National survey reveals level of officer fatigue

The first national police wellbeing survey has revealed that 45 per cent of respondents were getting fewer than six hours’ sleep a night.

Around 35,000 people responded to the survey which was carried out by Oscar Kilo, the National Police Wellbeing Service, and the College of Policing.

Oscar Kilo and the college have now committed to undertake research with experts from around the world to look at ways to reduce officer and staff fatigue. They will also involve practitioners and staff associations from the UK.

“Sadly, the results of this survey do not come as a great surprise. As a Federation, we have been raising concerns about officer wellbeing and the effects of fatigue for a number of years,” says Roger Webb, secretary of Dyfed Powys Police Federation.

“Years of cuts to police budgets put a strain on police officers as they tried to do more with less and this has had a lasting impact on them. Being a police officer is challenging and demanding. You are dealing with serious incidents on a daily basis and you have to be able to make split-second decisions that can, in many cases, make the difference between life and death. 

“You cannot expect people to make such critical decision when their judgment and thought processes are impaired due to fatigue. This survey shows the extent of the problem and I hope that it now leads to changes that will help improve officer wellbeing in the long term.”

The wellbeing survey also found that police officers working in safeguarding and investigations reported lower levels of wellbeing, while police staff reported lower levels of wellbeing in areas such as custody, contact management and incident management.

There were, however, many positive findings from the survey:

  • 65 per cent of respondents reporting feeling satisfaction in their work.
  • The majority of officers and staff reported they felt trusted in their roles and were able to act and make choices which reflected their own personal beliefs and values.
  • Both police officers and staff reported feeling high levels of competence in their work, meaning they felt they could be effective, make important contributions and felt valued by their co-workers and supervisors.

Chief Constable Andy Rhodes, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) wellbeing lead and service director for Oscar Kilo, said: “Looking at the results, we see some areas of progress, and other issues which strengthen our resolve to keep doing more.

“It's clear that many people feel valued by their peers and supervisors - but less so by the organisation and the public – a gap we see in every survey that is directly linked to trust. Fatigue also leaps off the page, and this has a lot to do with our cultural acceptance in relation to things like disrupted sleep and all the risks it can bring to our health and operational decision-making.”

Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, CEO of the College of Policing, said the survey would provide a baseline which Oscar Kilo would use to measure progress and help prioritise work nationally and within individual forces.

Read the full survey results on the Oscar Kilo website.