Senior officers must take some individual responsibility for their own welfare and workloads – it has been suggested – as a survey reveals forces have a varied approach to managing these issues.
A poll of more than 1,000 superintendents and chief superintendents has highlighted that in some cases, senior operational officers are suffering from unmanageable working hours, high stress levels and anxiety.
Of those that took part in the survey, 77 per cent reported regularly working in excess of 50 hours per week while some regularly work more than 70 hours per week.
The full survey results will be revealed and discussed in a dedicated session at the Police Superintendents’ Association’s annual conference in Warwickshire from September 8-10 called Command Resilience: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
However, Merseyside Chief Superintendent Stephen Richards, who leads on command resilience for the Association, said the survey showed some forces are working hard to improve the way they take care of the welfare of their senior officers.
He hopes the study, the results of which have been placed in a graded matrix system to rank forces that are perceived by senior officers as being either good or bad in managing welfare and workloads, will be used to help chiefs improve practices.
In an interview with PoliceOracle.com Ch Supt Richards said that while forces must ensure they support their personnel, officers must also take responsibility.
He added: “Compared to the last survey we did in 2011, overall the results are worse – this does not come as a big surprise knowing what the service has been through with budget cuts and a 25 per cent reduction in the number of superintendents over the last three years.
“Working hours are a concern for us and we know that many people are working in excess of 40 hours a week. However, we have to take into account that there is a perception element to this.
“People are working rest days and what we are saying to forces is that while we understand and accept that there are times of need and crisis, if it continues week-in and week-out then at some stage it will show on the individual. Not only that but it will negatively impact the force and the wider community.
“To forces, we are saying don’t work people into the ground. To individuals we are saying they should take some responsibility and manage their time as best they can and try and work reasonable hours to balance their work and home life.”
Analysts took data from 30 questions and assigned the answers with a score, which was used to determine a single figure for the force.
Occupational Therapist Emma Donaldson-Feilder, who analysed the data, will discuss the matrix system and the analysis during the session at the conference on September 9.
In addition, Deputy Chief Constable Andrew Rhodes will also detail the good practices at Lancashire Constabulary, which were praised by some participants in the survey.
Ch Supt Richards added: “People are the most precious resource in policing. Some forces in England and Wales are good when it comes to looking after their officers, whilst others are not.
“We need to focus on what forces are doing to improve the resilience, health and well-being of their superintendents so that best practice can be shared.
“Almost all of our members look upon policing as a vocation. The survey shows that the vast majority of superintendents and chief superintendents get a ‘buzz’ from coming to work.
“They love their jobs but this does not mean that they should not be able to enjoy a proper work/life balance. This is in everyone’s best interests.”
From Police Oracle