Is This What Police Burn-Out Looks Like?
Burnout in the Police Service is something I have been fearful of for quite a while. I hear stories of officers being burnt out, Forces struggling to cope with demand but I’ve never really examined the problem in any depth before.
For no particular reason I started at their bread and butter work that they have been doing since 1839, to see how it had changed over the years. The most obvious factor was the reduction of 21,000+ officers. What kind of an impact has that had?
I cannot say that there is any direct correlation, but, nevertheless, Recorded Crime has increased as Police Strength has been reduced. At the very least this means that, averaged out, there are more crimes per officer to be dealt with. In an era of conflicting priorities this is not an ideal situation for Forces to be in.
What does this tell us? A combination of government diktats and fewer numbers has resulted in a reduction in the total number of stop/searches, together with the number of persons arrested as a result of those searches. I strongly suspect that restoring Police numbers at the earliest opportunity (but it will take years to achieve) will see a directly proportional increase in Stops, Crime Prevention and Arrests.
However, the shape of the two graphs remains very similar, so I would dare to suggest that the chaps and chappesses are doing their very best to keep up. In fact the percentage strike rate has improved slightly in recent years, as high as 11% in 2016/17. However this would suggest that the Met’s desire to reach 20% is probably unachievable, not to mention a target that probably should not be set
Quite unsurprisingly, fewer officers has led to fewer prisoners in total. Despite the fact that crime is rising. The shape of the two curves leads me to believe that there may be a direct correlation between the two. If this is true then increasing Police numbers should result in more prisoners, more crimes solved and greater Public Satisfaction surely? All you get for less is less.
Demand. Demand for Police services is relentlessly rising, with a constantly shrinking workforce to respond. Actual data is not easy to find, 43 FOI Requests would no doubt give me something to go on, but previous form shows that the majority of Forces would not respond within the 20 working days, if at all. However, in 2017, an HMIC report stated that Police receive more than eight million 999 calls every year and the number has been rising since 2014. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary said 999 calls had risen by 10.5% in 2016-17, compared with the previous year. The report said police control rooms were under “significant stress” due to the rise in calls, budget cuts, and the increasing complexity of crime. However, it doesn’t stop there The stress seeps outwards onto the officers on Response who will be answering the calls and reporting the incidents. Investigators are picking up more and more crimes to be investigated. It all stretches the Thin Blue Line ever thinner. At what point will it snap? HM Inspector of Constabulary Mike Cunningham, who led the review, said it would be a “good thing” for police to have more money. More money really means more officers. There is a shortage everywhere, a shortage brought about by Mrs Theresa May, about whom I have already written many words, not many of them complimentary.
Overtime. Overtime has traditionally been used to allow Forces to cope with extraordinary demands placed upon their resources by mainly unforeseeable events on a large scale. However, with the onset of the ‘cuts’ overtime payments have not been so viable. Despite this the Police Service has an obligation to Police such events and maintain public tranquility, prevent crime and disorder etc.
Without overtime per se to call upon they have resorted to cancelling rest days in advance, requiring officers to work extended tours of duty (keeping overtime to a minimum as the majority of the time is ‘an ordinary day’), or calling officers in to duty with a only a short break between shifts. Abstractions from officers’ normal duties mean that they fall behind with crime enquiries, attempts to locate Missing Persons etc etc. It does absolutely nobody any good. The Public receive a second class service and the officers end up exhausted. Once more, precise details are not easy to come by, and I’m sure most Forces would rather not answer the question. The Press, however, gives us an idea of the scale of the problem. All Forces are going to be affected by a different amount, but the Met makes the headlines because they are understandably affected the most.
In June 2018 the BBC were reporting that the Met ‘owed’ its officers 189,000 Rest Days.
By November 2018 The Standard was reporting that the Met ‘owed’ its officers 330,000 Rest Days.
I fully accept that no other Force in England and Wales is likely to have racked up such huge numbers of Cancelled Rest Days, but this situation is totally disgraceful and completely unsustainable. Hard working officers are being forced to do without their Rest Days and then encounter difficulties when they try and agree suitable dates to re-roster them to. Alongside extended tours of duty, I hear that 12 hour shifts are treated as ‘the norm’ in some Forces at times of high demand, they are burning out their prize assets.
Inevitably this leads us on to SICKNESS. It should not be a surprise to anyone that sickness levels are higher than they should be. In July 2018 The Times was reporting that 10,000 Police Officers (6% of all Police Officers) were off sick with stress or depression. I’m sorry it’s behind a paywall but you can see enough of the article to get the gist of it.
A slice I found on Twitter (origin University of Manchester) stated that on any given day 1,500 officers will be off sick with stress, depression or related illnesses. 600,000 sick days were lost year to stress, depression etc. 78 officers across the country had been off sick with stress or depression for at least one year. The Met lost 53,000 sick days to stress and/or depression, PSNI lost 39,000 sick days and Greater Manchester Police lost 24,000 sick days to stress/depression.
Are you as staggered and appalled as I am at these appalling figures?
I have mulled this over for a few days now, and the one solitary thing that I find but appalling and totally unforgivable is that much of this is completely avoidable.
Police Officers will always be exposed to traumatic events and more susceptible PTSD than the general public, I accept that, it’s part of what they do. However, the burnout seemingly being suffered by a significant number of officers has been caused by a deliberate policy instigated, mainly, if not entirely, by Theresa May. She has led a full blown campaign to reduce Police numbers.
Name me any organisation that can suffer losses to the degree that Policing has without detrimental consequences. Yes, we can all work more efficiently, but only to a point. Policing is very much a hands-on occupation, the latest, swishest gadgets and software will only go so far to improve efficiency.
Mrs May has consistently refused to listen for many years. She does not accept that she was wrong. She does not accept that things could have been handled much differently. Worst of all, even up to today, I see no evidence that she actually CARES.
She has enforced cuts to Police numbers against a backdrop of rising crime and rising demand for Police services. Where has that got us? Untold numbers of youths, often from deprived backgrounds made worse by Tory policies such as Universal Credit, being killed and maimed on our streets.Last Updated on