Issue date: 25 February 2013
New research from UWE Bristol has revealed that over half of serving police officers who responded to a research survey, said that uncertainty within the police service was making them consider alternative forms of employment.
This is just one of the findings of new research carried out by academics at the University of the West of England commissioned by the Constables Central Committee of the Police Federation. The research, led by Dr James Hoggett revealed widespread concern amongst rank and file police officers about changes proposed in the Winsor Reviews and their long term impact on policing in the UK.
The research, carried out as a pilot with Avon and Somerset Police officers, is part of a national survey due to be rolled out to all 43 police forces in the UK which looks at some of huge challenges currently facing the police service. For example, 20% cuts to police budgets, the lowest number of police officers in over a decade, the ratification of a number of parts of Winsor one into police pay and working conditions, the publication of Winsor part two, the move to Police and Crime Commissioners, and the proposed privatization of policing functions.
The pilot research survey looked at how rank and file officers from Avon and Somerset perceive the current challenges facing police forces and proposed changes within the sector.The report is based on the responses of 1,400 officers, (46% of serving officers) from Police Constable to Chief Inspector from Avon and Somerset constabulary. The research will be replicated across the other 43 police forces in England and Wales.
Key findings of the research include:
*86.3% of questionnaire respondents strongly disagreed or disagreed that 'proposed reductions to police starting salaries will help to attract the right calibre of recruit to join the police'.
*95.1% of survey respondents did not have confidence in the long term government plans for the police.
* 94.2% of survey respondents were either dissatisfied or strongly dissatisfied with the Winsor review of police pay and conditions.
*Officers were not against change per se, 86.9% of survey respondents agreed that 'Some change is needed in the police', but felt change needed to be independent of politics and in collaboration with the police.
*83.4% of survey respondents reported that the morale of their colleagues is 'low'.
*Whilst96.4% of survey respondents believe goodwill is essential to the success of the police service, 80.8% of survey respondents believe that the changes occurring to the police service will erode this goodwill in the future.
*51.1% of respondents said they 'would consider looking for alternative employment' as a direct result of concern about the future of the police service and uncertainty brought about by current proposals.
*Only 31.4% of survey respondents still believe the sacrifices they make to be in the police - such as the negative impact on their lives and the lives of their families – are still worth it.
Dr James Hoggett, said, “Multiple changes are currently facing the police service and this research sought to look at how these changes are perceived by rank and file officers. The study showed that proposed changes and those currently being implemented are causing significant levels of uncertainty and concern amongst officers on the ground. Officers clearly accept the need for change, but believe it should be without political interference and should involve the police service itself.
“The study brought up key themes both through the survey and through subsequent focus groups with police officers. There is a strong sense of identity among police officers with 80% of respondents using the term 'we' or 'us' when they talk about their work as a police officer. For the vast majority, being a police officer is a fundamental part of their self-concept (who they are) and they are therefore willing to make sacrifices to be police officers.
“But the study suggests that proposed changes are threatening this perceived concept of 'goodwill' (the willingness to make sacrifices and work beyond what is required of them) which officers believe is essential to the success of the police. Officers suggest that this 'goodwill' forms the bedrock of policing in our society and is a vital part of the concept of policing by consent. Therefore how any changes may affect this goodwill needs to be more thoroughly understood when designing proposals for change.
“There was also concern amongst officers about changes to pensions, retirement age, privatisation and direct entry. Recommendations from the report include better support for officers during change; and engaging rank and file officers more actively in developing new and effective ways of working.”
To view the report in full, click here.