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Covid-19 demands to blame for increased police overtime costs

Acting Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons (File photograph)

Police overtime costs increased by almost $345,000 this financial year compared to 2019-20.

Figures showed that the overtime budget in 2021-22 hit $3.28m – up from the $2.94m recorded for the last financial year before the coronavirus hit.

Acting Commissioner of Police Darrin Simons confirmed much of the increase was because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on staff levels.

But he added that a recruitment drive was planned to sign up more officers.

The service spent $3.12m on overtime in the 2020-21 financial year.

The police logged $3.47m in overtime costs in 2018-19, but highlighted that, although that was pre-pandemic, the service had mounted a series of anti-gang operations that year.

Mr Simons said the pandemic “had a meaningful impact on staffing among the ranks of the BPS, with staffing numbers fluctuating due to officers either contracting or being exposed to the virus”.

He added: “Contingencies implemented to manage the situation have proven effective in ensuring the provision of front line services is not significantly impacted and overtime pay has been factored in to the equation.”

Mr Simons welcomed the loosening of quarantine regulations and predicted the changes would make life easier for the service.

He explained: “They will no doubt reduce the length of time officers have to be away from the job after having either tested positive for Covid or having been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus.”

Inspector Kenten Trott, the chairman of the Bermuda Police Association, said in a recent interview that officers had suffered high levels of stress because of the impact of Covid-19 on staffing levels and the nature of the work they had to carry out.

But added that more officers on the beat would help to alleviate some of the stress.

Mr Simons said that the BPS was 20 officers below the “funded strength”, but that there could be more hiring after February’s Budget announcement.

He added: “We have not been able to hire new officers for two years due to Covid.

“The next recruit course is planned for mid February 2022 and should see 20 new officers joining our ranks.”

The Royal Gazette highlighted in a recent report that at a peak, 48 police officers, or one in ten of the service’s strength, had been off work because of the coronavirus.

But Mr Simons said: “I am hopeful that Bermuda is nearing the peak of the post-holiday Covid-19 spike.

“We have sufficient resources to respond to calls for service and plenty of reserve capacity to maintain that capability.

“When absences affect front line response duties, we move staff from less critical areas to backfill.”

But he admitted: “The consequence of this is that gaps may be felt in those areas if absences remain protracted.”

Mr Simons said: “As has previously been reported, our staff have had their fill of Covid-19, just like the rest of the community and, while they remain positive and resilient, they are not immune from the fatigue that affects us all.”

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Published January 27, 2022 at 7:53 am (Updated January 27, 2022 at 7:53 am)

Covid-19 demands to blame for increased police overtime costs

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