'I'm glad I got out - policing is a thankless job'Stressed, despondent and disillusioned, James Edmonds, 40, left Lancashire Constabulary after 15 years of service in December 2015.
I don’t miss it. I feel lucky because I was able to get out.
A combination of things made me decide to leave Lancashire Constabulary.
The pension changes added seven years to my career; so rather than retiring at 53, it would have been 60.
It’s a young person’s game - running around the streets at the age of 60 did not appeal to me. The pay freeze also had a big hit. But the main reason I left was the cuts - they affected the police and, therefore, me.
When I became a sergeant I immediately did my inspector’s exams. For six years I was qualified to be one. For three of them I was a temporary inspector but I got knocked back down to sergeant because a lot of inspectors were losing their jobs. Because of the cuts there was no longer enough money for that position and this halted my progression.
When I joined the police, I wanted to stay there for 30 years in order to move up the ranks, but that was taken away from me.
The cuts also resulted in changes. We were shrunk from six divisions to three and this massively increased our workloads. Take licensing as an example. My division covered Lancaster, Morecambe and Fleetwood and we merged with the Blackpool division. The town has got masses of pubs, bars and clubs. This meant we were then doing more night time economy work with less staff.
The lion’s share of focus went to Blackpool and the north of the county lost out. That was just one example. Doing this saves the government money, but hurts the police.
Now, officers are expected to do more with less. There is so much demand and the force just does not have the cops to meet it. During the 2011 riots, I was the inspector on duty when a call came in asking for a sergeant, seven public order trained officers and a vehicle kitted up to go to Manchester.
You would think it would be quick to sort out, but it was a nightmare. I spent hours trying to do this because there was only a small team of officers on night duty, hardly any of them were trained to public order level and trying to get a vehicle also became excruciatingly difficult. In the end we did it, but it left us depleted.
All of this meant we no longer had the tools to do the best for the community. I was fed up of going out and preaching to councils about a wider police family. It was all spin. I would say to them that we had armed response vehicles, traffic officers and support units all around the county to call on at any moment if there was an issue – when in reality they wouldn’t bloody come.
Other agencies were also cut and the police was forced to pick up their work. The fact there are fewer paramedics and ambulances means it is now a lot harder to get one when you need it. If a cop can’t get an ambulance, he ends up having to take an injured party to A&E and will then be taken off the road for a couple of hours. Say somebody wants to commit suicide, trying to get a mental health worker to speak to them just will not happen. Instead, the officer would spend a full tour of duty with that one person doing something that is not their core role.
There’s plenty who want to leave now but feel financially tied to the job or believe their skills are not transferrable. Those with less than ten years to go will stay because their pension is good, but outside of that many would happily go.
Lancashire Constabulary opened a voluntary exit scheme in September 2015 to make savings. Initially, it was thought that 20 or 30 officers would apply for it but more than 120 did. I was one of them. My application was accepted that November and I was allowed to leave on December 31, 2015. Plenty more would go if another voluntary exit scheme was run.
Morale is low, cops are stretched and the joy of the job has gone.
Nothing is getting any better.
A voluntary exit scheme akin to the one opened in Lancashire has been offered to officers at Gwent Police. Results from a Freedom of Information request have shown resignations at the Welsh force have risen from two in the financial year 2011-12 to 71 in 2015-16.
Statistics for 2016-17 also showed the figure stood at 53 a month before the year’s end.
A Gwent spokesman attributed the increase to the voluntary exit scheme, stating: “Officer departures from Gwent Police in the past two years are primarily the result of a voluntary exit scheme which has been in operation. Gwent is currently recruiting.”
- The officers were speaking to Jack Dyson
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