Police Federation

Stronger leadership is vital for retention

Experts share same view that more needs to be done to support line mangers as uplift programme continues, raising concerns over attrition rates.

17 May 2022


Creating stronger leadership with more supportive line managers as they continue to assist training new recruits is vital to retention. 

During the Uplift – is it just a numbers game session at PFEW’s Annual Conference 2022, experts shared their views whilst discussing how policing bodies and forces can work together to improve the recruitment process. 

Mark Jones, Secretary of North Wales Police Federation, was asked what training is being given to frontline supervisors. 

He said: “I don’t this was even considered as part of the uplift work. 

“When they start their journey of learning the craft, very little guidance has been given to supervisors – as a supervisor myself, I feel very little has been done.” 

Sarah Davenport, Chief Superintendent and Change Manager on the Police Uplift Programme, who confirmed there had been an uplift in sergeants and inspectors, added: “Leadership has influence over every officer walking in through the programme - but there is a lot to be done to improve. There is a huge influence - everyone in this room has to support new recruits on their journey and retain them.” 

Kurtis Christoforides, Managing Director of Police NOW, acknowledged there “clearly are challenges on a whole range of issues”, and championed the importance of new recruits receiving high-quality training alongside having a supportive line manager. 

He said: “There are lots of sergeants and inspectors and we can talk all the time about what the College and chief constables should do – but the biggest difference can be made through them. I’m not saying it is all down to line managers – but they are the closest to the recruits and can make the biggest success.” 

The Home Office today announced funding for the College of Policing’s new Centre for Leadership to bolster this vital policing element. 

“Often people leave due to poor leadership and wellbeing issues,” said Jo Noakes, Director of Leadership and Workforce Development at the College of Policing. 

“There is more work to be done around leadership development of those already in service. There are lots of opportunities to make those much-needed improvements to support everyone working in policing,” she added. 

Dr Sarah Charman, Professor of Criminology, Portsmouth University, raised concerns over attrition rates. 

Researchers from the University of Portsmouth studied Government statistics and discovered the numbers of officers voluntarily resigning from the police service is rising - from 1,158 in the year ending March 2012 to 2,363 in the year ending March 2020.  

The figure amounts to 1.83 per cent of the total police officer population in England and Wales up from 0.86 per cent eight years ago. 

She said: “Why are they leaving? We have been researching this for four years through having in-depth interviews with leavers. There are no meaningful exit interviews within forces. 

“They are leaving for various reasons including organisational issues, poor leadership, excessive workloads, mental and physical health issues, caring responsibilities and them discovering the reality of policing is different to their expectations.” 

She stressed the importance of forces growing organisation commitment through strong leadership and making officers feel valued for the difficult and dangerous job they do. 

“Officers need to be rewarded. They put their lives on the line and they need to know they are part of the policing family. When they single crewed and stressed, they need to know they will get support from the organisation.” 

Dr Charman added there is also a sense of organisational injustice, with many feeling they have a lack of voice, and fear speaking out due to the “pressure to fit in and conform” as well as a lack of progression opportunities. 

When asked is the current entry programme fit for purpose, Jo Noakes admitted “it has been too academic” and should align more to “what they are doing on the streets”. 

“It has caused huge controversy, so we are looking at it,” she added. “Following our own evaluation, we are hearing stories of people who are really struggling with it – we are working with forces and are trying to get the balance right. This is a new way of doing entry training, and there are things that could have been done better.” 

Mark Jones concluded: “Officers are telling us they are struggling, and they don’t see the relevance with the degree. It is having a full-time job to go with a full-time degree, and we need to have a real honest conversation with chiefs and the College. Something is not right, and something must change as it’s not sustainable for the future. The majority are at breaking point. 

“It’s a sad indictment they want to leave and don’t want to stay until their 30 years – it’s a real shame.” 

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