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It’s not a crime for a Police officer to be in debt, it’s how you go about resolving it, is the key

Tuesday, 27th February 2018

A few days ago, I was invited to speak with Roberto Perronne on BBC3CR Drivetime about police officers having debt problems, probably because Roberto knew I was a former Metropolitan Police officer and have vast experience of dealing and helping police officers with debt issues.

I’m actually quite surprised that debt problems within the Police have not been raised in the media more often and we have to wait until the recent screening of the BBC program ‘24 hrs in police custody’ which featured the arrest and jailing of Police detective Gary Suffling to thank. Apparently, Suffling blackmailed a prostitute’s customer because he had debt problems.

Following the show, I began to reflect on some of the cases I have been involved with helping police officers, support staff, traffic wardens and PCSOs overcome their debt issues, with all these cases the main aim was, and still is, to get their debts under control with more manageable monthly payments and to keep them in their jobs. My first real experience of a police officer having a debt problem was way back in 1977.

Police officer dismissed for bouncing a cheque

As a probationary police constable in the East End of London in 1977, I popped over to a local station looking for a colleague whom had I gone through Police training school with. When I couldn’t find him and enquired as to his whereabouts I was informed he had been dismissed from the Metropolitan Police Service for bouncing a cheque! Can you believe this?

Police awarded 45 per cent pay rise

A year later in 1978, the then Labour government commissioned Lord Edmund-Davies to look into police pay and he concluded the police had suffered years of low pay awards. The review recommended a new system of police pay awards to be in line with average pay for other workers but because police pay had fallen so low it was suggested an immediate 45 per cent pay increase should be made. Although this was agreed by the Labour Government they insisted it be staggered over two years. A few months later, Margaret Thatcher's new Conservative government came to power and immediately implemented the full increase. I was one of those officers that benefited from this. You can read more here.

Police officers with County Court Judgements (CCJs)

A good few years later I had occasion to speak with a county force welfare officer in my then role as a debt adviser, and we got onto the subject of a police officer receiving a county court judgement (CCJ) for non-payment of a debt. He said to me, “If all the police officers in his constabulary declared they were in receipt of a CCJ and were subsequently dismissed from the police, we would probably lose around a third of police officers.”

Can a police officer lose his/her job through having too much debt?

I’ve only ever lost one police officer out of hundreds that I have helped for having debt problems, this one individual was suspended and under investigation for forging his wife’s signature on loan applications and was also caught visiting a brothel on numerous occasions. He was the exception and deserved to go. Police officers are still human and like others experience triggers that push them into debt. These triggers being, separation, illness, maternity, ill-health and too often poor budgeting, to name a few. Everyone knows police officers will have some form of debt and providing he/she is seen to address their debt issues they will be supported by their employers through the occupational health (welfare) and Federation.

Professional Standards Unit (PSU)

Every Police service has a Professional Standards Department (PSU), this unit examines a police officer’s conduct and any ongoing issues he or she may have whilst doing their job. My advice to any individual under the PSU is this. Make sure you contact your PSU, either by telephone or email, say you are experiencing debt problems and that you are seeking help and advice from ……………. The response the officer normally receives is, “Oh, thank you so much for making us aware, we are so pleased we heard from you and not from somewhere else. Please keep us informed and let us know what you decide to do.”

By the officer contacting their PSU they are demonstrating honesty and integrity which are the hallmarks of being a Police officer.

Obviously, I cannot and will not divulge any names or police forces of those officers I have helped. Needless to say, I have had clients in the vast majority of the UK’s forces. You name the squad and yes, I’ve probably had an officer from that unit.

It’s not unusual to see a police officer with debts in the £40,000 - £60,000, I remember in one month alone some years ago I helped five separate police officers with debts between £50,000 and £112,000 each, the latter one being a house repossession mortgage shortfall debt along with credit cards.

Police officers can and do go bankrupt

I have again helped so many officers, detectives, PCSOs and support staff go down the route of bankruptcy. This form of insolvency was the only option to them because there was no disposable income (DI) to pay something back. Provided the individual had no ongoing work-related issues, for example any criminal activity, then that person would invariably continue as a police officer. That said I have known some officers to be taken off a particular role or squad if their work involved was of a high profile or of sensitive nature, all this means is they are moved somewhere more compatible. You can read more on consumer bankruptcy along with our fact sheet on how to go bankrupt, yes, online.

Two cases stand out though, first one was a Police officer with circa £700,000 mortgage shortfall debt from a failed building program, he took my advice with the PSU and after guiding him through bankruptcy he kept his job. The second one was a Police officer with circa £251,000 of unsecured debt and his spouse a nurse had circa £248,000. Their payments per month to their combined creditors was £9,300, and they had not missed a payment until they spoke with myself. The Police officer cashed in his pension early and gave this large sum to his creditors in the hope of reducing the deficit. Had he taken advice then he would have discovered he could have offered this pension sum to clear both his and his spouse’s debts via a lump sum full and final settlement know as an Individual Voluntary Arrangement.

The Police officer to watch out for

In my view the police officer to watch out for is the one that hides his/her debt and does not seek help. Any police officer that has either gone bankrupt, entered into an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA), or a Debt Management Plan (DMP) and can now manage their debts is the one most likely not to be corrupt, simply because the debts are either reduced, written off or become more manageable.

Police officers being dismissed for failing to discharge a lawful debt

In the past some officers have been dismissed from the Police for failing to discharge a lawful debt but I ‘m pleased to note that this is very rarely, if ever, applied now. With an IVA it is the creditors who have agreed to change the payment terms of the debt, taking a percentage of what they owe and write the rest off upon the completion of the arrangement. This is a legal way of discharging a debt. My question is what has the officer done wrong when a creditor legally changes the amount he or she has to pay back? After all the debt is still being discharged but under revised terms.

Any Police officer reading this and wishes to speak with me in person can make contact via direct message on Twitter @debtwizard, Facebook 'DebtWizard' or call the number on the DebtWizard website and ask for me to call you back. I will get back to you within 24 hours, in total confidence.

It’s not a crime for a Police officer to be in debt, it’s how you go about resolving it, is the key.

Related reading - Nearly 10,000 police officers take a second job to help pay debts 7 Aug 2018




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