Pawns in a Chess Game

“I like the moment when I break a man’s ego”
Bobby Fischer

It’s often said that chess is a metaphor for life.  There is an Italian proverb that says ‘At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go back in the same box’. Chess mirrors life; no matter how lofty or lowly our position as pieces in the game of life, no matter which side we were on, when we are done with the ‘game,’ we all go into the same box.

It seems in the police service there have always been self-aggrandising Panjandrums of senior rank (both uniform and civilian) who seem to be without conventional morality.  They spend their lives in seeking to gain power over others through manipulation and bluster.  The sometimes try to justify their inhumane treatment of their fellow beings under the guise of less than legitimate ‘personnel management’.

They certainly never for a minute think they will all end up in the same box, their energies dissipated as they return to their basic inert elements. Perhaps if they did think more of their inevitable end, they might be more careful in selecting the means by which they direct their path through life. Perhaps their decisions or lack of decisions wouldn’t have such profound and injurious consequences.

Rather than seeing an injured or ill police officer as a person, they see a problem; and they want that problem gone or forgotten without the hassle of finding a redeployment path.  All the better if central government will pick up the tab or, the modern day equivalent, the individual is pushed to resign or is made a victim of a capability dismissal.

We at IODPA understand all too well what happens when people are cast aside, careers ended and lives destroyed.  We are also aware of the difficulties currently serving and injured officers face in gaining their right to ill-health retirement.

Why has there been such a tempestuous imbalance with ill-heath retirements?  Power games by cruel and harsh senior managers have always happened: instead of the pawn being thrown in the bin and replaced with a shiny new eager one, nowadays the pawn, held together with gaffer tape and super-glue, is forced to remain on the chequered square until they keel over and expire.

When you have been medically retired from the police service you start to see some things differently.  Not only is there the obvious suffering with the injury but there is the self-doubt and the readjustment needed to rebuild your identity.  Some people fail to make that transition and carry with them for the rest of their lives that they have somehow failed. The truth is that they have not failed, but that they have been failed by those in authority.

In our work-obsessed society, it’s hard to imagine anything worse than losing your career – amplified when that police career is your life. Yet people coming to terms with this also have to go through a series of legal and medical hoops to get any financial recompense. It’s time-consuming, stressful and undignified.

These struggles have progressively become worse over the years.

The 2011 police pay and conditions reviews conducted by Sir Tom Winsor identified that although the National Policing Plan for 2003-2006 required a reduction in the number of officers being retired through ill health grounds, the target previously set by the Government Actuaries Department was still at 6.5 retirements per 1000 officers.

However, Winsor’s research revealed that forces were only retiring officers on ill health grounds at a rate of 2.2 retirements per 1000 officers, significantly less than the recommended level.

It seems that all police services in the UK are playing fast and loose with peoples’ lives.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies published a report in 2014 that looked into the differences in ill-health retirement across forces and found a strong correlation to both area-specific stresses of policing and force-specific human resource policies.

You can view the report here .

It’s a bit heavy on statistical modelling and forecasting but we’ve done the hard work and extracted the choice nuggets.  The report shows there has been a Machiavellian approach in the administration of ill-health retirements and therefore injury awards.

The decisions of granting awards mirror the corruption regularly occurring in review processes. Human resource directors have jumped from one extreme to another: first using injury awards as a mechanism to solve their manpower problems at the expense of the injured officer (by immediately replacing them) and then more recently keeping injured officers in purgatory by not medically retiring the individual.

So since the National Policing plan, what changes occurred to Police Injury Benefit Regulations?

None.  The only difference is how serving officers are nowadays on the capability dismissal roller-coaster and this, according to the IFS, can be squarely blamed on the Home Office enforced removal of central funding.

The IFS state,

However local authorities had considerable discretion, within some rather broad government guidelines, as to how they managed ill-health retirement. Hence, given this discretion, local authorities had an incentive within the financing mechanism to utilise ill-health retirement as a vehicle for removing lower quality officers (for example, those with lower fitness or general aptitude and commitment) from their workforce, wholly at the expense of national government

Previously serving officers were used as pawns in a horrific game of chess.  The sense of self-esteem, loves, needs and welfare of the individuals concerned were all dispensed with on the grounds of efficiency. The IFS state in cold realism that medical retirement was just a ‘vehicle’ from removing disabled officers from the workforce.

