Belfast Telegraph

Morale slumps among PSNI officers amid drastic cuts

By Deborah McAleese

A massive 96% of police officers have warned that the effects of fiscal pressures have taken a drastic toll on morale within the PSNI.

Almost every single officer to take part in a recent survey said that spirits were at a low.

The officers' views come against a backdrop of drastic cuts and a radical restructuring of the organisation to cope with a £200m budget slash over the past five years.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, the body that represents rank-and-file officers, said the findings of the survey sent out a clear message that it was "impossible to do more with less without having a severe adverse effect on human beings".

A total of 2,527 officers, from constable to chief inspector rank, took part in the independent policing survey. It found that 96% believed morale within the PSNI was low and 72.5% described their personal morale as low.

The picture worsened for officers who had experienced a great deal of change within the organisation, with 97.4% saying it had reduced their morale.

Budget cuts, pensions and internal change and restructuring were some of the concerns raised by the 37% of officers who took the survey.

Assistant Chief Constable Chris Noble said the PSNI was going through a period of unprecedented change and acknowledged the "personal and professional impacts of change".

"We are committed to doing all we reasonably can to help colleagues adapt to and adopt new ways of working," he said.

Mr Noble said that despite "the very personal terrorist threat directed towards our officers they continue to deliver a first class policing service", and the PSNI "will continue to support them in ensuring that they get the recognition they deserve for keeping people safe".

He added that last year the Chief Constable said policing going forward would be unrecognisable and more would have to be done 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," Mr Noble said.

He said he welcomed the opportunity to consider and address the findings of the Police Federation survey and insisted that despite the perspectives raised he still believed "that policing is a vocation which is challenging and rewarding for those who have a passion for serving their communities".

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said the survey provided "bleak" feedback. "Detrimental pension reform combined with minimal pay rises are the main issues highlighted in the survey. Constant organisational change, drastic cuts and a weighty bureaucracy all contribute to this depressing picture," he said.

Mr Lindsay added that the findings were a source of great concern and "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".

"This is bleak feedback, and what's needed now is an urgent action plan to address the challenges revealed in this survey. There must be a collaborative and realistic approach to adequately deal with the wide range of anxieties and fears that are felt by officers throughout the PSNI," he said.

The Policing Board said the matter will be discussed with the Chief Constable.

A spokesman added: "The fiscal picture is unlikely to change and as such it is important that all resources are used efficiently by the Chief Constable.

"The board very much values the contribution officers make to our community and their commitment to providing a professional policing service to the public despite challenges faced."

Earlier this week Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin admitted that the PSNI needed an extra 180 officers to maintain operational resilience.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph he insisted that the organisation was still "well equipped, effective and efficient", but admitted that additional officers were needed.

Officer numbers have dropped to 6,780, which is below the recommended resilience level of 6,963. Fiscal restraint has made it difficult to recruit new officers.

Belfast Telegraph

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