Staffordshire Police hit by £565k compensation bill for 'operational mistakes'
POLICE have paid out more than £565,000 in compensation for accidents and 'operational mistakes' in three years.
Figures obtained by The Sentinel show Staffordshire Police has racked up the compensation claims bill in the past three full financial years – including £167,178 paid to their own officers.
Payouts have been made for injuries to staff caused by negligence, damage to homes during raids and searches and claims of unlawful arrest.
Now Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis has pledged to examine the files to see if money is being wasted.
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The cash-strapped force, which is losing hundreds of officers through £38 million cuts to its £192 million budget over four years, settled claims including:
Payouts to 13 employees including £26,240 to an officer bitten by a police dog and £20,500 to a staff member injured after tripping over tape on a carpet;
A total of £381,000 for operational mistakes, including a £71,112 payment for passing on a resident's private information; £7,701 to a visitor whose foot was driven over by a police car at an open day and £546 for a motorist who drove over a stinger laid out to stop another car;
More than £21,000 paid for breaking into properties where no criminal activity was actually discovered.
Claim files also show payouts for destroying seized property by mistake and forcing entry into the wrong homes.
Mr Ellis said: "While I accept that policing is a difficult job in which mistakes can happen, my view is that every £1 spent on this could be spent on frontline policing.
"I would expect every care to be taken to ensure that any amount being spent in sums like this is minimised."
The force said the total amount paid out in compensation has reduced year-on-year and that improvements have been recognised by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
Funding cuts will see the number of officers in Staffordshire fall to 1,750 by 2015, down from a 2006 peak of 2,347, although Mr Ellis is ending a recruitment freeze and forced retirements.
Staffordshire Police's head of business services Suzanne Birchall said: "Each claim is treated on its individual merits and goes through a proper review process.
"Claims involving public or employer's liability are handled by insurers who assess each claim and then provide a recommendation.
"The safety and wellbeing of the public and our staff is a top priority."