As the title of the blog implies, I am a Sergeant in a UK police force. To get promoted to this level I had to study at great length in my spare time, take a written exam in law and procedure, then sit a role play exam testing my management skills. Then once qualified, I had to pass an interview board held by three senior members of the police service. Only then did I receive my three stripes.
I’m currently posted to a response team, dealing with the public all day, every day, answering 999 calls. I do shift work, including night shifts. I have to manage a team of police officers, deal with complaints, juggling resources to try to keep the public happy when we are working at or below minimum staffing and have hardly enough officers at times to attend all the calls. I get out on patrol and proactively deal with the public, good and bad, facing the risk of fights, abuse, bodily fluids and personal attack on a daily basis. If I am forced to work on past the end of my rostered shift, the first half hour I work for free. After that I get just 33% more.
My personal life is restricted: I have to tell the Chief Constable where I live, and who with. I have to tell him if I want to take on a secondary job in order to supplement my income (and a huge proportion of coppers are forced to do this now). My rest days can be cancelled without notice (as happened to many, many officers during the 2012 disorder). I can be moved at short notice to any job anywhere in my police area. My employer not only carries out security checks on me, they check my partner and my family. Our code of conduct means that should I be foolish enough to misbehave off duty, this can be used as grounds for disciplinary procedures against me. I can’t strike or otherwise work to rule (not that I could afford to anyway).
For this, last year I earned about £43,000 (before tax), made up mostly of salary, supplemented by very little overtime (most of it involuntary).
I don’t do my job for the money. I do it because I love it. But it’s a job which is under attack. Most Home Secretaries seem to have it in for the police. But Theresa May, with her unthinking adoption of the Winsor Review’s many recommendations, has taken things to a new level. We are threatened with massive pay cuts, a pay freeze, and huge pension increases. I will be literally thousands of pounds a year worse off if (perhaps that should say ‘when’) these changes go through.
I did some research on what a typical MP earns. A backbench MP lands a basic £65,738 salary. Add to that allowances totalling up to £25,000 a year (see the infamous green book) and many MP’s are pushing £90K a year, even before considering the other work MPs do outside Parliament – chairmanships, board places, speeches and the like, which bump their income by potentially tens of thousands of pounds a year. And let’s not forget their generous final salary pension – a recent review recommended an increase in contributions to a maximum of 13.75%, delivering considerably more at the end than most coppers could ever hope for.
I have no doubt that sometimes MPs have to work long hours. But I doubt most MPs have been sworn at, abused, spat on or assaulted as part of their daily grind. MPs are making decisions which have a huge impact on the lives of police officers, with no understanding or consideration of the dangers, inconveniences or restrictions that most police officers face every day. Meanwhile the Government drip feeds sound bites to the press about ‘inefficiencies’ and ‘spanish practices’, implying that the police service is some sort of gravy train stuck in the 1960′s.
Should any MP ever stumble across this blog, I imagine they will dismiss it without really reading it, believing that it’s just another police officer ‘whining’ about reform. But I’m not afraid of reform – I embrace it. I’m afraid that the Government is destroying the police service, and wrecking the lives of individual police officers.