Enforced medical retirement can easily break an already vulnerable person, damaged by illness or injury, for to hear that the decision was taken as it suited the bean-counters is a bitter pill to swallow.

The authors of the IFS report call it an ‘incentive‘. Greed was the motivation behind the brutish push the force gave you out the door that caused you to land face down in the dust whilst the door slammed shut –  it wasn’t the physical or mental injury or God forbid both, that you have to suffer for the rest of your life, that led to your ill-health retirement.  It was the avarice of your superiors.

The IFS report continues,

For police officers, the incentive to utilise ill-health retirement as a workforce management tool was exacerbated by the unique peculiarity of the police officer‟s terms of employment, under which a police officer cannot be made redundant before the first age at which he or she could normally retire (i.e. age 50).

It should be noted, however, that high rates of ill-health retirement we also observed in the late 1990s among other groups such as firefighters and ambulance crews even though such workforces had conventional employment contracts

Troubling that all this was non-regulatory.  The police injury benefit and ill health retirement Regulations remained exactly the same.  Just like the Home Office guidance 46/2004 which poisoned reviews of degree of disablement, central guidance enforced instructions upon already incompetent administrators of the police Regulations – instructions that ran contrary to the Regulations themselves.

The IFS is missing an important point in this excerpt,

This discrepancy between the incidence of perceived local benefits and national costs arising from discretionary retirement was noted by central government and in 2006, among a plethora of reforms to the police pension plan, a cost-sharing policy was introduced by which part of the cost of ill-health retirement would be borne by the local employer.

Central government, instead of changing the legislation, changed the way extant legislation was implemented.  Of two hypothetical permanently injured police officers with the same disability, both facing ill-health retirement in 2006, one may have found themselves medically retired and the other denied the same route to recovery, just because they were separated by a matter of months pre and post the cost-sharing policy.

When an officer is permanently disabled from performing the full duties of a police constable then they are eligible to be medically retired.  Of course there is some discretion available to the chief constable regarding retention but the IFS neglects to mention that this is mutual discretion – agreed by the officer themselves and the police force.  In reality the option is rarely given to the injured officer.  They are abandoned on long term sick leave with no occupational health support, no welfare checks and no return and reintegration policy.

Interestingly this comment by the IFS seems to mention that weak enforcement of medical claims contributes to the high level of the retirements in the 1990.

Police forces have also been characterised by high levels of early retirement on grounds of ill-health, especially in the late 1990s when medical retirements were averaging almost half of all retirement across police forces (HM Treasury, 2000).9 Ill-health retirement rates across forces varied from less than 20% of all retirements to over 75% in the same period; the high rates being seen as arising from a combination of generous enhancement provisions (ibid, Tables 1 and 2) and weak enforcement and monitoring of medical claims by individual police forces (Poole, 1997).

Of course when the force is using medical retirement as a ‘vehicle’ for removing officers who can’t be fully deployed the argument is that this isn’t ‘weak enforcement’ of the correct processes.

Implying a lack of energy is a careless use of words by IFS as it masks the actual powerful and keen enthusiasm the administrators of ill-health retirement go to in order to get exactly want they want. What really happened, and is happening, instead shows an institutional and deliberate reluctance to invest in welfare and a mindset that is all too willing to abandon those whose health is destroyed by doing the job.

The Regulations are quite specific in saying that disablement is an inability to perform all the duties of a police constable.  The IFS agrees,

The criterion for ill-health retirement among police officers therefore stresses the officer‟s inability to perform “operational duties” – that is, limits on his or her potential full deployability such as in major public order situations and other physically and mentally stressful situations. This is a weaker criterion of “disability” than in most public social insurance settings where “disability” would be defined by reference to incapacity in any employment or to a specific set of disabling health conditions. In the context of police officers, this definition relating to “full deployability” links back to the supposed omnicompetence associated with the “Office of Constable”. Consequently, many police officers who were unable to fulfil specific duties obtained full ill-health retirement even though they were perfectly capable of engaging in restricted activities.

And then the IFS comes across the deliberate gamesmanship played by senior personnel directors who accelerate a life-changing decision upon an individual, purely based on the landmark of service and not on a balanced and unbiased view of the presented merits or demerits of the individual’s circumstances or condition.

