To add to yesterday's post on pay, the point here is nothing to do with sympathy for the front-line, giving officers "what we're owed", or any other such propaganda. It comes down to basic hard facts:
- The thin blue line is dependent on overtime, expenses and bonus payments simply to cover emergencies.
- Without healthy enough compensation for working conditions, people will stop doing the work. Not overnight, but over a decade. Which is the reason the bonuses and pay rises were introduced to start with.
After this decade, one of three things will have happened or be about to:
- The British police as we know it will no longer exist: we will no longer deal with mental health patients, lost children, the lonely and dying. It will be a civilianised force, the bulk of whom will have inflexible powers that allow them to do one job and one job alone, with a few "soldiers" who can put in doors and use force.
- Officers will be reverting to the every-man-for-himself days of the 70s, because it isn't worth their while to abide by the regulations.
- Service to victims of crime and crime stats at an all-time low, the government will have to shell out a fortune as they did in the 80s, to keep people in the police and encourage them to join.
For front-line police officers, I think the most distressing part of the current political climate is the betrayal by our senior management. We can understand and accept the epithets spouted by the Home Office - of course the government wants to save money, of course politicians think they understand the problems facing policing, that's only natural. We all knew that our Special Priority Payments would not last, and anyone who didn't was naive.
But then we read about the fundamental role of constable being diminished and undermined, and hear not a peep out of our chief officers. We hear about our compensations being eroded, and no one is defending us - even if they lose, you expect your bosses to fight your corner.
Money-saving measures by our CCMTs (Chief Constable Management Teams) take no account of the welfare of their officers. We see shift patterns introduced that suit everyone except those working them. Officers are pulled between stations to save money. Inspectors are given more and more line management responsibility with no extra motivation or compensation, and are still expected to implement massive increases in performance.
And suddenly our senior managers have forgotten that they too started out at the sharp end, having to stay on to guard a scene in the pouring rain when it's their kid's birthday tea, having their leave cancelled because a foreign royal decides to visit their town, being hauled over the coals for every little mistake and subjected to intense scrutiny for every lapse in judgment. We're not asking for that to end, we're asking for our own managers to take it into account and support us. Instead, they're asking for our pay and conditions to be cut, to make their lives easier, and in fact are already implementing nonsensical changes that protect themselves at the expense of their troops.
My Chief might want to remember: without an army, you aren't chief of anything.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.