Police Federation

Police and policing against all odds

National Chair Steve Hartshorn reflects on the odds police officers of England and Wales are facing in the current policing crisis

24 August 2022


With articles publishing titled: “Who is going on strike in August and for how long?” it is no wonder, we are witnessing an exodus of overburdened police officers to seek alternative careers with fewer risks and higher pay.

Nurses are voting on strike action in September, and workers in many other sectors are feeling disillusioned and suffering from the increases in cost-of-living. Barristers are undertaking industrial action, and so are Post Office workers. Even the Communication Workers' Union is preparing a ballot for members across Capita O2 and Tesco Mobile partnerships. 

These disputes and wage discussions enable workers to have their say and fight for fair pay and work conditions. 

No group of workers is currently feeling more disillusioned than the police officers of England and Wales who do not have the option to strike. The promotion of disaffection amongst the police is a criminal offence under Section 91 of the Police Act, carries a sentence not exceeding two years and being placed on the barred list of the College of Policing.

They are told their job in society is too important to allow them to strike, yet they are consistently vilified in the media. Rarely do we see an independent, measured or considered response to the overtly sensational stories being broken, often forgetting, or ignoring the realities of policing. 

Our officers suffer assaults at work from both members of the public, who they work to protect, and criminals. In the year ending March 2022 there were 41,221 reported assaults on police, the number is bound to be higher considering those that remain unreported. There is still a misconception that being assaulted is somehow an acceptable part of the job. 

Officers witness countless incidents of trauma throughout their careers and are often expected to carry this trauma without support or training to manage the consequences. 

Then we find evidence of workloads rising uncontrollably. With additional requirements added to tasks and a reduced number of police officers and staff to do the work, which needs and must be done, these workloads have increased through changes to processes which make sense on paper but cannot possibly be reasonable to undertake without additional staffing. 

It’s effectively a “do more with less” situation wherever you work within the police. If this was a ‘business’, it would not survive. 

This pressure has become intolerable. Officers are leaving the service in their droves. They often become sick with mental health (anxiety, depression) and a high number have died by suicide. 

We lost more officers to suicide last year than on duty. We are working to identify the true scale of this and what more can be done to prevent such tragedies. We are liaising internally and with the coroner’s courts to understand what can be done. 

There have been talks of recruitment and the uplift programme being a positive step forward for policing, but the reality is there is a need for an uplift of almost 50,000 officers to match the levels of officers in 2010 if you consider population growth over the last decade and the annual attrition of approximately 7,000 officers per annum.  

Additionally, there needs to be some consideration for the fact that the current Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) programme takes 3 years to complete for new recruits before they become fully trained. In the meantime, we lose experienced officers as their morale is so low and the workload and pressure so high. Ultimately officers are telling us they feel they cannot provide the professional service they want to give to the public as there simply aren’t enough officers to cover the workload. 

The bleak outlook and reality for many is that criminals are being given the upper hand.

Due to decisions at the Government level, over the past few years, there has been an increase in staff suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental health issues linked to the trauma they have witnessed at work; leaving only a few on each unit and in some instances struggling to cover the leaver’s workloads.

Police officers work tirelessly to fulfil their duty to protect the public and uphold the law. In return, all they want is fair treatment and pay proportionate to prevailing economic conditions. As the voice of more than 139,000 police officers of England and Wales, we will fight for fairness on behalf of our members until they get their rightful due.


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