A police survey has shown that 94 percent of officers feel morale is “low” or “very low.” According to the online assessment, 91 percent of participants say their outlook has been negatively affected by pay cuts and pension changes.
In 2013, the pension age was raised and officers saw a £4,000 (US$6,460) annual cut to their salaries.
The survey, which was conducted by the Police Federation, found that 87.2 percent of respondents said morale has fallen due to the increased pension age.
The reforms followed recommendations from Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor in 2011, which stated the service should cease to provide benefits for the longest serving officers and instead run a meritocracy, whereby financial rewards are given to the highest performing officers.
The aim of the reforms was to encourage officers to reach for top jobs for better financial benefit, instead of seeking out the easiest assignments.
Home Secretary Theresa May introduced changes to police spending in 2013 after the proposed alterations were evaluated by the Police Arbitration Tribunal.
The results of the survey further suggest that 5,000 police officers in England and Wales plan on leaving the service within the next two years – a total of 15 percent.
Bedfordshire Chief Constable Colette Paul described the effects that the continuing exodus has on the service, stating that there are “real urban challenges” in Bedfordshire. “If you’re 60 [officers] short, because every person counts in a force of our size, it does have a big impact,” she said.
The budget for police spending was cut for the second year running in 2014/15. In May, the government announced a budget of £8.5 billion ($13.7 billion) – less than the £8.7 billion ($14 billion) in 2013/2014 and £9.7 billion ($15.6 billion) in 2010/2011.
Both personal and service-wide morale is lower than the armed forces. Some 94 percent of officers believe overall morale in the service is low, compared to 62 percent in the armed forces.
Discussing their own levels of personal morale, 59 percent of officers said it was low, compared with 28 percent of people serving in the armed forces.
Prior to the release of the figures, the Police Federation – a union supporting thousands of police officers – warned that levels of police morale were extremely low.
In August, UNISON – another union representing civilian police employees – claimed staff were facing higher levels of stress due to increased workloads. They further said that job insecurity, the cost of living, and a “bad” work/life balance contributed to stress levels.
UNISON national officer Ben Priestly said “we understand working in the police service can be stressful, but stress levels are worryingly high.”
Priestly further claimed that “the seriousness of the issue seems to be largely ignored by managers” and implored leaders to “take urgent action and ensure managers and supervisors are properly trained.”
The results of the survey have also prompted criticism of the press surrounding the service.
Sir Peter Fahy, vice president of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said: “[There is a] weariness at what is seen as constant negative press coverage, a blame culture looking for fault rather than learning lessons and a feeling that the realities of some of the social problems the police are having to deal with are just not appreciated.”