POLICE OFFICERS are likely to be stretched even further this summer, the Hampshire Federation has warned.

Officers across the county are gearing up for what is likely to be an “extremely challenging time”.

It comes as lockdown restrictions ease and the night-time economy is set to reopen in June.

Furthermore, major football tournaments kicking off will coincide with summer weather and a reduction in social distancing rules.

The federation chair, Zoe Wakefield ,has warned that just getting enough experienced officers on the street to cope with the surge in demand is going to be difficult, let alone keeping everyone safe.

She said: “We’re fully preparing for a very busy summer.

“It’s going to be really difficult because we’re still really short-staffed.

“People might see in the media there’s a 20,000 uplift in officers, but they are not independent officers yet: they’re still student officers.

“When you look at our numbers without those students, we are really struggling.

“That’s going to be the problem in the summer – we’ve got all these student officers, but they’re not able to go out on patrol on their own yet.

“So, the experienced officers are obviously tutoring them, coaching them, so they’ve got a tough job ahead because they’re going to have to police all this extra stuff, but in the background, they’ve got somebody else that they’re trying to teach and mentor and look after.”

Some officers will have never done a night-time beat before, something Zoe is reportedly working with the force to address.

Ms Wakefield added: “We’re having discussions with the force about the fact we’ve had no night-time economy now for over a year, and so we’ve got officers that will have coming up to 18 months service, but they will never have policed it.

“So, we’re having a look at what we can do to prepare those officers because the night-time economy isn’t going to be normal night-time economy. “It’s going to be full-on, and when you’ve never dealt with pubs spilling out, groups of drunken people, when you’ve never had that experience before, we want to make sure that those officers are prepared.”

As part of the Government’s lockdown road map, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be able to reopen from April 12 at the earliest.