With more officers sent to patrol Copenhagen, police work elsewhere has been given a lesser priority. Photo: Simon Læssøe/Scanpix
Since the February 14-15 shootings in Copenhagen, Danish police officers have been focusing so much on anti-terror measures that other police work is being overlooked and officers face burnout, according to a report from Berlingske.
Officers from other police districts were sent to Copenhagen in the wake of the attacks and law enforcement officials warn that it is “naive” to believe that this won’t have an effect elsewhere.
“If there should be a grain of truth to it, it’s a waste of the people’s tax resources. It is naive to expect that you can remove so many man-hours without it having a consequence for residents,” Kaj Rasmussen, the chairman of the officers’ union at the South Zealand and Lolland-Falster Police, told Berlingkse.
Berlingske obtained a document from the district’s chief inspector, Lone Frank, that stated that “preventative and safety-building foot patrols” have been downgraded, maritime controls have been abandoned completely and police are no longer able to send large numbers of officers to major events like football games and concerts.
Rasmussen and other police union representatives said that with the number of police officers in Denmark falling by 500 since 2011, there just aren’t enough resources to carry out normal police work while focusing so much on terror.
With just 10,566 officers nationwide, the chairman of the Danish Police Union (Politiforbundet) said that Danish police officers are “pressured live never before”.
“There is a new reality in which there are new assignments that Danish police must carry out. And that has to be taken from the resources we had before. Of course this will have consequences for individual residents,” Claus Oxfeldt told Berlingske.
Michael Bergmann Møller, who represents Copenhagen-area police officers, told Berlingske that areas such as “drug crime, local police work and presence in socially-challenged housing areas” have been given low priority as officers focus on terror.
While various districts warn that they don’t have enough officers to keep up with standard police work, those officers who are on the streets are working more than ever.
Berlingske reported that officers have amassed a cumulative 370,793 overtime hours – a full 120,000 of those being racked up since the February shootings.
Whether they choose to pay out the overtime or allow officers to take the time off in order to counterbalance the extra hours, police districts face a major problem either way.
“You can of course pay the officers’ overtime. But if you pay your way out of the problem, you get worn-out workers and that will be reflected through sickness absenteeism. Conversely, we will also face a problem if a lot of officers opt to take the time off because then we will lack bodies in the field,” Mogens Heggelund, the chairman of the Central and West Zealand Police, told Berlingske.
Although parliament last week approved a bill that will send police districts and the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (PET) an additional 130 million kroner to compensate for the extra workload of the anti-terror measures, police officials who spoke with Berlingske said it isn’t enough to address the underlying problem.
“The only proper solution is to start up some extra teams at the National Police College [Politiskolen], because this assignment isn’t going to be any easier next year. We need to have more police officers,” Møller said.