Police officers injured in the line of duty have told how cost-cutting attacks on their pensions have now devastated their retirement.
Money Mail reported last week how penny-pinching police chiefs were targeting pensions paid to injured officers.
Now retired officers have come forward to tell of their treatment at the hands of police forces they risked life and limb for.
Pension threat: An officer, who fell from a horse during a Black Lives Matter march in London, is pulled away by colleagues. Police chiefs are targeting pensions paid to injured officers
Injured officers say they have been accused of fraud, spied on, bullied into handing over medical records, and even been driven to attempt suicide.
Injury pensions are paid for life — but only if an officer can no longer work owing to harm suffered in the job.
Around 13,000 former officers receive injury pensions.
The awards are paid on top of their police pensions, which are typically reduced because the officer was unable to complete their service.
The payments can be reviewed, but campaigners and lawyers say police forces are increasingly abusing regulations and hauling retired officers before medical review panels — purely to save money.
Last week, 17 former Staffordshire Police officers took chief constable Gareth Morgan to a judicial review after his force demanded their full medical records, then slashed their pensions when they refused.
A judgment is expected within weeks.
Now, more injured officers have come forward to tell how the threat to their pensions has added to their pain.
Rate docked in identity error
Injured firearms officer Kevin Bridgwood was told his pension would be cut after blundering investigators at Staffordshire Police mistook him for someone else online.
Kevin suffered a severe spinal injury when he was brutally beaten rushing to the aid of a colleague on Christmas Eve in 1986.
He was finally forced to take an injury pension retirement in 1993, and now lives with constant pain.
But 25 years later, he was told that his injury and pension needed to be re-evaluated by Staffordshire Police.
Mr Morgan wrote to him last year, to say it would be cut because he had been working as a volunteer for St John Ambulance and also had a job in the construction industry.
He wrote: ‘I considered that you were trying to prevent the true state of your disablement being revealed.’
It is understood the force had confused him online with another person of the same name. The chief constable wrote to him again last month to admit the error and withdraw the threat to his pension.
Kevin, who has not been able to work since he retired, says: ‘It is unbelievable that a police force today could act like that.’
Kevin, who has also had to fund more than 500 physiotherapy appointments, is also now taking legal action against the force after it asked the NHS to share his private medical information.
Now 62, Kevin says: ‘I’ve got no problem with reviewing, as long as they are doing it properly. But they aren’t doing it properly.
‘They just want to trawl through your records to find something to reduce your pension.’
Police forces say it is their duty to review injury pensions paid for from the public purse. But lawyers say that regulations require the reviews to be conducted on a case-by-case basis — and only at suitable intervals.
A Northumbria Police report from 2015 showed that reviewing nearly 300 injury payments over three years would cost £576,000. But the exercise would likely make the force £885,000 if one in four pensions were cut — saving £309,000 over the three years.
Many police forces do not routinely review injury pension payouts, unless requested by the officer. Kevin adds: ‘It is just a postcode lottery.’
Stress triggered suicide attempt
Distress: David Curry was attacked by three armed robbers in Gateshead town centre in 1987
David Curry was just 27 when he was brutally attacked by three armed robbers in Gateshead town centre in 1987.
He was repeatedly bashed over the head with bricks, leaving his skull cracked open, and breaking his jaw, shoulder and back.
The young officer was forced to retire aged 28 with an injury pension because he could no longer serve with Northumbria Police.
Yet, more than 30 years later, he is now battling to protect his injury pension, which pays around £750 a month.
David’s brain trauma means he has memory problems, epilepsy, and suffers from seizures triggered by stress. He also has post-traumatic stress disorder.
But, around five years ago, Northumbria Police wrote to him, demanding his condition be reassessed and his pension re-evaluated.
The stress caused David to attempt suicide and be sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
He also says it contributed to the end of his marriage of 36 years. His GP has also even written to the force to say he had a ‘poor prognosis’ and the reviews were causing him a ‘great deal of distress’, causing his condition to deteriorate.
David adds: ‘They are like a dog with a bone, they won’t let it go. It is scandalous. The public do not have a clue what is happening. They all assume we are being looked after.’
Now 60, he says: ‘It makes me feel very angry and bitter. I did the job a police officer should be doing.
‘Their treatment years later, the way they are doing this, is totally reprehensible. It’s disgusting the way they have been treating me and other officers. We are going to die eventually, just leave us alone.’
Put under surveillance
Officers harmed in the line of duty have been accused of malingering, and have even been put under surveillance by their own forces.
Injured officers say there is often a suspicion that they are exaggerating their injuries to get their hands on an injury pension. Yet in reality, many would be better off if they could keep working.
Jennifer, who did not want her full name published, suffered a back injury lifting a drunk into a police van in 2007.
But after complaints that she had ‘misrepresented the extent of her disability’, she was watched over four days and videotaped on the school run.
The investigation found she had no case to answer for misconduct and she was awarded an injury pension after she was forced to retire aged 35 in 2011.
