Underpaid, overworked, underrated, underappreciated.
Just some of the responses police officers gave in a recent Police Oracle survey.
Hit hard by years of unprecedented Government cuts, our boys and girls in blue have been left battered and bruised by the public it serves.
A police officer is assaulted every 22 minutes.
Thousands every month, more than 500 a week or nearly 100 a day. In the last year 23,394 police officers were assaulted in England and Wales.
It is not just the physical marks that remain. What about the mental scars that invariably take longer to heal?
Mental health issues for serving officers have become an increasing concern for the Police Federation and the service overall.
The Federation says resilience in the service is at an all-time low while officers are being put under inordinate amounts of pressure. This is clearly taking its toll on their health and wellbeing.
A survey by the Fed of 17,000 officers earlier this year revealed an alarming set of statistics with 39 per cent seeking help with mental health issues.
More than a quarter of officers who have taken sick leave attributed it to stress, depression or anxiety, while 65 per cent said they still went to work even though they felt uncomfortable doing so because of the state of their mental wellbeing.
A survey by mental health charity Mind was even more alarming. It revealed five per cent of those interviewed in the emergency services had made an actual attempt to take their own life.
So what can be done?
In September 2007 The Royal British Legion launched a campaign which accused the government of failing to meet its commitments under what was then called the Military Covenant.
Today, under the banner of our BluePrint campaign, Police Oracle accuses the government of failing to meet its obligation of protecting our officers both in the job and, particularly, when they have been forced out of the service because of physical injuries or mental trauma.
The Legion highlighted the case of a 23-year-old paratrooper, injured in battle, who was awarded £152,150 despite injuries requiring care for the rest of his life.
As illustrated above, Police Oracle can highlight the plight of hundreds, if not thousands, of police officers who will require care after being injured on duty.
It is all too easy for tabloids and MPs to criticise the police service citing misconduct hearings or unfavourable HMIC or IPCC reports. However, it is important to remember there will always be a few bad apples in a workforce 120,000-plus strong. The vast majority being hard-working officers who will put their safety at risk to help and serve the British public.
The Armed Forces Covenant’s funding priorities for April 2016 to March 2017 and April 2017 to March 2018 are as follows:
Priority 1: Veterans’ Gateway
Priority 2: Families in stress
Priority 3: Strengthening local government delivery of the covenant
Priority 4: Community integration
Like The Royal British Legion when it sought to protect members of the Army, Police Oracle believes the Government is failing to meet its responsibility to the country’s police officers.
This includes staffing issues, equipment, the terms and conditions of their working life but particularly the impact the job can have on police officers.
Since 1792 more than 4,000 officers have died in the line of duty according to the National Memorial Day organisation.
Since 1945, more than 250 officers have been shot.
Since January 1st, 2010, 51 police officers have died on duty while serving the public.
Who is helping their families?
Notable police historian Charles Reith, during his studies in 1956, said our philosophy of policing was ‘unique in history and throughout the world because it derived not from fear but almost exclusively from public co-operation with the police, induced by them designedly by behaviour which secures and maintains for them the approval, respect and affection of the public’. Policing by consent.
Police Oracle calls on the Government to acknowledge and protect our unique service, the best in the world as stated by politicians themselves, by introducing a Police Covenant.
This would see an annual Covenant Fund set up.
Much in the way the £10million per annum Armed Forces Covenant accepts applications to support the armed forces community, we would suggest the Police Covenant works in a similar way.
Officers forced to retire, in need of modifications at home, physiotherapy, mental health assistance or families left with no father or mother would all be able to apply to the trust for grants.
The covenant will also see injured police officers prioritised for operations or hospital treatment and will offer council tax relief for officers unable to work.
Police Oracle will lobby politicians, launch a petition and call on the extended Police Family to support our campaign.
Now, more than ever before, you, our police officers need to be backed. Police Oracle will fight for your right to be supported by the government when you need it. And, during their darkest days, we will rally to see a Police Covenant established to help grieving families when all other doors remain closed.
We know it is ambitious. At the very least we will ask the government to support officers with a large, annual, grant so those who need can apply for help. We want to see the fund extended to the families of officers still alive who need financial assistance.
There is no doubt those who serve in our Armed Forces deserve their covenant. Who could argue that police officers deserve any less?
Of the Military Covenant, the Ministry of Defence said:
“In putting the needs of the Nation, the Army and others before their own, they forgo some of the rights enjoyed by those outside the Armed Forces. So, at the very least, British soldiers should always expect the Nation and their commanders to treat them fairly, to value and respect them as individuals, and to sustain and reward them and their families.”
Change the word army to police forces, armed forces to police service and British soldiers to British police officers. Is there really any difference?