Police officer numbers: Thousands 'plan to leave service'

Police officers at passing-out parade Image copyright PA

More than 5,000 police officers in England and Wales are planning to leave the service in the next two years, a Police Federation survey suggests.

Of the 32,000 officers who responded, 94% said they believed morale in the service was low or very low.

The Police Federation has warned that the service could be left without enough experienced officers.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said they were working to improve morale.

The online survey, which was released to BBC Radio 5 live Breakfast, aimed to measure the impact of reforms which followed a review of police pay and conditions.

It found 94% of officers believe morale in the service was low, compared with 62% in the armed forces, who were asked the same question.

Some 59% of police officers said their own personal morale was low, compared with 28% of people in the armed forces.

'Experience gap'

In his 2011 report into police pay and conditions, former rail regulator Tom Winsor called for the abolition of a series of allowances and special payments and for a pay system that recognised hard work and merit instead of long service.

Image copyright HM Inspectorate of Constabulary
Image caption Mr Winsor became Chief Inspector of Constabulary in 2012

Mr Winsor said his recommendations, which included making savings of £60m a year in overtime, would produce savings of £485m in three years.

Reforms, including a £4,000 cut in starting salaries, were then introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May in 2013 after the proposals were considered by the Police Arbitration Tribunal.

The survey asked officers how the reforms had affected morale. Some 91% said that they had felt some reduction to morale following changes to overtime and rest day payments.

The survey found the pension age increase had led to 87.2% of officers feeling like their morale had dropped.

The Police Federation, which represents police officers up to the rank of chief inspector in England and Wales, said: "Our survey suggests 15% are planning to leave the service.

"Forces should not be complacent that they have enough officers to fill their current quotas, it's likely that when the job market picks up these officers will go, leaving an experience gap."

Bedfordshire Chief Constable Colette Paul said her force had been 60 officers short until recently, and told 5 live it had put the force under a lot of pressure.

"We actually have real urban challenges here in Bedfordshire, real strong crime challenges which we had to deal with, so if you're 60 short, because every person counts in a force of our size, it does have a big impact.

"But even if morale is affected they go out there and do a great job day in and day out."

Acpo's vice-president, Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy, said: "All parts of the public sector are reporting low morale among staff. There is concern at low pay increases, lack of promotion opportunities and the likely impact of further budget cuts with fewer staff to do more work.

"Policing is no different but there is also 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."

He added: "Police leaders recognise the pressures their staff are under and are working on many local initiatives to try and improve welfare and staff well being."

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