I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the police are being stripped to the bone and we’re at breaking point. I suspect one day soon something is going to snap and I fear that when it happens it’ll be a constable who was trying to do his best for the public and the job who will end up being sacked or worse. I was having a conversation on Twitter a few days ago about emergency service drivers and how some are doing 200 miles, most of it on blue light runs, in a single shift whilst being single crewed, having had no break for a whole shift. This may not seem like a serious issue to some, but tiredness seriously affects your concentration and your ability to deal with things.
When you drive along the motorway there are always signs saying ‘Tiredness can kill, take a break’, and lorry drivers follow very strict working practices, having a tachograph which monitors how long they drive for and rest for, and this is regulated by law. Yet emergency service drivers are expected to drive hundreds of miles on blue lights without so much as a toilet break. We don’t do an ordinary job, and work in exceptional circumstances, I understand that, but there is a bit of a conflict here. On one hand you’re told to take a break when you feel tired, yet on the other hand you have 999 drivers travelling great distances, risking their own lives in order to help others whilst being tired.
Let me give you a brief example of how it might affect you; An officer has been working for 6 hours on a night shift, he’s not had time to take a break and eat anything because the numbers have been stripped down and the team have been so busy they’ve all been going call-to-call-to-call all night. Suddenly police receive an emergency call to a ‘suspects on’ (that is a burglary where the suspects are still inside the premises), or a sexual assault or any call where someone is in danger and it warrants an emergency response. He can’t turn around to the sergeant and say ‘Sorry Serg, I’m too tired so I’m not gonna take that call’, there’s no-one else to take it as the other few members of the team are tucked up dealing with other incidents, so it’ll have to be him, the whole team are knackered so they just have to deal with it. Imagine how it would look if it got out in the press that police officers didn’t take an emergency call because they were too tired to drive there?! As we always do, we try to do our best for the job and for the public, so he accepts the call, taking the risks because he knows that someone needs his help and that’s why he became a police officer. Whilst he’s driving to the call on blue lights he falls asleep, hits a car and kills someone. That’s his responsibility, he’s done that and he would have to live with that for the rest of his life but my point is, he would be disciplined and probably charged with criminal offences, and when it gets to court I somehow don’t think “I was tired your honour” would carry much weight.
I honestly don’t know the right answer here so I’d be interested in your thoughts, do you not make your way because you’re tired but risk that persons safety who needs us, or do you go, knowing the dangers of driving whilst being so tired. Before you decide, just remember, I’m not talking about being tired because you went out the night before, or because you got up early to go to the gym. I’m talking about being so tired because your team has been cut of it’s officers so there aren’t enough of us to deal with the calls and the ‘awaiting to be assigned’ emergency calls are backing up meaning as soon as you’re finished with one, you’re off to another call. Because of this rushing around you haven’t even managed to take 5 minutes to eat so you’re hungry as well which also affects your ability to concentrate.
Make no mistake, I’m not here asking for sympathy, I’m genuinely interested in your views and how you think we should deal with something which might seem minor but has the possibility of changing lives forever.
I think the phrase dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t springs to mind.