freedom of Information request made by the Express & Star.

The absence rate for officers also hit 5.9 per cent in January this year, with 415 of them off work when Covid rates around the region were at their highest during the second wave of the virus.

The average absence rate for officers over the 18 month period to July was 4.4 per cent, with the lowest rate of 3.3 per cent recorded in May and August 2020.

West Midlands Police said the force had faced a major challenge to ensure that resilience was not "compromised" by staff having to self-isolate.

The figures also show that officer numbers grew by 784 between April 2020 and July this year, while staff numbers went up by 322 - a total uplift of 1,106.

Meanwhile the number of PCSOs off ill peaked in June at 7.4 per cent, when 35 of the 472 on the role were absent.

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: "Since the start of the pandemic, policing has been at the forefront of the response to managing the virus and is acutely aware of the risks and issues related to it.

"However, as infection rates remain high it has been increasingly challenging within West Midlands Police, like many other forces, to ensure that resilience is not compromised with high self-isolation through track and trace or other notifications.

"The national average at the height of the pandemic was 7.3 per cent, and our control rooms and custody suites were particularly affected by absences.

"The NPCC worked closely with the Home Office throughout to find solutions and various changes helped alleviate certain pinch points.

"We continue to do all we can to deliver sustainable policing services and keep the public safe.”

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