Nottinghamshire Police Federation chair Simon Riley has warned policing is in crisis as three more struggling forces were placed under special measures.
Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Wiltshire joined the Metropolitan Police Service, Cleveland and Gloucestershire on the list of forces in special measures after Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) stepped in.
Simon said alarm bells had been ringing for several years as the police service struggled to cope with ever-increasing demands and greater workload while trying to deal with diminished resources, fewer officers and a devastating slump in morale.
He said: “While Nottinghamshire has been relatively successful in its recruitment programme under the national uplift, the issues of pay, demand, ever-increasing workloads and poor morale are very real issues. It is shocking that six forces are now in special measures and I would expect that number to grow as years of underfunding begins to take its toll the length and breadth of the country.
“The Police Federation has been warning of a looming crisis for years and it looks very much like that crisis is now upon us.
“It is absolutely vital that the Home Office and the Government now get a grip, listen to what we have to say and come up with a proper, sustainable plan to get policing out of this mess.
“That has to start with a pay settlement that recognises and fairly rewards the incredible work our members do and must then look at the conditions they have to work under and the resources available to them.
“The Government then has to examine its whole attitude towards the police service. If it fails to treat this crisis seriously then I am not sure it can meet its responsibilities to keep the citizens of this country safe from harm.”
Police Federation national chair Steve Hartshorn said years of underfunding had created a perfect storm that had brought policing to its knees.
He said: “If this is not a sign that the Government needs to act then I don’t know what is.
“The responsibility of any Government is the safety and security of the public but how can it fulfil its obligations on that front when almost one in seven of the forces of England and Wales has been judged by the police inspectorate as requiring help to improve performance?
“It seemed inevitable that we were going to reach a situation where forces were going to be put into special measures, they have been facing huge challenges set against a decade of austerity during which we saw officer numbers plummet at a time when demand was soaring.
“Policing is the service of first and last resort, the service that cannot say no, but forces have been stretched to breaking point and that has had a detrimental impact not just on the service we have been able to provide but also on the officers themselves.
“Morale is at an all-time low with a police pay freeze, at a time when other sectors received a pay rise, this was particularly hard for officers to stomach. Officers have seen a 20 per cent real terms pay cut and the cost of living crisis has created a situation where some officers are being issued with food vouchers and others are struggling to afford to put fuel in their cars.
“All officers want is fair pay; pay that recognises their unique place in society holding the front line and the dangers they face as they go about their duties fighting and preventing crime, keeping order and protecting the vulnerable.
“So many workers in other sectors seem to be looking at taking industrial action over pay and conditions this summer and we will have to ‘police’ any strikes that are organised when our members cannot strike and have no redress to industrial rights.”
Officer numbers are now increasing as a result of the Government’s Police Uplift Programme which aims to recruit 20,000 officers over three years.
But Steve warned retention and attrition rates are producing a revolving door effect with some new recruits leaving within months of starting their policing careers and the pay squeeze and low morale also causing longer serving officers to quit.