ESSEX Police owes its officers more than 5,000 days off, it has been revealed.

A Freedom of Information Request, put out by the Police Oracle, showed police forces across the country collectively owe constables, sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors 1,117 years in rest days.

The county’s force has 5,074 outstanding days in lieu.

Essex Police says it is “the nature of modern policing” that officers have to work extra hours or days.

The results showed the Metropolitan Police in London owed its officers the most lieu days out of any of the forces that were polled. The Met owes 176,969 days which is the equivalent of 485 years.

Mick Thwaites, former Southend police commander, said police officers were dedicated and worked longer hours and extra shifts to make sure the county is kept safe – but that situation wouldn’t go on forever.

He said: “I think the problem is over the years we’ve relied on good will and generally police officers, because they are dedicated, are willing to give up their time, stay on duty longer or get called in for extra shifts.

“Where they couldn’t be paid, because the force was short, they are given time off in lieu.

“Now we are in a position where less and less resources are available but demand appears to be going up and the officers are never going to get that time back.

“Sooner or later, we will lose that good will. You can’t expect them to work the way they have done in the past.”

Mr Thwaites said police officers don’t go into the work for money but if there are not enough staff to cover days off then they would never be able to take it back.

He added: “Clearly, if you haven’t got people to fill the void.”

He added this problem would get worse when senior officers retired.

He said: “The problem is, you will get people that retire without taking their leave. They’ll have so much leave to take they’ll be off work for months before they have officially left – and they will still be on the books as a member of staff.

“It is only going to get worse.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: "The nature of modern policing means that officers and members of staff often have to work days when they would otherwise be off. This can be for court, operational commitments and sometimes to enable personal flexibility to manage demanding workloads."