Police morale takes major hit as officers turned into 'pandemic villains'

Nearly seven in 10 police officers across the region say morale has taken a major hit during the coronavirus pandemic.

West Midlands Police officers say morale has plummeted during the pandemic
West Midlands Police officers say morale has plummeted during the pandemic

The Police Federation says the results of its annual pay and morale study reflect the pressure that has been piled on forces since the start of the first lockdown, with officers turned into "the villains of this pandemic" by some.

The survey found that 69 per cent of 969 respondents from West Midlands Police felt the virus had had a "negative or very negative" impact on morale this year.

Nearly two in five officers said they felt they had not received sufficient training for the crisis, while almost one quarter (23 per cent) said they did not have adequate access to personal protective equipment (PPE) when needed.

Almost one in 12 respondents (eight per cent) said they intended to leave the force in the next two years. However, only 12 per cent of those said the pandemic was the reason. with 80 per cent saying low morale was a factor and 70 per cent citing pay and benefits.

It was a similar story for Staffordshire Police, where 70 per cent of 403 respondents said morale had been hit by the pandemic, while for West Mercia Police the figure was 65 per cent of 622 respondents.

Across the three West Midlands-based forces 166 respondents said they did not expects to be with the police by 2022.

The Police Federation, which represents more than 130,000 officers across England and Wales, said the survey results were “a cry for help” from police officers.

National chiarman John Apter, said: “These results should give serious concern to chief constables and to the Government.

"This year, more than ever, officers have been put under significant pressure, dealing with the day job as well as policing the constantly changing Covid rules.

“Despite doing their very best, they have been turned into the villains of this pandemic by some, damned whatever they do, and this constant criticism takes its toll."

Across England and Wales, almost six in 10 of those polled said they would not advocate joining the police, amid a national recruitment drive to hire 20,000 officers.

Senior officers say the pandemic has hit forces hard. Despite a drop in crime levels during the lockdown, resources have been stretched due high numbers of officers off work due to the virus, while officers have also been tasked with enforcing lockdown measures.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson blamed low morale on government cuts to his force's budget, and described next year's pay freeze as "a real kick in the teeth for officers and staff".

"The cuts have left fewer officers dealing with more crimes," he added.

"Police officers and staff like many other public servants have made a huge contribution and kept us safe during the pandemic.

"Police officers shouldn’t be bearing the brunt of the costs of the Covid crisis."

The Home Office praised “brave police officers and staff” who have worked “heroically to protect the public during the pandemic”, adding that anyone, including police, has access to coronavirus tests if needed.

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