Police morale and motivation is at an all-time low. I know this not just from media reports but also from direct discussions with many serving officers. Indeed Lord Stevens who is leading a review into the future of policing is on record as saying that a recent survey of 14,000 officers showed that ‘we have a national crisis of morale which threatens to undermine the work our officers are doing’.
It is inevitable that many employees in both the public sector and private sector should be feeling under pressure and undervalued with terms and conditions of employment under threat and even worse the loss of jobs.
However many police officers recall Theresa May on 19 May 2010 when she said at the Police Federation Conference ‘I will always back you, I will always support you, I will always fight for you’.
This ‘backing’ and ‘support’ was followed by the Winsor Report proposing radical changes to their terms and conditions of employment. Many serving officers see little correlation between the rhetoric of Theresa May and the reality of the way the Windsor report was produced and the lack of open dialogue and consultation around the proposals within it.
But that’s not all. I am surprised the current conservative led Police Authority was not more open in its dialogue with all of its staff. I am also concerned there are suggestions that the way that G4S are handing their planned redundancy programme has caused even more anxiety with slow decision taking and prolonged uncertainty amongst their staff.
I regret that one of my opponents has made some somewhat derogatory and demeaning comments about the police which would not give them an easy start either. They may not be quite on the scale of the infamous alleged Plebs comment by a certain former Chief Whip but they are nevertheless unhelpful.
Any incoming Commissioner will therefore have a major task in terms of raising the morale and motivation of the workforce. It would be somewhat easier if you’re not a Conservative.
So what would I do?
- hold early meetings with all key staff representatives to decide how we get effective staff engagement going forward.
- I would also like to assure myself that within the force (as opposed to the Commissioners Office) there is also an open dialogue with senior management and help the force create a culture where staff feel supported.
- I would ensure that staff representatives have a place at the top table; with input and involvement in all key decisions, including the budget, which is not to give a right of veto but to build mutual understanding of why decisions are being taken, even if they disagree with them.
- bring clarity to what we can and cannot do; all too often staff are caught in the middle as the authority has not been clear with the public about the reality of policing in austerity. We should not be dishonest with our staff and we should not be dishonest with the public.
- I would want to encourage a national review of the IPCC arrangements for dealing with complaints which seem unduly threatening, time consuming and complex. The nature of their role means that Police will often have ‘frivolous’ tit for tat complaints against them. We cannot waste huge amounts of police time on such complaints. The effort should be more proportionate to the complaint.
- review how G4S are handling staffing issues; staff may have been TUPE transferred but high staff turnover or a demoralised G4S workforce is not good either for the staff concerned, G4S or for the police they are working with and supporting.
- never behave like a politician – which is to scapegoat the police and play the blame game – we are in it together.
- fight for a fair share of the national funding cake to help blunt the cuts.
People who have worked with me know that I am not a soft touch. I will disagree with the Police Federation and other Unions and they will disagree with me but it will always be in the context of mutual respect and above all trust.
I cannot entirely undo the damage the government and others have done but I can seek to rebuild some of that trust and respect necessary at a local level to have an even more committed and dedicated workforce. We do after all have a shared interest – the best police force we can have for the money available.