‘This is the most challenging time for police officers since World War two’, says retired police officer John Sutherland.
John retired on medical grounds in 2018 after being BCU Commader in Southwark, serving over twenty years as a police officer, predominantly as a front line officer on the streets of London.
“It was the only job I ever wanted to do, the only job application form I have ever filled in.”
At the age of 16 years old, John was at a bus stop on Hammersmith Broadway when he saw a police officer walking the beat on a grey and gloomy day and he knew then, that was the job for him.
Now, over twenty years on from when he joined, John openly talks about the endless challenges our police officers face and how it is probably the most significantly challenging time since World War two that our police officers face.
I asked John just why that is.
“Four main reasons really. The first being crime is rising, the second being demand is rising be it either mental health issues, social service issues or adult social care, it is police officers that are left to pick up the pieces.
“Thirdly, complexity is rising. Policing has always been a complex job. Fourth the risks are up. The amount of officers injured everyday are rising and resources have fallen off the cliff.
“People talk about the 20,000 additional police officers. The number we actually need to talk about is 44,000, a telephone number, the actual number of police officers cut by the government between 2010 and 2018. You cannot take that away from policing and not expect an impact. Where is the apology? There has been no apology from the Home Secretary or the Prime Minister about from what their predecessor did. Neighbourhood policing was decimated over the last decade.
“It is impossible to over state the damage done to policing over the last decade.” I think this statement just about sums it up perfectly really.
It was indeed under Teresa May, firstly as Home Secretary and secondly as Prime Minister that we saw these devastating cuts to police resources, causing a catastrophic blow to police morale across the country.
The Police Federation of England and Wales have recently given a vote of no confidence in the current Home Secretary Priti Patel MP.
“There have been a whole succession of events that have led to this,” says John. “Police officers were not supplied with enough PPE at the start of the pandemic, they were not given any guidance or support on new legislations rushed through. They were not prioritised for the vaccine.
“And now, no pay rise. The government are doing enormous harm to our police forces and they just don’t care.”
After dealing with many traumatic experiences in his career, John suffered a nervous breakdown in 2013. He openly talks about the high intensity situations police officers deal with everyday.
“Recent figures showed that on average a person may deal with three or possibly four traumatic situations in their life time. Police officers will deal between 400 to 600 traumatic incidents in their career. Let that number sink in for a while.
“They face exposure to extreme trauma, how can that possibly be without consequences?
“They work shift work, they have few resources, they have lack of political support. They undergo relentless criticism day in and day out and to top it off, they are kicked from here to kingdom come. It is breaking them.”
Mental health issues are now seriously affecting our officers and do we wonder why? When they deal with so much on a daily basis.
Just for the record John finished by saying: “I have no confidence in Priti Patel, I have no confidence in the government when it comes to policing.”
He has has every good reason not to.