A Yorkshire police force is making changes to its shift patterns in a bid to improve morale after a national survey revealed that officers are feeling increasingly undervalued.
A survey published yesterday by the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in England and Wales, said its members are becoming increasingly demoralised, with the way police are treated being the biggest contributor.
While 60.2 per cent of officers said their personal morale was low - nearly five per cent more than last year - there was also an increase in the number planning to leave the service either as soon as possible or within the next two years.
The proportion of officers who said their morale was low ranged from 53.2 per cent at North Yorkshire Police, to 68.3 per cent at South Yorkshire Police, with 56.6 per cent at West Yorkshire Police and 61.2 per cent at Humberside Police.
The national poll of 30,000 officers also found nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) were dissatisfied with their total pay package, the highest level since the survey began and a marked rise on the 66.7 per cent reported last year.
Humberside Police, whose Chief Constable Justine Curran was forced out last year and has seen a series of recent critical reviews, said the Police Federation reports “a range of issues that police forces are dealing with across the country”.
Deputy Chief Constable Andy McDyer said the changing nature of crime and a national increase in calls had “impacted on workloads and are set against a backdrop of reductions in numbers of police”.
He said officers’ current shift patterns were at the “centre of their problems with work-life balance and health and well-being – which are two of the biggest reasons for low morale”.
He said: “And so we’re listening to that and we’re working with those officers to devise a better shift pattern that will improve the lives of officers, and ultimately provide a better service to the public.”
He said a Northbank Commander and a Southbank Commander had been put in place to strengthen local decision-making, and 215 extra officers will be brought in over 12 months, rather than 18.
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “We acknowledge that the survey, conducted last year, highlighted some concerns, particularly around pay and morale.
“Our officers and staff are our greatest asset, and we acknowledge that addressing their concerns is a priority for us. Our new senior leadership team have already taken steps to address those issues which the Force can influence locally.
“Measures include a new staff Health and Wellbeing Board and a recently-introduced staff Colleague Panel, which is a regular forum where staff in a wide range of roles can voice their concerns to senior leadership, and make suggestions for change.
“There is also a phone line for all staff, available 24 hours-a-day, where they can access practical advice on how to manage stress and the pressures of work.
“We will continue to support our staff and work with them and the Staff Associations, so that we look after them while they look after the public.”
More than three-quarters of officers surveyed said they thought the new direct entry schemes, which see civilians recruited to the ranks of superintendent or inspector, would have a negative impact.
The annual survey also found that more than one in ten officers say their meagre salaries mean they cannot afford to pay for essential items.
Police Federation chairman Steve White said: “Officers do a heroic job, yet they feel undervalued and under pressure. But something has to give, and unfortunately the evidence shows that it is these officers’ personal welfare.”