THE crisis in morale among members of the police service has been laid bare after a damning report revealed only one in 10 of the staff and officers at Yorkshire’s biggest force trust their senior managers.
A review carried out by consultants for West Yorkshire Police, which is undergoing a radical shake-up in the face of Government funding cuts, revealed recent changes have taken a dramatic toll.
It is transforming the way it does business while making more than £100 million in cuts over four years and seeing officer numbers drop below 5,000.
A poll of staff revealed 56 per cent had a negative view of the force, which was described as a “low-trust organisation”, and would not recommend it as an employer. Sixty-two per cent said they did not trust their leaders and 10.5 per cent said they did.
One member of staff told the report’s authors the force was “functioning on the goodwill of staff, which is rapidly wearing thin”, while another said: “In 38 years of working for this force I have never known staff be treated as shabbily or morale so low.”
Consultants t-three group said eight per cent of leaders, and 18 per cent of team members, “have a level of motivation and engagement so low that it is likely to have a seriously detrimental impact on those around them”.
But they said the force’s performance tackling crime had improved, showing its “strong leadership and high levels of commitment and resolve”.
The report, released to The Yorkshire Post under the Freedom of Information Act, said West Yorkshire Police faced a “climate of economic, social and political pressure to change”.
It said: “The outward presentation of this pressure is seen as a lowering of engagement and morale, and whilst this may be more apparent in some areas than others it is again entirely consistent with the majority of organisations with which we work. It is to the organisation’s and the new Chief Constable’s credit that West Yorkshire Police are meeting these challenges head on.”
A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary said West Yorkshire Police “faced one of the largest cuts in its spending of all forces” and had introduced “a new way of delivering policing”.
Temporary chief constable Dee Collins said the force was “going through the most significant period of change in its history” and were “fundamentally changing the way we work”.
She said: “We are not unique in how our staff feel. The same things have been widely reported nationally and internationally. It’s perhaps not surprising that morale has been affected.
“We are really keen to continue improving as an organisation and felt the only way we could do this was to take the bold step of seeking an independent assessment of just how our people felt, however painful the results, in order that we could do something about it.
“It may be a cliché, but it’s true that our people are the most important thing we have and we truly value them.
“I and my senior colleagues have now begun a programme of work to look at how we can tackle the issues raised, to further improve West Yorkshire Police, make it a better place to work and in turn provide an even better service to the public.”
The Police Federation nationally says Government cuts have had a negative impact on policing and “in turn on levels of morale throughout the service” across the country.
And Nick Smart of the West Yorkshire branch said his members faced external pressures such as increased workloads and negative publicity “before they even walk through the door”.
He said: “The cuts have an impact on officers turning up every day, there are less of them, demands are increasing so there is more to do, they are having their rest days cancelled, which doesn’t happen in any other profession.
“We have got the restructured pay conditions and pensions. There is also the whole negative national media thing. We are constantly getting a kicking in the papers for various issues. These issues have massive impact on morale.”
He added: “This report does not surprise us, we will work with the command team but they do need to listen to the grass roots.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Police reform is working and crime is down by 17 per cent in West Yorkshire under the coalition government. Dedicated police officers and chief constables have risen to the challenge of doing more with less.
“However, the government is always interested to listen to the views of officers. We have made it easier for the police to do their jobs by placing control back in officers’ hands – we have abolished central targets, giving them the flexibility to cut crime.
“Policing continues to be a popular career choice and recruitment rounds are always over-subscribed.”