Officers doing ‘remarkable job in challenging circumstances’

The two sides of Sussex Police

The good

Officer numbers up by 176

100 extra PCSOs

The bad

Cancelled rest days

Lack of career development

Forced postings

Internal investigations taking too long to reach a conclusion

In the same week that Sussex Police has announced it’s on track to see an additional 176 police officers on the streets by March the local police federation says almost 80 per cent of existing officers are ‘dissatisfied’.

On Friday at one of the regular Public Accountability and Performance Meetings, held between Chief Constable Giles York and Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, Mr York confirmed the force will have 2,725 officers in post by March 2020 – 176 more than a year ago.

Setting out the force plan to recruit additional numbers current figures show there were 2,549 officers in November 2018, 2,610 officers in March 2019 rising to 2,649 in October and 2,725 predicted by March 2020. The increase takes into account those leaving the force, including through retirement.

Mr York told the meeting: “We are growing as an organisation and we continue to grow the number of police officers. The numbers highlighted above show that we are recruiting people faster than those leaving the force.

“Just last month we took on an extra 36 officers over and above the existing plans we had in place and these officers are already in training.”

Sussex Police’s plans will also see an additional 100 PCSOs by next March, bringing the total number to 296.

However, the survey conducted by Sussex police Federation does not paint a picture of a happy ship. It says 79 per cent of Sussex Police officers who responded to the Police Federation of England and Wales Pay and Morale survey are dissatisfied with their pay – and over half (54 per cent) said they have low morale.

Seventy-four per cent of respondents from Sussex Police felt that they were worse off financially than they were five years ago and 15 per cent of respondents reported never or almost never having enough money to cover all their essentials.

The majority, 88 per cent of those who responded, said they felt morale within the force is low or very low and 54 per cent said their own morale is low.

Sussex Police Federation Secretary Simon Steele said officers no longer feel valued, affecting morale and their wellbeing.: “The results show a clear picture that officers are dissatisfied with the current levels of pay and that three-quarters of Sussex Officers are worse off financially than they were five years ago,” he said.

“All police officers accept that they will never be rich, none of us do it for the money, but they all deserve to be respected and paid fairly for the demanding and often dangerous job that they do.

“Officers’ pay has stagnated for the last nine years and they no longer feel valued, this is affecting morale. The simple fact is that 88 per cent of respondents feel that morale is low within the force and this is a very worrying statistic. The force and the Government need to take positive action to address this issue immediately.”

Police light

The survey was based on 1,142 responses that were received from Sussex Police, representing a response rate of around 42 per cent.

Other results included 62 per cent of respondents saying they would not recommend joining the police to others and ten per cent said they had an intention to leave the police service either within the next two years or as soon as possible.

Mr Steele says: “We have shared the results with our Chief Constable and our HR Professionals, and we will continue to work with the force to ensure that positive steps are taken to improve morale.?

“Morale is not just about pay. Undoubtedly a 20 per cent reduction in police numbers has had a significant impact as resources are stretched and demand is increasing. The recruitment of 128 Police Officers in Sussex in 2020 is a step in the right direction but there are other things that the force can do immediately.

“The number of leave embargos restrict officers’ ability to take time off and spend time with their families. Many of these could be lifted far sooner than they currently are.

“Cancelled rest days can have a significant impact on morale and these continue to be a major problem. Many officers perceive a lack of career development or promotion opportunities with many trapped in roles they no longer enjoy. The forced posting of officers from roles they enjoy into roles that they perceive to be less attractive or less suited to their skills and abilities also has a negative impact on morale,” Mr Steele said.

He went on: “Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) investigations are taking far too long to reach a conclusion and this is damaging to both officers and their families. It is about time that the IOPC was held to account and they need to recognise the damaging effect that their investigations have on officers.

“The vast majority of officers have a can-do and will do at all costs attitude and we all need to take time to reflect on these results and see what more we can do to help them and improve the morale within the force. For too long we have relied on the goodwill of officers to ensure that the service is not brought to its knees. Sussex Police officers have done a remarkable job over the last nine years under really challenging circumstances.

“Our staff are our most important asset and we need to listen to them and respond positively to what they are telling us.”

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