Express & Star

West Mercia Police faces 'revolving door' of officers as scandals sink morale

The police service will face a recruitment "boom and bust” unless urgent action is taken to address a morale crisis sweeping the service in the wake of recent scandals, a policing body has warned.

The Federation are warning of recruitment issues

West Mercia Police Federation has said record numbers of officers are looking to quit policing due to discontent over pay and conditions, and things have only got worse following recent policing scandals.

The organisation that represents rank and file officers in Shropshire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, said "unprecedented levels of resignations" and "rock-bottom morale" were affecting the service.

Branch secretary Pete Nightingale said: “There is no point trying to sugar-coat the situation any more. More police officers than ever are looking to leave the service and unless urgent action is taken we are going to find ourselves in a deep crisis from which it will be very difficult to recover.

“We know policing’s reputation has been damaged by some terrible scandals in recent years and that public confidence in the service is low.

“But the vast majority of our members are honest, decent, hard-working men and women who joined the Force out of a desire to help and protect people in their communities and don’t deserve to be tarred with the same brush as those that failed to meet the standards expected of them.

“This is having a major impact on officer morale and leading to disillusionment and disappointment within the Force.

He said the retention crisis had not been solved by the Police Uplift Programme and warned of a “revolving door” of police officers.

“The recruitment drive under the Police Uplift Programme is going to be meaningless if those new, young officers are simply replacing older, more experienced colleagues who have had enough and decided to call it a day," he said.

Home Office figures revealed more than 9,000 officers left the English and Welsh forces between April 2022 and March 2023 with a total of 4,668 officers resigning voluntarily.

West Mercia Police saw 78 officers resign from the Force in the 12 months to last March, according to the figures. A further six retired on medical grounds during the same period and 89 took normal retirement.

Some 32 officers transferred to another force while two officers were dismissed, taking the total number of leavers to 207.

“Something has to be done to end this crisis or we will be faced with a never ending cycle of ‘boom-and-bust’ when it comes to recruitment and retention and that will have a massive impact on policing in the coming years,” added Mr Nightingale.

However, Superintendent Stu Bill, from West Mercia Police, said the force will "make no apology" for rooting out bad officers.

He said: “Our officer numbers are currently the highest level they have been in a decade with West Mercia Police exceeding the recent officer uplift target that was set nationally.

“However, we know we have also seen a number of officers leave the force in that same time period, the vast majority of these are natural turnover due to retirement, or people wanting to remain in policing but transferring to another force; during this time we’ve also had officers transfer to us from other forces.

“There are some people who leave as they decide policing isn’t right for them and when that is the reason we always seek to understand why that may be and identify improvements we can make as an organisation. The health and wellbeing of all members of our workforce is very important to us and we welcome feedback so if anything is wrong, we can take steps to resolve it.

“West Mercia Police is committed to ensuring our communities have trust and confidence in us and make no apology that we will continue to root out those behaviours that fall below the standard expected in policing.

“We continue to encourage open and honest discussions with our employees about health, safety and wellbeing, and we work closely with our staff associations, Police Federation and UNISON, who provide regular feedback and act as a critical friend to highlight concerns at both individual and organisational level."