But she was awarded the lowest rate, paying between £200 and £300 a month. Only last year was her condition reviewed on her request, and she was awarded more than £2,000 a month.
Police injury pensions are calculated on your ability to earn a wage outside the force. Jennifer is now fighting to win back more than £100,000 by taking legal action against Lancashire Constabulary, claiming it exaggerated her earning capacity by including bonuses she could earn in an office job.
Now, 43, she says she cannot sit down for longer than 10 minutes without pain.
She says: ‘I did not want to give up. I loved being a cop. If anything, I was always making out that I was better than I was. I didn’t want people to see I was broken and struggling.’
Force broke income for life promise
Beaten unconscious: Ralph Barlow with his wife Ann
Ralph Barlow served Staffordshire Police for 23 years, in a career that saw him beaten unconscious and stamped on.
He was finally forced out of the job in 1993, when injuries to his ankle and spine meant he could no longer carry out his duties.
In 2008, the force promised his pension was safe, in a letter that read: ‘Your current injury award banding and pension are guaranteed for life.’
But now, aged 71, he is locked in a legal battle with the force after chief constable Gareth Morgan demanded he hand over his medical records and cut his pension when he refused.
Ralph, who is among the officers who took the chief constable to judicial review last week, says: ‘What they are doing is diabolical.’
The retired officer first risked his life for the force in 1974, when he was beaten unconscious by thugs and left with internal bleeding and a displaced spine. His wife Ann had been told that he could die.
In the late Eighties, a prisoner stamped on his ankle, severing the membrane from the bone.
But Ralph says: ‘It counts for nothing now. I am just a drain on their financial resources.’
The grandfather, who lives in Stoke-on-Trent with his wife of 50 years, says his injury pension pays around £5,000 a year — far less than what he would get if he had been able to finish his service.
If the former officers lose the judicial review, Ralph will have to pay back around £7,000 of his pension.
Ann, 71, says: ‘I can remember when Ralph was proud to serve for Staffordshire Police, but he is not now.
‘I don’t think Gareth Morgan is any better than the criminals who injured my husband. He is still injuring him now, causing him pain and stress.’
Payments cut after diagnosis
Police dog handler Martin Howard* broke his back when he was thrown through the windscreen in a head-on crash with a patrol car.
He was out of action for a year and returned to duty, but could not cope and was forced to retire with an injury pension in 1995.
However, Northumbria Police cut his pension by more than £1,000 a month upon hearing he had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia.
Now 62, Martin says his pension was slashed when he revealed the diagnosis to the force in a questionnaire it sent to him. He says: ‘I thought they would just leave me alone, but it was a red rag to a bull. It feels like they have persecuted me.’
It is understood that the force claimed the diagnosis had overtaken his brain injury as the prime reason he could no longer work.
The father-of-two, whose marriage broke down after the diagnosis, is now waiting to hear after appealing against the force’s decision. He says: ‘It is just a horrible way to do it.
‘It’s got to the stage now when retired injured officers are afraid to go to the doctor.
‘I am in constant pain. I struggle with everything. I shouldn’t have to spend my life fighting a police force who should have a duty of care.’
Around 13,000 former officers receive injury pensions, paid on top of their police pensions, which are typically reduced because the officer was unable to complete their service
Doubting their honesty
Paralegal and former policeman Mark Botham says his firm, Haven Solicitors, has had to fight for fairer payouts for officers who have suffered horrendous harm.
He says: ‘They are put through a process where their honesty and integrity is called into question, when the only thing they have done wrong is be injured on duty.
‘These people who have been very badly injured, often years ago, try to move on with their lives, and then they are subjected to a process that takes them back to where they started, by people who don’t seem to have any empathy.’
Solicitor Mark Lake, of Taylor Law, adds: ‘It is horrendous what these people go through. Most people in life have to cope with adversity, but what people can’t abide by and struggle to deal with, is the uncertainty of it all.
‘Some of them live in a siege mentality where they constantly fear the next review.’
An Injury on Duty Pensioners Association spokesman says: ‘Poor and unfair treatment by forces has a huge negative impact on officers and their families.
‘Marriages sadly fall apart owing to the stress, and those who are mentally unwell can end up suicidal or even find themselves sectioned to hospital, all because of how their force has treated them.’
A Northumbria Police spokesman says its reviews are carried out by an independent doctor to ensure injured officers receive the right amount of money and that the force spends public money appropriately.
He says: ‘We remain committed to supporting our former officers throughout this process, and proactively engage with them directly and through the Police Federation.’
Staffordshire Police says Mr Morgan recognises the ‘service and sacrifice made by officers who are permanently disabled by an injury on duty’.
(*not his real name)
Some links in this article may be affiliate links. If you click on them we may earn a small commission. That helps us fund This Is Money, and keep it free to use. We do not write articles to promote products. We do not allow any commercial relationship to affect our editorial independence.