Police morale at ‘rock bottom’

Local police to join London protest march as officers become disillusioned by dwindling numbers, Government cuts and changes.

MORALE among police officers in North Devon and across the force is at rock bottom, according to their staff federation.

More than 50 off-duty North Devon and Torridge officers will be joining a 500-strong contingent from the Devon and Cornwall force at a national protest march in London on May 10.

Devon and Cornwall Police Federation chairman Sergeant Nigel Rabbitts said they were angered at Government cuts and proposed recommendations on police pay and conditions put forward in a recent Government-commissioned review.

“We have reduced the number of police officers and along with that we have a new operational model that’s not working, rising crime, plus additional attacks on pay and conditions,” said Sgt Rabbitts.

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“Morale is already low in North Devon. Fewer officers means that one of the lowest sparsity percentages of police officers per head of population in Europe puts added pressures on officers in North Devon.

“They are often patrolling alone with some distance from available help. As Government cuts remove more officers, this anxiety increases.

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“They’re part of the community as well and their concerns are the service they can provide with fewer resources.

“The blue line is very thin in North Devon,” he added,

Local officers are also taking part in a survey on whether the federation – which represents rank and file officers from constable to chief inspector – should be seeking full rights for them as employees rather than appointed officers.

Currently, by law, police do not have the right to strike or take industrial action.

The results will be taken to a ballot at the national Police Federation conference on May 14.

Sgt Rabbitts said North Devon’s officers were worried by the approaching summer season: “It’s now coming into North Devon’s busy period with an influx of tourists,” he said.

“There are no extra officers and, with their numbers reduced, there are fears as to how they will police it, because there are only so many to go around.”

He called on local police to galvanise their communities ‘and say enough is enough’.

“Because North Devon is a nice place to live and is a low-crime area, it will not attract additional funding from anywhere – in fact, I think it will lose funding because resources will go to where the demand is, so the police up there are feeling more and more isolated.”

Inspector Roger Bartlett, Acting Commander North and West Devon said there was no doubt these were challenging and uncertain times for officers and their families, as well as many other residents of North Devon.

“The fact that we live in one of the safest areas of the UK is in no small part down to the dedicated service of the members of the local policing team,” he said.

“What I see on a day-to-day basis is a group of officers who, in spite of the challenges, continue to put themselves on the line and give their best to make a difference to the individuals they encounter and to their communities.”

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