MORE police officers are signed off frontline duties in Merseyside than any other force in the UK, the Daily Post can reveal.

Around 10% have been put on restrictive or recuperative duties which means they are either not working at all or are on reduced duties or hours.

The 451 officers are either recovering from illness or injury, or are off while under investigation.

Politicians and unions have called for an audit of all cases to identify officers who could resume full duties again.

Peter Kilfoyle, MP for Walton, said: "An audit is well and truly overdue on this issue.

"It is important to remember that it means 90% of the force are out there carrying them in the field.

"Any officers that are able should be out on the streets tackling crime."

Many of the officers are carrying out administration roles usually filled by civilian workers.

Carl Vanrooy, the force's Unison representative, said: "There are many officers who are working in office-based roles. We don't believe so many should be on restricted duties.

"We want an audit carried out to see if some officers can go back to full duties and find operational roles for as many of the others as possible. I would estimate 200 could go back on the beat.

"At the moment, there are beat officers working as call handlers on £30,000 which is double the amount of the rest of the workers in those jobs.

"There are operational roles they could be doing in CID, for example, but instead they are being put into administration positions."

Suffolk had the second highest rate at 9.4%. London's Metropolitan force has 5.4% of its staff on light duties while for the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Leicestershire and Northern forces it was less than 2%.

Under current legislation, sick or injured officers can spend up to a year on recuperative duties after examination by doctors. The officers may return to work, gradually increasing their number of hours, but they may be put on restricted duties.

Helen King, assistant Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, said: "We know that there are different practices among forces in how they record figures for staff on light duties.

"For example, a pregnant officer put on restrictive duties is included in our figures, but not in other areas.

"But this is also a success story. The high figures are partly down to the improvements in sickness rates we have made.

"They have gone down by 16.6% compared to last year. Policing is a demanding job physically, mentally and emotionally, so some officers come back off sick leave and go on to restricted duties before returning to their full roles.

"We have also set up a crime fighting team, which I have never seen in any other force, to use the policing skills of officers on restricted duties.

"We are continually checking those on sick leave and restricted duties and providing support to get them back."