Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Leaving In Droves

Two years ago I would check the Metropolitan Police website for resignations and find two or three each month. These days the norm is fifteen to twenty.

  1. A detective colleague was offered a high-paying investigation job and is now working in a sunny tax haven.
  2. Another has resigned to resume the poorly-paid but rewarding youth engagement work he did prior to joining the police a decade ago.
BBC News: Police officer numbers - thousands plan to leave service

This recent article is misleading. It misses the point.

The implication is that Winsor`s reforms are solely responsible for the low morale and exodus of constables. If we believe this then we are failing to hold Sir Bernard to account. The reality is that Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model is of equal or greater importance.

It's true that police officers' morale was hit hard by the Tom Winsor reforms, in particular the retrospective change of pension conditions. Officers made informed choices to join the job based in part upon the pension scheme. Where the longest serving officers hoped to tolerate only a few more years of organisational stupidity, night shifts and power-crazy supervisors, they will now find themselves being spat at and wrestling with scumbags until they're sixty years of age.

However, the real culprit here is Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model. I won't labour the details of the LPM because I've already addressed them in other posts:

Only Five Minutes Left On The Clock!
A Convenient Bottleneck
Your Local Station Has Closed? Hey Presto! – A Reduction in Crime
The Figures Prove It's Working!
My Thumb's In The Hole!
Ten Minutes
Contact Points
Disappointment Car
'Return' of Police Targets

Sir Bernard tried the Local Police Model in Merseyside: it failed. He moved to the Metropolitan Police Service – clearly a very different police force – and displaying record-breaking self-denial he saw fit in June 2013 to try his LPM brainchild a second time. We are today struggling under this burden.

The LPM's reorganisation of police teams has proved disastrous. It has had the effect of spiriting away resources overnight – the teams now sprint from the start to finish of each shift, struggling to attend the calls and providing a very poor service for the public, who are bewildered by their difficulties in finding cops and by how long they must wait for us to arrive. The LPM also provides a joyless working regime for the officers – constables spend their shifts working alone, frantically rushing from one appointment to the next, unable to spend more than ten minutes with each victim.

Sir Bernard holds invitation-only monthly audiences and in the last one he told those gathered: “I now accept that it isn't working” and “Changes will be made.”

The Local Policing Model (which in no sense is 'local') has crushed the Service. When a system is under pressure all the stress naturally flows downwards to those at the bottom – and that's why the constables are now having a thoroughly miserable time compared with two years ago.

And that's largely why so many are resigning.

It seems like everyone wants to leave, and many are officers are taking lower-paid jobs elsewhere. Many of my colleagues are developing exit strategies – studying part-time degrees, setting up businesses, becoming physiotherapists and truck drivers. Those with less than two years service can already see the writing on the wall, and those with twenty-five plus years are grimly hanging on for their pension.

The talk has it that senior officers want to save money by employing officers for only two or three years. They want people who will stay only long enough to get the job on their CV then leave. As ever there is no incentive for senior officers to take any interest in their constables' careers or welfare. On the contrary, anything that encourages officers to leave plays nicely into the diretion the senior managers are pushing the Metropolitan Police Service.

One thing that bothers me is that despite the £4000 pay cut and closure of the pension scheme, applicants remain plentiful. There seems to be no shortage of young people buying into the mythology of being a police officer – "I've wanted to be a cop since I was a small child" – and willing to put on the uniform.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a police officer, but those recruits are going into it with their eyes closed, unaware that their careers and welfare mean absolutely nothing to the senior managers.

In time they, like all of us, will realise the vast disparity between their expectation and the reality. But the job benefits for those few years – feeding on them, using them then spitting them out again.

My detective colleague who left for a private sector investigation role: he is now earning a greater salary and being treated like a human being again. After more than years of service, and running the department at the time he resigned, he received no even one thank you or best wishes message from his managers, no was he offered an exit interview. He was on the last lap of his police pension but couldn't stomach it any longer.

At twenty years service an officer is given the Long Service Medal. Long overdue, his medal failed to appear. No mention of this was made, no email, nothing. He requested the medal and chased it up for a while, then gave up.

Another – a highly productive detective with ten years of experience – regularly worked fifteen hour days until one day his sergeant presented him with five prisoners:

"Sorry, we're short-staffed today, but crack on and let me know how it goes."

Two prisoners is doable but three is a struggle. Five means a hellish twenty-hour day, disregarding the officer's welfare, and serious mistakes are likely to be made. His sergeant could have dealt with two of those prisoners, but refused:

"I became a sergeant so I wouldn't have to deal with prisoners!"

The detective decided he could tolerate this no longer and resigned.

The organisation will never start to show any respect or consideration to its officers until the supply of new officers is less plentiful. Until then we are effectively an infinite labour source to be treated with indifference.

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- Justice and Chaos