West Midlands Police cancel leave over Brexit disruption fears
West Midlands Police has cancelled all leave for two months over fears of disruption resulting from Brexit and the Extinction Rebellion protests.
Rank and file officers have been told that no holiday requests will be granted until December 5, with senior officers citing concerns over potential issues relating to the UK's departure from the EU and ongoing demonstrations by environmental campaigners.
Staffordshire Police has cancelled leave for the week beginning October 28.
Britain is set to leave the EU on October 31, although Parliament remains in gridlock over Brexit and the Government is yet to agree a new deal with Brussels.
Meanwhile Extinction Rebellion protesters brought parts of the country to a standstill as they embarked on two weeks of disruption to draw attention to the global climate emergency.
An email to police officers from Assistant Chief Constable Chris Johnson, seen by the Express & Star, said the "difficult but necessary" decision had been made to suspend new requests for annual leave.
He said the block on leave would start with "immediate effect" and added: "I needed to do this because this is an extraordinary time and we do not know the demands Brexit may bring.
"You will have also seen on the news the start of two weeks of national protests by environmental campaigners.
"We are part of a complex national picture. As this picture evolves, I will review my decision."
He added: "I appreciate that my decision will cause some disruption to personal plans. However, we need to prepare for any disruption locally or to support colleagues across the country through mutual aid."
The email notes that any leave which had been booked prior to the decision will be honoured, providing it does not impact on minimum staffing levels.
The move has prompted fury among rank and file officers, with one telling the E&S: "We are already under incredible pressure due to a lack of staff. While we appreciate that this is a difficult time for the country, but cancelling leave just feels like a kick in the teeth."
A spokesman for Staffordshire Police, said: "While we work hard to avoid restricting leave or cancelling rest days it has been necessary to put a restriction in place during the week of October 28.
"We are keeping the position under constant review to ensure we can resource any national commitments while minimising the impact on local policing."
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden, said: "This shows what an uncertain time it is for the country and how difficult it is for any public authorities to know exactly what is going to happen.
"Our police forces are already under great strain, having lost 20,000 officers in the last decade. The prohibition of any annual leave for officers will simply add to the pressure under which West Midlands Police is operating."
Concerns over the impact of Brexit on policing were laid bare at a meeting of the West Midlands Strategic Policing board last month.
Chief Superintendent Richard Baker warned that the time it takes to check the criminal records of foreign crooks will increase 11-fold under no-deal, while the force will lose access to shared systems which show if an individual is wanted in other European countries.
PCC David Jamieson said: "I am concerned that reacting to the consequences of Brexit will divert police resources away from catching criminals and preventing crime, especially if there is significant disorder."
No leave embargoes have been put in place for Warwickshire and West Mercia Police.