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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Survey Results Highlight 'Severe Struggles Faced By Rank-And-File Officers'

11 January 2023

Andy Berry, Chair of Devon and Cornwall Police Federtion, reacts to the latest figures on pay and morale, which were released today.

“The Police Federation Pay and Morale survey for Devon and Cornwall Police has been published today and we have seen a significant increase in the number of respondents, which means that the findings are truly representative and cannot be ignored.

“The findings, some of which are quite shocking, highlight severe struggles faced by rank-and-file officers and a sense of deepening frustration that this is a service which is suffering from a disinterest and a long-term lack of investment by the Government.

“At a time when workers from many other walks of life, including other emergency services, are driven to strike due to the cost of living crisis, my members in Devon and Cornwall keep working. Yet 99% of them reported facing a substantial increased cost of living between August and September 2022, with ‘the price of my food shop has increased’ being the most common reason.

“How is it acceptable in any society that the very people who risk their lives to protect communities are battling to feed their families? As a reward for their dedication, they receive sheer unfairness from a Government that snubs them by awarding a pay rise far from what they deserve – resulting in another real terms pay cut, which stands between 25% and 30% at the prevailing rate of inflation. Is it any wonder that 95% of my colleagues do not believe that they are respected by the Government.

“Before I move on, please let me dispel the myth which is constantly paraded by the Government, they myth that they have invested in 20,000 new cops across the Country. They haven’t. They are barely replacing the 20,000+ police officers that were taken away as a result of their cuts to policing budgets just over a decade ago.

“Police officer and police staff numbers have not kept up with the spiralling demand and this is why 66% of officers in Devon and Cornwall state that their workloads are too high. 40% report that they are either often or always having to work well in excess of their contracted hours to meet demand and nearly half aren’t able to take their full rest break entitlement.

“The gap between demand from the public and our capacity to respond is growing and of course exacerbated by the struggle for A&E departments, South West Ambulance and mental health services to cope.

“My colleagues in Devon and Cornwall want to provide the best service that they can to the public, they want to solve crimes, prevent death on our roads, stop anti-social behaviour and protect the vulnerable. But it is an exhausting challenge and this constant unrelenting struggle means that nearly 90% of officers feel that morale in this force is low.

“Almost 40% find their job very or extremely stressful, up significantly since 2020, and 81% report having had feelings of stress, low mood and anxiety over the last 12 months.

“Police officers willingly sign up to the line of duty to protect lives of others but that does not mean they should face abuse and attacks. The negative impact of such acts on the morale of police officers and their families is an issue policing and society urgently need to address. 32 % of police officers reported facing verbal abuse in the past 12 months and 13% of my colleagues said they had suffered one or more injuries that required medical attention because of work-related violence in the last year.

“Perhaps most shockingly, based on the Governments own ‘wellbeing assessment framework’, officers in this force are significantly less happy and less satisfied with life than the general population.

“Should the public be concerned? Of course they should. Firstly because why would they want people who carry out such important and critical work, utilising significant powers, to be distracted by worries over pay or a workload they can’t manage.

“The public and of course our senior police leaders should also worry because all these factors together have created an environment where 18% of officers have indicated their intention to leave the force either within the next two years or as soon as they can secure another job.

“We cannot afford to keep losing experienced officers. People are our biggest and most valuable asset, and the Government must realise if they continue to take policing and police officers for granted ultimately it is the people of our country who will suffer the most.

“Here in Devon and Cornwall, we have just had a new Chief Constable, Will Kerr OBE KPM, take up his post and of course I will be discussing the findings of this survey with him in the coming weeks.

“They are findings that he will not be able to ignore but in his reassuringly honest first message to the force he has identified that there are difficulties that need to be overcome. Of course Devon and Cornwall Police Federation want to work with him to ensure that our force becomes an ever better place to work with its officers able to deliver the very best service to the public.”