LOW morale, not enough officers and a failing justice system are among the sentiments of rank and file police, a serving officer said today.The experienced officer did not want to be named, but spoke out amid a backdrop of crushing financial pressure from the government for the constabulary to slash millions of pounds from its budget.
The modern police service faces many more challenges to its morale than ever before and many of the matters talked of here echo the sentiment of other articles from these pages. If the escalating problem of low police morale is the effect, what are the causes?
Behind the scenes at this site, we are compiling hundreds of examples of officers voicing the same concerns about the decline of the service they love. The problem is not confined to a few disillusioned officers in small pockets of the country. This is a growing problem across all police forces in the UK, from an ever increasing number of rank and file frontline troops.
The balanced observations of one front line officer sum it up well.
A POLICE OFFICERS VIEW FROM THE STREET
“I still love the job as much as I did when I first joined, but things have changed and not necessarily for the better. We see many times in the course of our careers all that is wrong with society and how inhuman people can be. Often a smile or joke can be a release valve. It seems more and more that we are not allowed an opinion or a sense of humour.
One thing that I have noticed more than anything is morale. I have never seen it so low. I talk to officers with five to six years service counting down the time they have left and that should not be.
My opinion for it being so low is down to a number of things; staff shortages, excessive workloads, a feeling of being let down by a seemingly uncaring senior hierarchy, the inability of the service in general to stand up for itself, and being let down by the judicial system.
I can say hand on heart that the vast majority of officers I have worked with over many years have been professional, caring, keen, and take great delight in locking up the bad guys.
On staff shortages, if you read the headlines from certain quarters they say we have no staff shortage problems. If the general public really knew that almost on a weekly basis and in some case daily, major towns have no officers to deploy to incidents as they are tied up on jobs or stuck in the custody areas.
It is not uncommon for officers to be drafted in from other areas leaving them short of cover, with specialist departments being used to backfill. Custody is regularly filled so that detained persons are taken to other stations. If this is the case then two officers are sent for escort and booking in.
Then the amount of time the booking in process takes, and then if that person is deemed as at risk he/she is put under constant supervision with a police officer. That means yet another officer down. You don't have to be brilliant at maths to see what the consequences are especially when I have known up to three constants on the go at the same time.
Officers who take crime reports are then allocated them to investigate. Obviously the more serious and involved are taken up by CID. As you can imagine an officer is not just given a couple to sort out but the list can be quite extensive.
The problem is that the list will continue to grow as more and more are allocated to that officer. With all the best will and dedication in the world some are not going to be investigated perhaps as fully as they could be.
This is not because the officer does not care. With time restraints and supervisory pressure, workloads must be trimmed. And I think you can guess the consequences.
The fact that a lot of offenders do not go to court is not down to the individual investigating officer or the service. It is down to the government department charged with prosecuting of suspects at court. They too have pressure to increase their conviction rates, so if they are not satisfied that there is a more than good possibility of a conviction they drop it straight away.
This is despite all the paperwork submitted, numerous interviews, and sometimes compelling evidence in the officers' eyes - and, most important of all, the expectations of the victim.
It does seem to be that before long they will only take on the guilty pleas.
Do I feel that we at times let the victim down? Yes. But we are not entirely to blame, the system is. I believe the system is squarely on the side of the offender rather than the victim. The younger and persistent offenders I come into contact with have no fear of the system or its punishments.
They look on young offenders' institutions as a holiday camp where they get free food, free games, free gym membership and are even allowed to keep together with their friends. They do what ever they like, when they like.
As police officers we are paid a good wage, and I for one have enjoyed every minute of it. I love my job and the satisfaction of getting a good result for the people who we serve. I feel the senior hierarchy needs to back us more and listen, not just preach. Yes, like all organisations or firms money is tight and cuts and financial savings have to be made, but not at the expense of the officers on the beat who are the backbone of the service and the ones getting the flak day after day on the streets.
We are the ones that have to face the job and all it entails face on and not from the comfort of a desk.”
Source : http://www.eveningstar.co.uk/
To read the full article, comments from his Chief Constable and Crown Prosecution Service click here.
Critical areas of police service policy and procedure is not only affecting officers morale. Many of the problems highlighted here are having a severly detrimental effect on public confidence in the police as a whole. Regrettably, the front line bobby is the thin blue line where the public aim their dissatisfaction. The target should really be the politicians and senior officers who set the policy these officers have to work with.
The general public want to see a more visible police presence, improved response times and common sense policing. Despite protestations from the Government to the contrary, there remains an excessive "performance culture" within the job. Combined with a lack of discretionary policing this has resulted in a service that is more consumed with political correctness and meeting statistical targets than the 'back to basics policing' the public and front line officers would like to see.
A disproportionate amount of time and resource is wasted on issues that affect a minority of the public. Meanwhile, the Government and senior officers perpetuate the the 'con' about declining crime figures and rising public confidence. The general public are not stupid. They are not taken in by statistics that are manipulated for the media or surveys that are not representative of the real public view.
The time for transparency is now. Clear the decks. Accept that the service has become swamped with bureaucracy and the quality of our society needs fixing fast if the country is not to slip into irreversible moral decline.
This will not happen within the time left with this Government. It seem likely that another party will be in power before any significant change will be seen. Will they be any different? For as long as politicians keep using crime and policing as a convenient political football to grow their overstaffed and excessive empires, then the answer is no.
A radical, honest and transparent approach is needed if public and police confidence is to be restored.
Acceptance that a system is not working is a first step. Forget blame, we don't care what or who caused it, we just want it fixed. Learn the lessons that are staring us in the face. Dismiss the performance culture policing, listen, HEAR and ACT upon what the front line coppers are telling us is inherently wrong with the service. Make every effort to eliminate committees and projects that detract from basics. Reverse the trend of spending 90% of the time and resource planning how you will improve things and 10% of the time actually doing it. Stop giving us statistics and headlines we stopped trusting long ago. Give the police their dicretional common sense freedom that will enable them to do the job they joined for.
Are there any politicians and senior officers courageous enough to take the action needed?
Crime Analysis Team
Nice 1 Limited