Survey reveals shocking West Mercia Police morale levels and worries over pay

A West Mercia Police Federation survey has found that more than 90 per cent of members believe force morale is 'low' or 'very low'.

The West Mercia Police Federation survey findings highlight concerns over morale in the force
The West Mercia Police Federation survey findings highlight concerns over morale in the force

The survey of members placed the force, which covers Shropshire, second on the list of police forces with the lowest personal morale – with only Dorset Police recording a higher percentage of dissatisfied officers.

The force said it recognised "frustration" in its officers, particularly with IT, and would work to improve morale where there are opportunities.

The survey findings also revealed that 86 per cent of respondents said they were worse off than five years ago – with 19 per cent struggling to make ends meet.

West Mercia Police Federation chair Sarah Cooper said: “Unfortunately, I am not surprised by the results of the survey. There is a really tangible lack of morale in policing at the moment and the survey provides an insight into the reasons for this.

“Policing is an incredibly tough and challenging career at the best of the times, but years of real-terms pay cuts, poor working conditions and constant criticism in the media takes its toll.

“I genuinely believe that the warnings given to the Government all those years ago are now coming to fruition and my colleagues and the public are paying a high price as a result. The Government needs to wake up and start listening.

"There is an urgent need to address the concerns around pay and conditions.

“Losing experienced officers who have simply had enough is becoming the norm, and I hear numerous accounts of new recruits leaving the service to return to the better paid jobs they left to join the police. The issues that forces are facing in relation to recruitment speak for themselves.

“I really fear for the future of policing if something is not done urgently. Put simply, our members want and deserve to be adequately paid for the difficult and stressful jobs they do and have their dedication, professionalism and courage to be properly acknowledged rather than dismissed.”

Other findings from the survey included 95 per cent of respondents not feeling respected by the Government, 79 per cent would not recommend joining the police to others, 74 per cent did not feel valued within the force, and 17 per cent intend to resign within the next two years – or as soon as they can.

The force's Deputy Chief Constable, Alex Murray, accepted that the job is "challenging", but said officers should be proud of what they do.

He said: “Our officers work hard every day to protect people from harm and to get justice for victims; it is an incredibly rewarding job, but it can also be very challenging.

“While public confidence in our officers is high across the force, we know from the Police Federation survey and our own internal engagement that there are a number of factors impacting morale.

"Some of these are national issues but we also know that locally our IT provision is also a huge cause of frustration.

"We currently have a good team working to improve it and get it where we want it to be.

"When you put all the issues together, along with the increase in the cost of living, it can make it frustrating for our officers.

“Police officers and staff make a difference every day, we need to be proud of what we do and where there are opportunities to improve morale, we will.”

The survey has also highlighted issues with mental health amongst respondents, with 49 per cent saying they found the job "very or extremely stressful".

A total of 83 per cent said they had experienced feelings of stress, low mood, anxiety, or other difficulties with their health and wellbeing over the last 12 months.

Ms Cooper said: “We should all be incredibly concerned about the number of officers reporting that they are suffering with symptoms associated with poor mental health. The reasons for this need to be recognised, acknowledged and acted upon. My view is that we need to tackle the root cause of this and be proactive in providing adequate care for our officers.

"Workloads, the impact of shift changes and cancelled rest days, insufficient resources, poor IT and occupational health services that are stretched to breaking point are all issues that are raised with me regularly and I am working with the force on trying to find solutions.

“Unfortunately, this brings us back round to a shocking and devastating underinvestment in policing by the Government, and the cost to our workforce and the public should not be underestimated. Poor morale is shown as being the greatest factor in officers leaving the police and we need to acknowledge the damage that is being caused."

The survey also highlighted officers' concerns around their own safety, with 20 per cent reporting they had suffered "one or more injuries that required medical attention as a result of work-related violence in the last year".

A total of 40 per cent said they experienced verbal insults at least once per week in the past 12 months, with 13 per cent experiencing unarmed physical attacks at least once a week over the same period.

Ms Cooper said: “The force is working hard to understand the ongoing issue with violence against our officers and this report highlights why this work is needed. It is unacceptable that officers are reporting such high levels of verbal and physical abuse and I would once again make a plea to the Government to ensure that the justice system is robust in bringing these offenders to justice."

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