Police Officer health and wellbeing is at the heart of the new Chairman of Gloucestershire Police Federation’s plans.
Conduct and Performance Lead Mike Harrison has been elected to take up the reigns from departing Chair Sarah Johnson, who has moved to a new role with the Police Federation of England and Wales nationally.
Mike says he wants to carry on Sarah’s great work and is determined to ensure officers in the county ‘won’t break’ under the increasing strain and pressure being placed on them by Government cuts.
“I’ve served 28 years in the force across various roles, mainly response roles and as a custody sergeant so it’s given me lots of experience and insight,” he said.
“I know there are more officers than ever in Gloucestershire who are suffering with mental heath issues and stress related anxiety issues.
“That’s why it’s a priority for me, I want to ensure officers can approach the Federation and use the resources available to help them.”
Mike says he will be the voice of officers and make sure their opinions and feedback is put in front of the decision makers.
“I want to make sure officers’ feelings and thoughts are conveyed to the force – their views at the very lease must be taken into account,” he said.
Officer wellbeing is being put into sharp focus by recent Government cuts, he said, and the recent lack of funding for policing in the autumn budget was having a negative impact on the future of policing.
That’s why direct action such as the PFEW’s legal challenge to how this summer’s pay review was handled is now so vital.
“The future is looking bleak,” he said.
“And forces are on their knees. That’s why I and I know many officers welcome the direct action being taken by the PFEW.
“Direct action really is needed. The Government is moving away from funding policing.
“Certainly within Gloucestershire the Chief and the PCC are doing what they can with the little they’ve got, trying to maintain our services, but it’ll come to a point where the system will break,” he warned.
“With all the changes at PFEW HQ at Leatherhead and going forward I think it’s the time now to take the fight to central Government.”
The increased pressure on officers and in the Detective sector is starting to bend the goodwill they show in order to get the job done – something which the Government is taking advantage of.
“Goodwill will only stretch so far,” he said.
“Certainly locally there’s a lot of goodwill – I know it sounds a bit corny but it’s a great bunch of staff that we’ve got across the board but it will get to the point when they’ll do less and less because they need their time off, they need their breaks.
“I think the Government are definitely taking advantage of that good will,” he added.
“Detectives, too, they’re under pressure, they’ve been given more and more serious crime. Crime is on the up – they’re given more and more caseloads. Stretching it to the extreme.”
“We’ve got a whole load of new recruits coming in over the next few months, certainly throughout next year,” he added.
“But I’m not sure about the degree level entry plans – my concerns there are that we’re missing a whole raft of people, former service personnel for example, with experience and skills that could join the police that are probably precluded because of their qualifications, which is a real shame.
“I wish I had a magic wand to turn things around but what I can do is to raise officers’ concerns and issues. Let us know the problems you are facing, talk to us and let us do what we can to help.”