Police reforms 'cause uncertainty'

Tom WinsorMore than half of rank-and-file police officers are considering switching professions due to uncertainty caused by radical reforms to the service, research has found.

Police forces face changes to pay, conditions and recruitment under a far-reaching overhaul masterminded by ex-rail regulator Tom Winsor.

Some 51.1% of police officers surveyed by the University of the West of England (UWE) said they "would consider looking for alternative employment" as a direct result of concern over the Winsor's proposals. And 95.1% of officers surveyed had no confidence in the long-term government plans for the police.

Dr James Hoggett, who led the research as a pilot with Avon and Somerset Police officers, said: "The study showed that proposed changes and those currently being implemented are causing significant levels of uncertainty and concern amongst officers on the ground."

Among reforms being ushered through by the Home Office are plans to cut annual pay for new police constables by £4,000 to £19,000. A fast-track scheme will allow constables to rise to the rank of inspector in just three years, while foreign candidates will be able to apply for chief constable roles for the first time.

Some 1,400 officers were interviewed for the survey, which was commissioned by the Constables Central Committee of the Police Federation and will be rolled out to all 43 police forces in England and Wales.

The study also found that 86.3% of officers disagreed that "proposed reductions to police starting salaries will help to attract the right calibre of recruit". Some 94.2% of survey respondents were dissatisfied with the Winsor review of police pay and conditions, although 86.9% agreed that "some change is needed".

Low morale was reported by 83.4% of officers. While 96.4% of officers said they believed goodwill was "essential" to the success of the police service, 80.8% believe that the reforms will erode goodwill in the future.

Dr Hoggett, a senior lecturer in criminology at UWE, went on: "Officers clearly accept the need for change, but believe it should be without political interference and should involve the police service itself."

He added: "For the vast majority, being a police officer is a fundamental part of their self-concept - who they are - and they are therefore willing to make sacrifices to be police officers."
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