Police officers drafted in to help with security around Donald Trump’s visit to the UK faced sleeping on the floor or on camp beds in a sports hall ahead of gruelling 12-hour shifts.
More than 10,000 are gearing up for the intense police operation to protect the US President from mass protests and the threat of a terror attack during his four-day visit, which began on Thursday afternoon.
But many of those helping Essex Police complained about being forced to sleep on either stretcher beds or on groundsheets placed on the floor of a squash court, which led to them swiftly being found more suitable accommodation.
The officers also said the showers were cold and there was no means for them to charge phones to be able to stay in touch with loved ones back home.
The conditions in the gym hall were described as “an absolute disgrace” by West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson.
He said: “No officer should be made to sleep on a camp bed, inches from the floor, in a sports hall with scores of colleagues only metres apart after a 12-hour shift.
“These officers are in the south east to keep the president safe. They aren’t asking for luxury accommodation, but the least we can do is put them up in a room with a proper bed.”
Following the outrage, Essex Police backed down and made alternative arrangements.
The Police Federation of England and Wales announced the news on Twitter.
The statement read: “We’ve been working hard behind the scenes to resolve the accommodation issues for police officers working on the Trump visit.
“Essex Police has now apologised to officers and the gym will not be used again. All officers will be accommodated elsewhere.”
Essex Assistant Chief Constable Pippa Mills said in a statement that it had requested a number of additional officers to support the national operation for the US president’s visit.
She apologised to the officers affected and said the conditions originally on offer were not acceptable.
“We worked with local military colleagues to provide accommodation to a significant number of officers travelling from other parts of the country to support our policing requirements,” she added.
“Security, welfare and well-being of those officers has been paramount at all times.
“As soon as we became aware of issues surrounding some of the accommodation actions were taken to rectify them. I apologise to the officers affected.
“The conditions which I have been made aware of are not acceptable. Working with our military partners we have found alternative accommodation. This will address the concerns highlighted.”
She added that she appreciated the commitment of every police officer working in Essex and that she knew how difficult it was to work away from home.
Nick Hurd, the Home Office minister, was challenged on the issue when an urgent question was granted in the House of Commons on Thursday morning.
The shadow policing minister, Louise Haigh, said: “It has emerged that officers being accommodated in Essex are sleeping on cots in squash courts, 100 female officers with four toilets between them, likely to be sleeping on mats tonight, 300 male officers with five toilets between them. Is it any wonder that forces struggle to fill their requirements?”
Hurd replied: “Those concerns have been raised directly with Essex police and are being managed.”
The minister added that nearly every police force in the country had been asked to contribute officers to deal with the scale of the demonstrations, with leave for thousands of officers cancelled.
He said: “The police are expecting over a 100 separate protests across the country, there are separate policing plans within one strategy.”
The visit is expected to cost a minimum of £12m in policing costs alone.
The Police Federation has separately warned of the “unquestionable pressure” the presidential visit is placing on “a service already creaking at its knees”.
Simon Kempton, operational policing lead for the organisation, said thousands of officers will be deployed from their home forces as part of mutual aid agreements.
He added: “However the fact cannot be ignored that while the officers on mutual aid are deployed elsewhere, thousands more of their colleagues left behind in their home force will be expected to pick up the slack, leaving them even more stretched.
“There was a time when we could do it all but now choices have to be made – we cannot do it all and this type of event puts a service which is already creaking at its knees under unquestionable pressure.”
He added that during the visit, it’s likely the police will become a “merely reactive service”.