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Thursday 12 May 2022
Morale in the WA Police Force is at an all-time low according to the results of a WA Police Union survey of its members, with officers saying they're overworked and undervalued by an agency that doesn't care about their mental health.
Almost two-thirds (64.6%) of the 1,966 members who responded to the WA Police Union's survey perceived the level of morale in the WA Police Force as "poor", a sharp rise from the 28.2% result in the last such poll in 2017. Also, none of this year's respondents perceived the morale in the agency as "excellent".
Other findings of the WA Police Union survey conducted online in April, along with anonymous comments its members submitted with their responses, include:
• 74.7% of respondents (84.6% of officers in charge) believed their workload had "significantly increased" or "increased" over the last 3-4 years
"A greater volume of work. Fewer resources to manage the work. I've been a police officer for nearly 20 years, and it feels like there are fewer troops out there than when I started. Also, it seems to me like the workforce is more junior than when I started."
• 49.5% of respondents believed workplace fatigue had impacted their performance over the last month
“Constant stress-related fatigue on which you can’t get on top and there’s no option other than to keep going for the sake of the team. Lack of meal breaks and sleep deprivation affect mood and job performance. Feelings of being overwhelmed and not cared for.”
• 45.9% of respondents believed management-initiated changes to their roster pattern had "significantly worsened" or "worsened" their work-life balance; 2.3% answered "significantly improved" or "improved"
"Don’t get to plan my life outside of work because my roster is issued one week in advance. My family is suffering, which is of zero concern to the executive. I couldn’t care less about your social life, you're a police officer’ is the rhetoric from the Assistant Commissioner!"
• 61.3% of respondents estimated they worked 1-5 hours of unpaid overtime a week, most commonly to meet administration/process requirements
“Feeling exhausted (not just tired) due to my shift times and need to work overtime – without the ability to claim pay – to catch up on outstanding paperwork I can't do at the start of my shift because my superintendent wants vehicle stops and jobs keep coming in."
• 88.3% of respondents who’d received the Commissioner of Police's March email about management-initiated transfers to regional WA believed the time provided to nominate a preferred position was "less than adequate"
"Officers were given three and a half working days to make one of their most important career decisions. Absolutely disgraceful the time we were given to make this choice."
• 71.4% of respondents said they'd used the WA Police Force's Health, Welfare and Safety Division's mental health services; 36.6% of service users reported their experience was "very negative" or "negative"
"They treat people as numbers and apply their policy-driven rhetoric instead of seeing each case individually for what it is and responding with care and compassion. A typical corporate approach that sadly has become the norm. Those people who've suffered for long enough can see the smoke-and-mirrors approach that's applied. Very poor indeed."
• 75.5% of respondents weren't aware of the Commissioner of Police's Suicide Prevention Forum the WA Police Force held in August 2021
"The Commissioner of Police's Suicide Prevention Forum was a load of crock. The invitation to attend was only to brass and supervisors as opposed to frontline officers who need the support and may want some insight into the agency's direction and methods."
• 79.2% of respondents didn't believe the WA Police Force was doing all it could to support the mental health and well-being of serving officers.
"Far from it! I don't believe the agency shows any care for its staff. There may be a general broadcast or a section in the weekly From The Line newsletter, however, the agency doesn't lead by example and makes no effort to engage with its troops on the ground."
Speaking ahead of tonight's State Budget and in the early stages of negotiations for a new industrial agreement, Mick Kelly, President of the WA Police Union, said the McGowan Government has the money in the bank to meet the remuneration, resources and respite demands in his representative body's log of claims.
"Our remuneration claims include recognition of the positive contributions our members have made protecting WA throughout the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 24 months, the negative impacts they've endured toiling under restrictive wages policies over the past five years and their real need to experience real growth in their pay packets, both now and in the future," said Mr Kelly.
"In December, the McGowan Government announced its new public sector wages policy would provide 'above-CPI wage rises' over the next two years. However, two weeks ago, the Australian Bureau of Statistics reported Perth's year-on-year CPI was +7.6%, 1.6% higher than any other Australian state or territory capital city.
"That's why a 5% pay rise annually is one of our remuneration claims, along with increasing shift allowances, overtime rates and missed meal rates, introducing penalty payments on the significant public holidays of Good Friday and Christmas Day and insuring officers with universal private health cover.
"Our resources claims include recognition of the logistical challenges our members face due to a rostering pattern that's too short. It's impossible for them to plan their lives when they don't know their work hours more than one week in advance.
"And our respite claims include recognition of the need for our members to switch off from their uniquely demanding jobs when they're off duty. The right to disconnect establishes boundaries around the use of employer-to-employee communications outside rostered working hours. It's often looked upon as the individual right of the employee to not only disconnect but also not receive a reprimand for failing to connect or a reward for constantly staying connected."
Mark Worwood on 0479 187 970 or media@wapu.org.au