Police forces are spending an estimated £5 million a year on suspended officers, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal, amid concern that disciplinary investigations are taking too long to complete.
Figures obtained under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request found that almost £12 million was paid out in wages to officers who had been suspended from duty between 2014 and 2018.
But only 26 of the 43 forces in England and Wales responded, with the Metropolitan Police among those that failed to provide information.
Across the country it is thought the overall figure for the past four years will be in excess of £20 million, equating to at least £5 million a year.
An officer can be suspended for a variety of reasons, ranging from professional misconduct to allegations of criminal behaviour.
But there is mounting concern among rank and file officers that the disciplinary process is taking too long to complete, wasting huge amounts of money.
Some officers have been suspended for a number of years before eventually being cleared of any wrongdoing.
In 2012, West Midlands Police driver, Vaughan Lowe was suspended from duty after he killed a pedestrian while responding to a 999 call in an unmarked car.
He was charged with causing death by dangerous driving but was cleared in 2015 by a jury at Warwick Crown Court.
He then faced a further three years suspended from duty while he was investigated by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over allegations of gross misconduct.
But he was eventually cleared off charges and allowed to return to work after serving a suspension of more than six years.
John Apter, the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said suspending an officer should be the last option and investigations had to be substantially speeded up.
“A serious concern is the length of time these investigations are taking. I understand why, for some the focus is on the cost while officers are suspended, but the emotional toll on officers and their families can be horrific and is something which must be considered by both local professional standards departments and the Independent Office for Police Conduct.”
He added: “It is right and proper that the actions of police officers is open to scrutiny but there must be a balance and the investigation process must be proportionate and fair.
“It is in the taxpayer’s interest that these investigations are completely in a timely manner and officers should only be suspended when absolutely necessary.”
According to the data obtained by the Sunday Telegraph, a total of 678 officers and staff were suspended on full pay between 2014 and 2018.
Of the forces that responded, Devon and Cornwall had the largest bill, paying out £1.4 million to 42 officers.
West Yorkshire Police had the most officers suspended from duty between 2014 and 2018, with 62 forced to stop working on full pay.
In Greater Manchester, one officer was paid more than £40,000 while serving a 468 day suspension on suspicion of rape.