Police officers are feeling increasingly undervalued, with three in five reporting low morale, a survey has warned.
The Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers in England and Wales, said its members are becoming increasingly demoralised, with the way police are treated being the biggest contributor.
While 60.2% of officers said their personal morale was low – nearly 5% more than last year – there was also an increase in the number planning to leave the service either as soon as possible or within the next two years (12.3% compared to 11.8%).
The poll of 30,000 officers also found nearly three-quarters (72%) were dissatisfied with their total pay package – the highest level since the survey began and a marked rise on the 66.7% reported last year.
More than three-quarters said they thought the new direct entry schemes, which see civilians recruited to the ranks of superintendent or inspector, would have a negative impact upon policing – the first time the survey has put the question to its members.
The federation’s annual pay and morale survey also found that more than one in ten officers say their meagre salaries mean they cannot afford to pay for essential items.
Police Federation chairman Steve White said: “Officers do a heroic job as evidenced by the events of the past year, yet they feel undervalued and under pressure.
“We know that officers enjoy tremendous support from the British public as a whole, which is a source of enormous pride for them.
“But something has to give, and unfortunately the evidence shows that it is these officers’ personal welfare, as they struggle to meet rising demand with dwindling resources and 21,000 officers fewer than 2010.
“Policing has always adapted to changing demands. But the struggle to meet these demands in recent years has changed the outlook for many officers.”
He added that every police force, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and the College of Policing must work together to improve police officer morale, welfare and wellbeing “before it is too late.”
National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) lead for organisational development and wellbeing, Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, said: “Every day, police officers operate in a dangerous and stressful work environment that involves putting themselves in harm’s way to keep people safe, and as employers we have a duty to help officers manage the impact this has on their mental health and wellbeing.
“The vast majority of police forces now subscribe to Oscar Kilo, the first ever online wellbeing resource developed specifically for emergency services and supported by Public Health England, which helps forces to assess and improve the welfare and wellbeing of officers and staff.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Police officers across the country do a uniquely challenging and absolutely vital job keeping us safe and secure.
“It is an attractive career with competitive pay and the pension is among the best available.
“Job application rates are high with staff turnover and voluntary resignations remaining low compared with both the private and public sector.
“The welfare of the police workforce is of paramount importance and chief officers, supported by the College of Policing, are responsible for providing help and support so that officers can do their critical work.”