Proactive policing suffers with not enough cops to do the job

15 May 2016

A police officer

Officers say they aren’t able to do their jobs properly, nor to the standards they wish and communities don’t get proactive patrols, new research suggests.

The study – in which nearly 17,000 officers responded – found that of those surveyed:

  • 84% said there were not enough officers to go around to manage the demands placed upon them.
  • 80% of officers agree that at least sometimes they are not able to perform tasks because they have too much work to do.
  • 78% said there were not enough officers in their team/unit for them to do their jobs properly and 58% said they did not have enough time to do their job to a standard they could be proud of.
  • Only 11% felt there were enough officers in their team to enable them to do their job properly.
  • Just 13% said they had the time to engage in proactive policing, with the majority just reacting to jobs coming in.

The results come from research into job demands and capacity, carried out by the Police Federation of England and Wales in conjunction with the University of Nottingham earlier this year. Just over a fifth of officers whose teams had minimum staffing levels said these were rarely or never met in the last year. And if one team is short, there is nowhere else to go for help, with nearly 64% saying they could not get help from elsewhere if they were struggling on shift.

Steve White, chair of the Police Federation, said the results were alarming and provided the continued evidence that the past cuts to policing were having a detrimental effect on the bedrock of the service, such as neighbourhood policing.

“This is not about us crying wolf; this echoes what we have been saying all along and we must ensure the public do not suffer as a result,” he said. “I know officers sign up to this job because they have a sense of duty and they passionately believe in what they do – they want to make a difference and want to support communities and help people. What they don’t want is to have to miss tasks, or not do things because of the sheer volume of work they are having to deal with. That work included ever-increasing crime and non-crime incidents and it is all set against a backdrop of 17,000 fewer officers since 2010.”

The research also found:

  • Only 4% of respondents said they always get their rest breaks during work, while more than half (53%) said they “never” or “rarely” did.
  • 27% of those who responded said they “often” or “always” had their annual leave requests refused and 13% said their allocated days off were “often” or “always” cancelled.
Mr White continued: “For our officers, the sense of duty they have is just the beginning. They want to be able to deliver a consistently high standard of service to the public, but are simply not always able to. This is not about them moaning because of the high volume of work, but there are some worrying statistics in the report which are of concern to us and cannot just be dismissed as scaremongering.

“Collaboration across forces needs to more effective in order to respond to these challenges and the whole structure of policing in England and Wales needs to be properly debated so that we can make the best of the limited resources we have.”

The results are also due to be examined to see the impact that demand is having on officers’ welfare in light of reduced officer numbers and it is expected there will be a relationship, given the preliminary findings from qualitative research. “The information we have around the impact of these high demands on officer welfare is worrying. More and more emergency service personnel are suffering from mental health problems caused by the stresses of work and it is like a ticking time bomb waiting to go off,” added Mr White.