When I joined the police in the Twenty-First Century, any request for someone to work overtime was met with a barrage of "Me me!" Rest day working was pounced on and you couldn't fight bank holiday volunteers off with a stick.
Christmas 2011, on a variety of bank holidays, I had cause to phone a number of officers asking them to come in early, or stay late, for double time. An hour at a PC's wage might be worth anything up to £30. Was I batting away eager money-grabbing officers left, right and centre? Was I heck. I found not one single volunteer for a couple of hours' overtime, and out of the fifteen officers I phoned to come in early, five answered their phones and only three were available.
When we get to Christmas 2012, and the latest pay recommendations are imposed, those three will be one, if we're lucky. If someone is the other side of the country, has had a drink, or isn't well, they can't be made to come into work. Which makes you wonder just what Chief Officers were envisaging when they signed their names to the infamous "forty-nine recommendations" letter that in 2010 signalled the decline of police pay and conditions.
I predict the following moves by Blandshire Constabulary to counter the demotivation and apathy that will accompany the slashing of our pay and perks:
- They will investigate those officers who say they are away or ill when asked to work on a rest day.
- They will start to discipline officers who refuse to work overtime or rest days.
- They will put in place an involuntary overtime system.
The response will be a gradual challenge by individuals or groups, about whether you can force people to work and place restrictions on their personal lives, in the Twenty-First Century. The governments of today will see those changes they appear to desire, in the form of:
- Police officers will become like any other employee. They will not be able to be forced to work, and will not put themselves out to do so.
- With no privileges, prestige or perks, or any possibility of self-advancement, new recruits will fall into two categories: those with no real prospects of a promising career, and those desiring to get ahead at all costs. The concept of the vocational police officer, who has dreamed of wearing the uniform since childhood, will be gone.
Perhaps I'm being melodramatic. But the police force of this country has been unique, in that university graduates, squaddies, plumbers, lawyers and doctors can all announce their change to the role of police officer without any shame. It is a career that enables upward mobility, and embraces philanthropists.
The future is uncertain, but it will take giant steps to recover what we are losing.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.