There are distinct “spikes” in awards at those years of service at which the rate of enhancement increases, such as after 10 and 13 years‟ service. This suggests that financial incentives, as well as medical issues, played a major part in the process. Consequently, after the mid-2000s, efforts were made to implement standardised “best practice” medical assessment procedures across forces.

It is a sad fact that any serving officer who is facing enforced retirement due to long-term ill health or injury will be entered into a lottery. Some forces will handle the process fairly and with compassion. Other forces will see a problem with nothing more than a financial shape and will act accordingly. They will do whatever they think they can get away with to minimise or even avoid entirely, the cost of dispensing with a damaged officer.

IODPA, with its wealth of first-hand experience of the ways that corrupt, incompetent, uncaring or just plain ignorant HR managers and their unthinking, unchallenging underlings have visited gross harm on disabled former officers, now sees the picture changing.

The focus is shifting from being only former officers on injury pensions to include serving officers who have the misfortune to become long-term ill or are injured to the extent where they can no longer perform the ordinary range of duties required of a police officer.

Injury on duty pensioners have learned how to defend themselves from attacks made by biased ‘give me the money’ SMPs and ruthless HR managers. We are no longer the soft target we were disdainfully thought to be.

We share one vital circumstance, which is that we ceased to be subject to the often ill applied and misused whip of senior managers when we ceased being subjected to the threat of discipline proceedings.

We may be injured, but we are free.

Free to challenge and confront wherever we suffer maladministration. Free to prick the bubble of self-important buffoons who have no knowledge of the Regulations, yet who are ever ready to spout spurious justifications for their actions. Free to speak the truth without fear.

When finance directors see the outgoings paid out to cover injury awards, the entitlement of such defined in statute as being final once made, as a tempting object to this impecunious ruler of an impoverished police force and we are officiously notified that they believe their lack of money gives them enough reason to review of our degree of disablement now – when it suits them – we are free to remember exactly how history repeats itself given the force used financial incentives to discard once disability overcame us.

Serving officers are now seen as the soft target. How long before they too take a stand against the abuses which appearing in the ill health retirement process?

Pawns in a Chess Game
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6 thoughts on “Pawns in a Chess Game

  • 2016-11-04 at 1:32 pm

    Most official games, even chess, have referees. A serving police officer is expected to do his/her job to the best of their ability and, in any case, within the law.

    When a police officer is injured doing that job, no matter how seriously, it becomes a game without any referees! We seriously do become a pawn in the hands of those who are supposed to be referees but are not thinking independently. The Police Force Authority becomes the body whose prime interest is finances.

    There are rules and regulations to every ‘game’ even if it doesn’t have referees. How can these rules and regulations have been ignored, and even re-written by HR, for so many years, to the degree that is now being discovered by IODPA? It is now becoming extremely noticeable!!

    For many years a lot of Police IOD pensioners have thought they were the only ones being treated unfairly and even cruelly. Now we know that this is not the case. IODPA is now here and actively assisting those harrassed and bullied ‘pawns’ to get onto their justified and qualified pensions.

    All it will take to put things right is for all parties to know why the rules and regulations were written, into Law, and ensure that they are followed in future. Present serving police officers need to be aware of what can happen when they are doing their jobs properly! Present IOD Pensioners are keen to pass the word onto them.

  • 2016-11-01 at 8:07 am

    Hi Benjermeeno, You have hit the nail on the head with those last few sentences. I too despise them for what they have put my wife and I through. They are heartless individuals whose sole aim is to reduce the cost of injury pensions without any consideration for the officer.

    It makes you wonder why we put ourselves in harms way. Who benefitted?

  • 2016-10-31 at 1:58 pm

    I have read the IFS report, and unfortunately I was one of those that were forced out by the very facts that the IFS have indicated. There was, & probably remains no consideration whatsoever of the collateral damage, that occurs as a result of their decision. In my case, Divorce within two years, and the financial ramifications that go with that. It is a known fact, that ALL Operational Police Officers suffer from some form of PTSI, as a result of the nature of the job. The Collateral damage, merely exacerbates the condition, and it took a professional counsellor to highlight this to me, when I had previously considered myself as perfectly ” Normal “. Of course the IFS have also identified that Medical, and or Injury retirement was a far easier alternative, and had they carried it out to plan, a lot cheaper alternative to redundancy, because they simply could not just have replaced you.
    Unfortunately for them, I really did have a developing injury, for which, 25 years later, I am still being treated by the Neurosciences Dept.
    This is yet another example of the fact, that at the date of joining the Police, you are given a number, and, that is all you are throughout your career, a number, that they can discard at anytime.
    Without any form of recourse, that for many, myself included results in the individual despising the very establishment, that we were proud to serve.
    When will they see the light?

