Public-Spirited County Policemen – A Difficulty Solved

During the early 1920’s the question of national police pay and conditions was considered which lead to a recommendation that policemen should work fewer hours and have more holiday, but the cost of providing enough policemen became an issue.  As the financial crisis in the country worsened the Home Secretary instructed the forces to make cuts in the police budget dispute the earlier recommendation.  The Dorset Police Standing Committee and Chief Constable discussed the question of how to satisfy both demands, eventually it was the Police Constables and Sergeants that provided the solution.

Group photograph of policemen
Taken at Bridport Police Station 1921/22
Back row PC 175 Alfred John Wintle ; 101 ?; PC 66 George Peach; PC 143 ?; PC 31 William J Jones; PC 135 ?; PC 64 William Charles Henry Carter
Front row PC 100 ?; Sgt Walter Bown; Supt. Beck; PC 36 William Meech acting Sgt; PC 107 Francis G Vatcher

8 hour days, rest days and holidays

In January 1920 the Standing Joint Committee considered the question of police leave, under the Rest Day Act.  The act required police authorities to give 52 rest days per annum (to include annual leave). The present arrangements … (namely, one day’s rest in nine, and 14 days’ annual leave), total 52 days per annum;… changed to one days rest in seven and seven days’ annual leave, total 59 days.

In July 1920 the Desborough report1 provided that the period of annual leave for constables and sergeants to be 12 days, and for inspectors 18 days (in addition to the weekly rest days), superintendents to have not less than 26 days’ leave in the year… it was proposed that the recommendations of the Desborough Committee as to annual leave be adopted, and the Chief Constable be requested to see what arrangements could be made to avoid any considerable increase in the number of the Force.

In September the Chief Constable  reported at some length on the problems of introducing a 8 hour day in addition to a weekly rest day and the increased annual leave, was causing much anxiety as to how the efficient discharge of police duties to be obtained.  It would undoubtedly mean a large increase in the staff.  Certain Sergeants were in charge of specified areas, and, as a matter of fact, their time of actual duty extended over 24 hours, and if the eight hours’ principle had to apply it would mean that they would have to treble the number of sergeants.  It was eventually decided that a small committee be appointed to make enquiries locally and report.

In February 1921 the sub committee reported back that the eight hours’ day amongst the police is now statutory.  The chief Constable pointed out that owing to the working hours for sergeants and constables being now fixed at eight hours, he was unable to maintain the necessary patrols, point duty and station and reserve duties as in the past; nor could he provided for the necessary supervision by the sergeants in each tour of duty, as laid down in regulations…. The transition from a nominal nine hours to a statutory eight hours’ day was aggravated by the fact that each sergeant and constable is entitled to one day off in each week, and, in addition, an annual leave of 14 and 12 days respectively… It was suggested that It would be more economical to appoint a sub-divisional inspector instead of three sergeants.  A sub-divisional inspector is not subject to the eight-hour day.

The sub committee also considered that,… in some divisions, the horse provided for the superintendent might be dispensed with, and the superintendent be authorised to hire a motor-car when necessary, where the trains do not serve.  … where a horse is dispensed with a constable is released for regular police duty. See last weeks post for more on this subject.

Increase in the Police Force

The sub committee proposed a significant increase in the police force but after much discussion with was voted against because the rate payers of the county would have to find half the cost.  The other half would be borne by the Treasury.

In May 1921 the Police Committee  reported the at the Dorset Farmers’ Union in February a resolution had been passed  that stated that their attention had been called to the fact that in the small and poor rural county of Dorset, under the orders of the Home Secretary, for the application of the eight-hours’ day to the police force, it is proposed to increase the county constabulary by 58 members, at a great cost to the already overburdened ratepayers and taxpayers, who had received the proposal with indignation, and declared that they are being goaded by the authorities into revolt.

Captain D. Granville (the Chief Constable) stated that he had received a letter from the Superintendents in charge of the several divisions in the county pointing out the difficulty experienced in carrying out the various duties by the sergeants and constables within the 8-hour day as a result of the decision to defer the question of increasing the Force for the present, and stating that a certain amount of expense must be incurred for overtime pay under police regulations.  It was agreed that until further resolution the Chief Constable be authorised to pay overtime and submit quarterly statements.

Public Spirited Police

The headline in November 1921 was Public-Spirited Action of the Part of the County Police – A Difficulty Solved.  Colonel T. A. Colfox reported that everybody must have been pleased that the question concerning the appointment of additional police for the county had for the time been solved, and in a most satisfactory manner. He read the resolution from the Police Board, which represented the sergeants and constables. The police of the county realised the position themselves, and they had unanimously come forward to help the county over the difficulty, and for that he thought they deserved all praise. (Applause.)

The resolution was: “We, as a body, realise the increase in the force proposed is one which under present conditions would necessitate a heavy extra burden upon the already heavy taxes for the nation, and in consideration of that fact we have decided (if the police authority approve) to agree to co-operate with our officers, and to undertake to do what is necessary to carry out the duties falling upon the police force, until such time as happier conditions prevail, and we undertake, if necessity arises, to perform on such occasions extra hours of duty up to ten hours per day without overtime pay, but we feel that if the necessity arises for longer hours of duty, we should claim overtime pay for such work as is done over and above the ten hours mentioned.”  The committee where very happy with this and after much praise they passed to the police a vote of thanks… amidst applause.

Reduction in Spending

The next year, the home secretary wrote to all police forces requesting major reductions in expenditure in view of the state of the country’s finances. A sub committee reported in April 1922 to the standing Committee the savings Dorset police where going to make.  The Chief Constable proposed to make the required saving by the reduction of 5% below the authorised strength of the force by leaving vacancies unfilled. The one civilian clerk at headquarters would be discontinued and the work distributed amongst other member of staff, who were agreeable to do it.   He thought it only right to point out that the whole force would loyally endeavour efficiently to discharge police duties through the county, but the public must be prepared to pay the price of this economy, and must not expect the same protection from a reduced force as from one fully up to strength.  He would not issue the new uniform that was due in the coming year unless the article needed to be replaced, cutting the cost of uniforms issued by 25%. Postponement of all new buildings. Defer question of police women indefinitely. He proposed to lower rent and subsistence allowances and reduce pay to the police force by 2.5%. For the lower grades this would be a total reduction of 6s 3p per week.  The committee felt this was justified as prices had gone down. The total amount saved by these economises were estimated at £6,734.

This wasn’t the end of the cuts in the police budget and police pay was cut again in 1931 as I wrote in “Dorset Police Pay and Promotion during the Great Depression”

1 Desborough report: Committee on the Police Service of England, Wales and Scotland, under the chairmanship of Lord Desborough, set up in March 1919 in response to severe discontent amongst police officers at their rates of pay and conditions of service, and their ability to make representations on these subjects; police pay had not kept up with the rise in the cost of living, which had doubled during the 1914-18 war, and tensions were very high; the Desborough report was published in two parts, on 1 July 1919 and 1 January 1920, and recommended rises of the order of 230% in constables’ pay, and the establishment of the Police Federation as a representative body and the Police Council as a consultative body; it also recommended that it be made a criminal offence for a police officer to join a trade union or to strike.  From Independent Review of Police Officer and Staff Remuneration and Conditions March 2012

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Ref: Quotes in italics
Western Gazette
1920: 30 January; 23 July; 17 September; 29 October
1921: 04 February; 06 May; 04 November
1922: 03 February; 05 May

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