The Government must listen to the voices of police officers if it is to resolve the recruitment and retention crisis, the National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has warned.
Today, stark Home Office workforce statistics have revealed the number of police officers exiting the service has hit an all-time high.
Just over 9000 (9,192) officers resigned in the year ending March 2023, the highest number of leavers in a financial year since comparable records began.
The most common route out of the service was voluntary resignation (4,575), followed by normal retirement (3,956).
Last year, nearly one in five police officers (18 per cent) stated they plan on handing in their resignation as soon as possible or within the next two years due to reasons including unfair pay.
PFEW raised the findings of its Pay and Morale Survey urgently with the Government, which foreshadowed this predicament, including:
• The more frequently cited reasons respondents gave for intending to quit were morale (98 per cent), how the police are treated by the Government (96 per cent) and pay (95 per cent).
• The number of officers who feel unfairly paid given the dangers and demands of the job has also hit a record high.
• An overwhelming majority (94 per cent) stated they are not paid fairly for the stresses and strains of the job, while 88 per cent said they are not paid fairly considering the hazards they face in the line of duty, the highest levels reported since the first survey was undertaken in 2018.
Police Federation of England and Wales National Chair Steve Hartshorn said: “These worrying findings simply echo what thousands of police officers across England and Wales have been warning and their concerns, which we relayed to the Government.
“Last year nearly one in five police officers told us they plan on handing in their resignation as soon as possible or within the next two years due to reasons including unfair pay.
“These are not just words, or a tick in a box in our survey, this is reality, and it will worsen unless their voices are listened to and taken seriously.”
Medical retirements have also seen a rise, with 363 officers leaving due to ill health, up from 303 the previous year.
Additionally, there were 147,430 FT equivalent officers in post as at 31 March 2023.
In 2010 there were 143,734 officers, equating to just 3,696 extra officers, which is insufficient given the population in England and Wales has grown by four million since then, demand has soared, and crimes have become more complex.
Mr Hartshorn continued: “The fact there are only 1400 extra officers on top of 2010’s figures is shocking given the population has grown rapidly since then, and the nature of crime continues to increase in complexity.
“Our members are doing their utmost to protect the public, but demand is continuing to outstrip resources. It is paramount the service not only recruits, but retains, which will only be possible if pay and conditions are improved, to give members of the public the service they deserve.
“This month’s pay award is a step in the right direction, but it still falls short of the real-term pay cut officers have suffered since 2000.
“We will continue to push for fair pay awards, conditions, and support, that take full account of inflation and recognise and reward the unique status of police officers; including the introduction of a fair, independent mechanism and negotiation process, so we can properly sit down with government and employers to negotiate pay settlements that fully consider the risks and restrictions placed on police officers’ private and professional lives. The focus going forward needs to be on pay restoration.”