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96% of PSNI officers surveyed say morale is low

By Michael McHugh

Published 23/09/2015

First time PSNI officers from constable to chief inspector have been surveyed for their views
First time PSNI officers from constable to chief inspector have been surveyed for their views

Almost every police officer surveyed in Northern Ireland has said morale is low.

Ninety-six per cent of the 2,527 officers - all facing a personal terrorist threat - who took part agreed.

The slump in spirits is because of budget cuts and other changes, a staff association warned.

Pensions and internal change and re-structuring are among challenges facing members of the force.

Despite that, more than half of those asked felt proud of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and willing to go the extra mile, according to the Police Federation of Northern Ireland.

Chairman Mark Lindsay said: "These independently sourced and verified returns are not something that can be easily dismissed or explained away.

"They represent a significant challenge to ministers who control budgets and send a clear message to all concerned that it is impossible to do more with less without having a severe adverse effect on human beings."

Northern Ireland is facing a severe threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process who have killed police, soldiers and a prison officer in recent years.

Amid political turmoil at Stormont, the force's chief constable has already warned the greatest impact of budget reductions imposed by the devolved justice department will be reduced recruitment.

This is the first time officers from constable to chief inspector have been surveyed for their views, the Federation said. Thirty-seven per cent responded to the online questionnaire.

Assistant chief constable Chris Noble said: "Discussing the budget cuts last year, the chief constable said that policing going forward would be unrecognisable and we are having to do more with less, which is of course a challenge for all other public-sector organisations.

"Our service has gone through significant restructuring and change is unsettling, but we also have a significant track record of delivering meaningful change whilst still delivering for communities every day."

Justice minister David Ford said: "I am aware of the general concerns of these officers and can assure them that I have responded to their concerns as positively and constructively as possible within the current financial constraints.

"Society at large must respect and support that service, and I am pleased to note that many of our officers are proud to serve in the PSNI."

Ulster Unionist Policing Spokesperson and Policing Board Member, Ross Hussey MLA, said that the results of a workforce survey should set alarm bells ringing.

Mr Hussey said:"I have reviewed the information released by the Police Federation and I have to say I am disappointed by the results of the survey. You could close your eyes and ears by saying only 37% of those eligible participated but I think the fact that over 70% of those who did respond indicated that morale was low should set alarm bells ringing.

"Policing is one of the most difficult jobs in society and I have the greatest respect for those that put on the uniform. The changes to the pension scheme have been highlighted as a concern. I have met with and spoken to several officers who have all highlighted this aspect as a major disappointment. The changes that have had to be introduced and the reduced promotion opportunities must also hit young officers who want to make a career in policing. The terror threat must also add to the sense of injustice officers feel.

"It will be an uphill struggle for senior management to grasp the problem here, but I would urge the Federation to enter into discussions with the Chief Constable and the Department of Justice in an attempt to reverse this low morale. We need police officers to feel that what they do is appreciated by society."

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