A total of 1,482 Portuguese police from a total of 22,000 are off sick at any one time, according to the police union Sindicato dos Profissionais de Polícia (SPP).
Lisbon and Porto top the nationwide list of police taking a ‘baixa’ (sick leave), many of them suffering from psychiatric disorders linked to extreme tiredness, overwork and the stress of their jobs.
It means a considerable drop in the operational ability and effectiveness of urban police forces like the Polícia Judiciária and PSP and a consequent negative knock-on effect on fighting crime.
“This means that there are less police on the street and that police stations are increasingly under-staffed and stretched to the limit,” António Ramos, President of the SPP told the national daily Correio da Manhã over the weekend.
Of the 1,482 total, over 800 are awaiting appraisals from the government police doctors (Juntas Superiores de Saúde), which in practice means they want to quit the force.
Nationwide, Lisbon topped the list with 380 police off sick long-term, followed by Porto (120) and Faro (30).
Police unions add that the situation has got worse since the government upped the retirement age for police from 55 to 60 in 2005.
“There are police officers who are very tired and should have already been pensioned off but now can’t,” said Paulo Rodrigues, president of the police union ASPP (Associação Sindical dos Profissionais de Polícia).
Since 1992, 90 PSP (Polícia de Segurança Pública) police officers have committed suicide while this year two police officers committed suicide and five in the GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana).