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Chief Executive's Blog:
The CNC police officer pension age is not fit for purpose

The Government allows police officers in Home Office forces to retire at 60 due to the physical demands of the job, but Civil Nuclear Constabulary officers are expected to carry on until 68. CNC officers already have some of the most stringent fitness standards in the police service. So why, asks Civil Nuclear Police Federation Chief Executive Nigel Dennis, are the Government asking our members to defy the ageing process?

Our CNC Authorised Firearms Officers probably constitute one of the fittest and most weapon-proficient police bodies in the UK police service.

Given our role in protecting the civil nuclear facilities and nuclear material in transit, that level of dedication is essential. This expertise is a significant resource, which was deployed along with other UK police AFOs to protect the public during the recent Operation Temperer after the Manchester and London terrorist attacks.

Getting to the standard of fitness and weapon expertise set by the College of Policing is tough - even for recruits joining the Force in their early 20s.

The public assumes that all police officers should have some degree of fitness, but it's becoming clear as the Federation campaigns for the more realistic retirement age of 60 that CNC fitness is not yet acknowledged by Government Ministers or by their civil servant advisers.

All CNC AFOs, both male and female, have to comply with the Home Office Police Force national standard of 7.6 on the Multi Stage Fitness Test (MSFT), otherwise known as the 'bleep test'.

The critical aspect of the testing is that it is able to predict the aerobic capacity (VO2Max) required to perform the specialist role of an AFO. For those unfamiliar with the bleep test, the 15 metre test involves running between two lines at a speed indicated by audio bleeps. The starting pace is 8km/h, which is increased by 0.5km/h every 45 seconds. Officers must jog/run towards the line, decelerate and pivot at either end to change direction.

The CNC must also have mandatory standards for weapon competency. All AFOs, male and female, must achieve and maintain high standards in different weapons systems

On top of these onerous requirements, operational AFOs have to work a 12-hour shift pattern of two day and two night shifts consecutively, and wear 30kg (almost 5 stone!) of body armour and respiratory equipment.

Failure to maintain the standards will almost inevitably lead to dismissal.

The option of switching to an unarmed role - as other UK police service AFOs can do - is not available. Unarmed roles in the CNC are very few. The CNC is a specialist armed police service, with the remit of deter, defend, deny and recover. It is a police service, combat ready to respond to the terrorist threat which now currently comes from suicide-minded terrorists.

The proposal that CNC AFOs should have a normal retirement age of 67 or 68 (depending upon on when your birthday falls) is inescapably ludicrous.

The UK police service was told in 2011 that the Government would set 60 as their retirement age. The 2013 Public Sector Pension Act confirmed this sensible exemption while setting the retirement age for the rest of the public service at 67/68. Crucially, the Civil Nuclear Constabulary was not included on the exemption list.

So far, the Government has not addressed the anomaly that the CNC, despite its national security mission, has almost no prospect of its officers serving out their careers to 67/68.

The medical data is abundant and irrefutable.

Eyesight deteriorates due to eye muscle weakening from 40 years of age; men over 45 and women over 55 are at greater risk of heart attack; prostate enlargement affects half of men over 50 and hearing begins to deteriorate from mid 50s. Once adults reach 40 they start to lose between 0.5 and 2% of their muscles each year.

The CNC mandatory fitness regime can only delay this deterioration, it cannot prevent it. Yet this is a job which throughout an officer's entire career demands peak fitness and hand-to-eye co-ordination while handling weapons.

The fitness data evidence for anyone over 60 shows that for males to achieve the mandatory College of Policing standards they would be in the 'excellent' fitness category and for females, 'elite'. It's indisputable that very few male officers over the age of 60 would attain the minimum fitness standards and almost certainly no female officers would.

The imposition of a 67/68 NRA on the CNC is an abandonment of the inherited retirement age of 60 which existed for its forerunner, the UK Atomic Energy Police. The Federation is not asking therefore for something new - just continuity of the original retirement age to reinstate parity with the rest of the UK police service.

All employees, whether private or public sector, should be entitled to end their service with dignity and with a full pension.

As things stand, CNC officers' careers will be terminated through medical discharges as they hit their sixties. It's difficult to imagine a more cynical attitude towards employees who are prepared to put their lives in harm's way to do their trained duty.