The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has raised profound concerns regarding the wellbeing of individuals within the policing workforce, shedding light on the demanding and stressful nature of their profession.
Recent research conducted by Oscar Kilo – the National Police Wellbeing Service - revealed despite a high level of professional commitment, police officers are facing significant challenges such as work-related violence, verbal threats, and exposure to traumatic incidents.
Shift work, workload, and hindrance stressors are also contributing to the declining mental wellbeing of the policing workforce, leading to burnout.
A staggering 69 per cent of police officers reported high levels of fatigue, with 28.9 per cent experiencing very high fatigue.
Additionally, research findings indicated a troubling trend of dissatisfaction with pay, increased financial worries, and low morale among police officers, with the intention to quit at the highest level recorded.
PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “The evidence is clear for all to see that policing is facing an uphill battle in its fight against crime. Our members do an amazing job protecting the public every single day, yet for far too long they have been paying a high price with damage to their own welfare and mental health.
“The retention crisis within the police force is evident, with over 9,000 officers resigning in the year ending March 2023—the highest number of leavers in a financial year since comparable records began.
“The degradation of police pay, reduced in real terms by over 20 per cent since 2010, is contributing significantly to the loss of experienced officers.
“Morale is also at an all-time low, with officers expressing concerns about working conditions not being addressed urgently. The decline in police officers' feelings of being respected and valued by the public adds to the challenges faced by the workforce. This dissatisfaction, coupled with declining morale, is pushing officers to quit.”
Disturbingly, reports of sexual harassment and assault within the force, particularly against female officers, underscore the need for urgent attention to foster a safe and respectful working environment. Instances of inappropriate behaviour, including sexism, incivility, and derogatory comments, pose a serious issue that requires immediate intervention.
Paul Williams, PFEW wellbeing co-lead, added the drastic increase in officers being placed under misconduct investigations, and with a much lower bar to exit officers from the organisation, is also having an effect.
He said: “Officers are afraid to do their job properly through fear of being put through lengthy and in many cases undue process. The agenda to effectively bring back kangaroo courts and sack officers much more frequently and easily makes those on the front line feel the risk to livelihood and extreme scrutiny is not worth the poor pay.”
To effectively address these issues, it is imperative to reduce these alarming numbers and rebuild the thin blue line by ensuring officers receive the support they require, and their concerns are heard and acted upon.
Mr Hartshorn continued: “This report cannot be ignored and must be a catalyst for meaningful change. I call upon those with responsibility to make change to fully engage with federation representatives, locally and nationally, to actually read, digest, and act upon the mounting, irrefutable evidence to make a difference before we see yet another record broken on the number of officers leaving the service.
“PFEW remains steadfast in its commitment to addressing these critical issues, advocating for the wellbeing of its members, and pushing for reforms to create a supportive and respectful work environment within the policing community.”