Blue Light Leavers Blog


“I Don’t Want to be a Police Officer Anymore…Part 2

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In the shadow of grand announcements and the shimmer of the UK Government's Police Uplift Programme, lies a starkly different reality for officers on the front line. Despite the fanfare of adding 20,000 new recruits, the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) sheds light on a growing crisis: a wave of officers contemplating the end of their policing careers, driven by poor pay, gruelling conditions, and the sense of being massively undervalued cuts deep.

 The Tipping Point

Some uncomfortable truths… and none of them a surprise to those bearing the brunt… According to the latest Pay and Morale Survey by the PFEW, over 20% of officers are eyeing the exit, with a staggering 78% citing poor treatment by the government as their breaking point. Workloads have ballooned to unsustainable levels, pushing officers to their limits without the respite or respect they're due, and an overwhelming majority feel understaffed and overworked.

The figures are more than just numbers; they're a cry for help. Three-quarters of officers are left disillusioned with their pay, while physical and verbal abuse continues to climb, adding to the weight of an impossible job.

Government Spin

Amidst the turmoil, the Government's narrative of a strengthening police force is massively disconnected from the frontline experience. This disparity isn't just misleading—it's harmful, creating a facade of progress that fails to address the core issues eroding police morale and retention.

The reality, starkly outlined by the PFEW, points to a profession in distress. Officers are battling not only the challenges inherent to policing but also the struggle to make ends meet, with real pay for federated ranks having declined by over 20% since 2010.

In their report dated 5th March, ‘Home Office evidence to the Police Remuneration Review Body, 2024 to 2025,’ in the section relating to retention, the Government states, ‘The retention of police officers is a priority for the Home Office and the NPCC. Voluntary resignation rates, at around 3%, are low compared to other sectors and in line with modelling.’

They also state, ‘In the year ending 31 March 2023, 9,192 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers left the 43 territorial police forces (excluding transfers), an increase of 13.2% (up 1,075 FTE officers from 8,117 FTE) on the previous year, and the highest number of police officer leavers on record. These data cover all leavers, with more than two-fifths of these officers retiring.’

‘The leaver rate, which calculates leavers as a proportion of those in post at the start of the year, was 6.6%, the highest leaver rate since comparable records began. This is partly driven by the ‘police uplift’ recruitment campaign reflecting a growing workforce as well as a younger-in-service profile.’

‘Excluding transfers, the leaver rate for police officer voluntary resignations in the year ending March 2023 (at 3.3%) is the highest rate since comparable records began (in the year ending March 2003).’

And here comes the spin… ‘It is common across many sectors and professions that leaver rates are higher within an individual’s first year. NPCC management information shows that for new police officers, leaver rates remain consistent at 10% and are in line with modelling.’

‘The successful delivery of 20,000 additional officers means that overall the police officer workforce has a larger proportion of new recruits with less than 2 years’ service.’

‘Therefore, a larger proportion of officers are at the stage where leaver rates are higher.’

I’ll just leave that with you for a minute…

Beyond the Badge

For many officers reaching breaking point, the question looms large: "What comes after policing?" The journey to find meaningful employment outside the force is daunting, as more and more officers consider transitioning to new careers where their skills, values and work ethic are valued and fairly compensated.

 A Call for Action

This is not merely about numbers or policies; it's about the lives and well-being of those who serve and protect. The findings from the PFEW survey underscore a pressing need for change—a change that is so long overdue… that goes beyond superficial recruitment drives and spin, and tackles the root causes of dissatisfaction and disillusionment within policing.

The path forward requires a genuine, (albeit unlikely), commitment from the Government, Police and Crime Commissioners, and senior officers, to value and support its police officers, and acknowledge the huge sacrifices they make and the challenges they face. 

Fair pay, sustainable workloads, and a culture of respect, recognition, investment and appreciation are not just demands; they're essential for the health and future of UK policing. 

Final Thoughts

Policing is on a cliff edge. It is not the job I loved... I couldn't do it now...

For officers contemplating their future, remember that your skills, values, resilience, and dedication hold immense value, both within policing and beyond.

For the powers that be, let this be (yet another!), wake-up call to address the deep-seated issues facing policing… But don’t reflect for too long because you’re not losing the laggards… you’re losing the best of policing… and in their droves!

For those under the cosh, know that there is support, there are options, and there is hope.

At Blue Light Leavers, we're here to help guide you through this transition, to a place where your talents are recognised, respected, and rewarded.

Remember, it's not just about leaving policing; it's about moving towards a future where you're valued, respected and your contribution continues to make a difference.

You can check out our Blue Light Leavers Services page here to help you on your journey to your next career.