  • 2016-10-29 at 11:09 pm

    I wonder too how long it will be before serving officers realise they are working in a precarious situation, where their financial and welfare needs will not be properly addressed. If the message gets through to the Federated ranks it is possible they may not be as willing to put themselves in harms way. And who could blame them. It certainly never did any of us any good.

  • 2016-10-29 at 10:13 pm

    “The shortcoming of hanging pawns is that they present a convenient target for attack. As the exchange of men proceeds, their potential strength lessens and during the endgame they turn out, as a rule, to be weak.” – Boris Spassky

    Pawns are dispensible, but at what cost? What of the end game?

    Currently some police services are more interested in political correctness that caring for injured officers, so much so that in one service someone got paid to rename “The Uniform code, “The style guide”!

    Behind the scenes humain remains most likely on flexi hours or at worst 9 to 5 with guaranteed meal breaks and weekends off monitor an officers activity via Blackberry and many other means that they tell you is for your own safety but in reality is nothing more than an expensive time and motion study that someone in HR gets paid to monitor.

    Police officers are not like GP’s allocated a time slot for a patient, if a matter takes minutes or hours, that is the nature of the job. Meanwhile calls back up and get prioritised and the paperwork or rather the computer input still has to be done.

    The nature of the job is that you put yourself in harms way, well most do. However don’t dare get injured or you cost money, someone has to fill that slot, overtime has to be paid or more likely than not colleagues rest days to spend time with their families will be cancelled of course with the requisite notice and re allocated to a day that is more than likely useless to them as their kids are at school etc.

    Not a problem once in a while but when it becomes habitual it is a problem.

    Mean time in some forces no matter how many Specialist Consultant medical reports you have stating you are seriously ill an overpaid pensions advisor or SMP along with souless creatures that dwell in offices watching a screen reading “Computer says no” will make sure every underhanded scheming mechanism comes in to play to get rid of you with as little cost as possible, it won’t natter that they will put you and your family through hell, potentially leave you homeless in the interim period.

    However there is always an alternative “Dry your eyes and get another job, no one is keeping you here”!

    All very well when you have invested a significant portion of your life dedicated to a job that you thought would care for you if you got hurt. By that time you are a middle aged man or woman that has known nothing outside of policing for most of your adult life and who wants to employ a middle aged injured ex police officer or indeed any injured ex police officer.

    As in life and especially chess when the pawns disappear who protects?

    “When your house is on fire, you can’t be bothered with the neighbours. Or, as we say in chess, if your King is under attack, don’t worry about losing a pawn on the queenside.” – Garry Kasparov

  • 2016-10-29 at 5:09 pm

    An excellent post, the phrase ‘lack of investment ‘ is one that truly describes the modern police service. To look back at the introduction of learning the social skills of policing brought about by the perceived failures of policing in the early eighties, the introduction of diversity training to address the label of ‘institutional racism’ and now. How the police service en bloc have abandoned any attempt to shoulder their responsibilities towards the public and their staff. The complete abandonment of training staff to carry out their roles whether being, swimming, first aid, driving, communications, law, welfare, career review, specialised training for roles such as child protection, firearms, public order, crime investigation ad nauseum ! Wholesale destruction of departments dealing with all these matters and more. The complete removal of training departments replaced by tick in the box computer’training’, pamphlets, leaflets etc without providing the time to fulfill them is a classic sign of the failure of the ‘leaders’ in the police service. The removal of welfare departments is another. If you cannot invest in your staff HOW can you possibly hope to provide an effective and efficient service to those you are meant to serve? To continue a culture of blaming the staff for the organisational impediments created by the ‘ management’ and to heap all blame for failings on those staff is a huge indictment of the current senior management both within the police service and their political masters. THIS ROAD CAN ONLY LEAD TO AN ERRODED,DEMORALISED SERVICE AND A WORSENING OF THE CONNECTIONS WITH SOCIETY THAT HAS BEEN THE HALLMARK OF BRITISH POLICING FOR OVER A HUNDRED YEARS.

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