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Zero pay award 'the last straw' for officer morale, survey shows

The pay freeze officer safety and toxic media coverage means a significant number of officers are considering leaving the service.

The Police Federation’s annual morale survey revealed the depth of dissatisfaction among rank and file officers and that included their relationship with senior command.

Of 29,587 officers who responded, 95 per cent said their treatment had a negative impact on their morale, while 93 per cent stated they did not feel respected by the government

But the urgent issue is pay. The zero per cent increase last year is now hitting even harder because of rising energy, fuel and food bills.

Worryingly, twice as many respondents to the previous year (14 per cent) saying they were ‘never or almost never able’ to cover monthly bills.

Not only that, 73 per cent of respondents said that they feel worse off financially compared to 12 months ago.

67 per cent said they would not recommend joining the service to others.

The Fed called on the government to start resolving the issues by creating “an open and transparent mechanism for determining pay”.

National Vice-Chair Ché Donald said: “Police officers have now reached breaking point. Having stepped up during the pandemic, faced rising levels of assaults, continually changing rules and legislation, the reward for their efforts was a zero percent pay award.

“Police officers heard the warm words, they saw government ministers queuing up on television to give thanks. Yet that was quickly forgotten the moment it came to recognising their efforts in their salary,” he said.

The Fed’s report contained brutal feedback, examples of which are quoted below:

“I find the pay derisory. I find the way in which the govt. treats officers derisory. The constant negative press is toxic for morale.”
Response Sergeant, 12 years’ service, South West

“Having served for 26 years in the Police Service, I have never felt as low in morale nor can I recall ever being as overworked or treated with such contempt, by Force Command, government, the media and the public alike.”
Detective Sergeant, 26 years’ service, North West

"I love my job. I hate the negative government/press and public opinions of the Police and feel this has a massive negative effect on my morale and my colleagues. Everywhere is breaking, the court system, the CPS and this just gets pushed onto the Police. Police fill the gaps where other services are not able, Mental Health, Children's services and we cannotwalk away.”
Public Protection Constable, 16 years’ service, South West

With the survey came a hint that some of the regional leaders within the Fed who are demanding the right to strike are winning ground.

Ché Donald said: “In the face of all of this, is it any wonder that police officers have little to no faith in this government? Police officers are Crown Servants – we do not have employment rights and cannot take industrial action. So, the government needs to demonstrate it understands this and reward officers fairly for the incredibly difficult and demanding job they do on behalf of society.”

The Police Superintendents’ Association National Secretary Dan Murphy told Police Oracle that pay was critical to rebuilding relations between the government and policing: “We’ve been treated with contempt.

“What we’re asking for is a fair pay deal from the government that rewards officers for the contribution that they make.”

Police Chiefs signalled they are well-aware of the issues – and hinted that resolving the pay row is high on their agenda.

A National Police Chiefs’ Council spokesman said: “Views from across policing, including the results of this survey, are used as part of submissions to the independent body which considers police pay every year.”

The role of officers in policing the pandemic had not gone unnoticed by top command.

The NPCC said: “Since the beginning of the health emergency, officers have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support communities, help people to understand and comply with regulations and stop the transmission of the virus.

“This significant contribution to public safety has been recognised by police leaders who have continually highlighted the professionalism, dedication, hard work and resilience of both officers and staff.”

The NPCC acknowledged more needed to be done to rebuild frontline morale: “It is clear from this survey that many of our officers can become de-motivated by negative media stories that they feel shape perceptions of the service as a whole.  

"Leadership at every level of the service must acknowledge this and ensure that our officers and staff are recognised and valued for the work they do.”

It added: “Police chiefs take the wellbeing of officers very seriously.  We will continue to work with staff associations, including the Federation, to address the important issues identified in this survey.”

But for one officer, the commitment was too late. Their post on social media set out why they are calling it a day: "I think I'm done with it all. I've tried changing roles and giving myself the best possible home/work balance but the service is just undervalued and underappreciated."

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