AROUND a third of police officers plan to quit Scotland’s national force within three years, according to a major survey of its employees.
Almost 12,000 officers and staff – 50.4 per cent of the workforce – took part in the survey, which was the first joint organisation-wide study for Police Scotland and the Scottish Police Authority (SPA).
It found that 31 per cent of police officers and 36 per cent of SPA/police staff plan to leave in the near future, citing concerns over their pensions, working arrangements and a “one size fits all” approach to policing, which has eroded contact with local communities.
Police Scotland said the survey provided a “solid foundation” for helping to shape the force, but the Scottish Police Federation, which represents the rank and file, said management could not continue to rely on the “goodwill” of staff.
Brian Docherty, federation chairman, said: “Nearly 8,500 of our members (almost half of all police officers) completed this survey, and their voices need to be heard.
“That a third stated they were looking to leave the service in the near future is a cause of considerable concern.
“That more than three-quarters of all officers felt they had insufficient resources to do their job properly is frightening and that 95 per cent believed the service was not genuinely interested in their wellbeing is simply shocking.”
He added: “Local policing is stretched and police officers are under phenomenal pressure. They are tired, overworked and are increasingly strangers in their own homes.”
Nearly half of those questioned felt “overloaded” with information they did not need to know, while 23 per cent said they got their information about Police Scotland from the media.
The survey also found only 9 per cent believed that senior managers would take action on the results.
Chief Superintendent Niven Rennie, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents, said that statistic was his “greatest concern”, adding that management needed to demonstrate a commitment to improving matters for staff.
Labour’s justice spokesman, Graeme Pearson, said: “This is a damming report which gives an insight into the incredible pressure officers are under whilst their reputation has been dragged through the mud by a summer of scandal.
“These pressures are a direct result of decisions taken by the SNP government in Edinburgh. Budget cuts, reductions in civilian staff numbers, the closure of services and a lack of transparency from those at the top have all taken their toll on rank and file officers.”
Police Scotland has been hit by a series of controversies since its formation in April 2013.
Liberal Democrat Alison McInnes said: “The SNP government urgently needs to recalibrate the reform programme if the threatened exodus is to be avoided.”
Tory Margaret Mitchell added: “The justice minister now has to address these findings head on, and not simply hold another showcase seminar pretending to deal with it. If he does not, many of the 33 per cent who want to leave will come good on that intention.”
Police Scotland had previously admitted that it expected the survey would bring “bad news”.
Responding to the findings, Deputy Chief Constable Neil Richardson said: “Policing in Scotland has been through major change and has delivered many benefits to the communities we serve, but our officers and staff are clearly telling us there is more we must do in terms of engaging them in the journey ahead. There are also issues which require action in order to continue to look after the people who serve those communities and to improve the service we provide.
“Change will of course have an impact on staff. This survey makes clear that changes to police officer pensions, issues around health and wellbeing, information and communication also have an impact to staff.
“Our challenge now is to demonstrate action in relation to these findings and while there is much work already under way in relation to many of the issues raised, we need to fully understand some of the detail behind the results to ensure we’re focusing our actions in the right way.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As Police Scotland has outlined, it is putting in place measures to address the outcomes of this survey and we expect it to take prompt and robust action.
“The Scottish Police Authority has the responsibility for oversight of policing in Scotland, and it has given a commitment to provide on-going scrutiny on these fundamental issues going forward.”