The Police Uplift Programme was compared to the “PPI mis-selling scandal” by a Police Federation representative at the annual national conference on Tuesday.
Mark Jones, secretary of North Wales Police Federation, was speaking as a panellist in a session debating whether the Government’s flagship policy of a 20,000 uplift of officers was “more than just a numbers game”.
Mark warned that for many new recruits, the perception of what policing is about did not match-up to the reality.
He added: “I think policing needs to be very clear to potential candidates what they are signing up for. It’s almost like the PPI scandal.
“We’re not being honest with people about the trauma they are going to see. We’re not telling them that they are going to have to work night shifts, that they will have to work Christmas. In this drive to get people through the door, we’ve let slip the reality of what policing is.”
The session heard that the current 139,000 police officers in England and Wales includes 31,000 new recruits. This represents an uplift of 13,576 officers once those leaving or retiring are factored in.
Mark said: “Police forces are feeling immense pressure to keep hitting the target and stay on track. Colleagues are saying that just one resignation can skew a figure and they are very conscious of when the next quarter is due, for fear of repercussions.”
Dr Sarah Charman, a professor of criminology at Portsmouth University, spoke about a four-year study she has carried out into police officer retention. The number of officers resigning had risen by 104 per cent at the end of 2020 compared to 2012, she said.
Reasons for this vary but include poor leadership, excessive workloads and a mismatch between expectations of the job and the reality. There were personal reasons for leaving relating to mental and physical health and stress, as well as a “sense of organisational injustice – officers feeling a lack of voice, autonomy, lack of progression and also bullying and harassment,” she added.
Sarah Davenport, from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said an attrition rate of 10 per cent had been expected, however, the focus for year three of the uplift was to drive that figure down further. Jo Noakes, director of leadership and workforce development at the College of Policing praised the uplift for its successes in recruiting from diverse backgrounds, with a “edgy campaign”.
Kurtis Christoforides, a director at the Police NOW programme, told the conference audience in Manchester that the recruitment market is changing.
He said: “The idea of a career where you would sign up at 18 and serve for 30 years in the same job is unusual these days. We are lucky there are people who want to do that, but many people want a “portfolio career”. That goes hand in glove with a more flexible entry and exit into the service.
“We will have people leaving relatively early but hopefully coming back and bringing other experience back into the job and probably the service needs to recognise that recruitment reality and capitalise on it.”