I've worked for my department for fourteen years and never have I seen morale as low as it is now. There are people who have been on for longer than me--20, 25, even 30 years who agree--morale has never been lower. All you hear are officers rumbling and complaining. Their job has been made more difficult. They have been treated unfairly. It just doesn't seem like the people in charge care. It is harder and harder for officers to go out and do their job every day. And yet they do.
There are several reasons that morale is down. Technology has made the job more difficult. The computer systems that have been selected have made things more difficult and time consuming instead of easier. Things that used to be simple have been made difficult all in the name of "progress." You used to be able to take someone to jail, fill out a quick form, write a ticket and a quick report and the officers were back on the streets looking for more bad guys. Today, an officer has to book the person into two different systems, get into another system to write the tickets and into another system to write the report. An arrest takes three to four times as long as it used to. Everything takes three to four times as long as it used to. Heck, just to start my shift, I have to enter a password of one sort or another seven to eight times.
The recession has hit my city hard which means less taxes which means spending cuts. This means officers haven't gotten raises. Not just the yearly step increases they were promised when they were hired but just simple cost of living raises. There are officers who have been on for several years who are making the same as an officer just off of probation. This means they are having to work side jobs to make ends meet which means less time with their families.
And now, our governing board decided to combine with the city's health insurance plan in order to save the city money on the backs of it's public servants. The city council and local paper thinks we are dumb by saying they will give us pay raises if we join city health insurance not realizing that it doesn't take a genius to figure out that that paying more for health insurance than any raise they give will, in essence, take a pay cut while getting inferior health insurance. They are simply adding insult to injury.
Fortunately, the city has not had to lay any officers off. But, they haven't had to. Officers are leaving in droves. We are losing an average of one officer a week. And they aren't getting replaced. The last academy class graduated at the beginning of last summer and the next one doesn't graduate until the middle of this summer and won't be riding without a field training officer until this fall---and they wont even replace those officers we've lost since the beginning of the year, much less the ones we lose between now and then. What's this mean for morale? It means we have sectors that are down 25% in manpower. It means we are working with skeleton crews. It means officers aren't able to take time off. It means public safety is at risk
It feels like we are all on a sinking ship and no one that that should care does. There is a huge disconnect between the officers on the street and the commanders downtown and I don't feel like many of them have a clue as to how bad moral and how difficult they have made this job. The Board of Police Commissioners who were put in place in the 1930's to protect the department from the corruption in city government cowers to what the city council and the local newspaper want. The city council certainly doesn't act like they care (although they have brought police and fire together like never before--they may care come election time) It appears that the city council is too worried about putting in trolley lines than worrying about public safety.
What does this mean for me? Well, there are a lot of things that concern me---pay, benefits, manpower, work conditions and stuff like that. The problem is--I have no control over that. I cannot worry about that. All I can do is worry about that which I have influence over. I don't have influence at city hall and I don't have influence at police headquarters. I have influence in my family, I have influence over myself, I have influence over my officers and I have influence with the people I come into contact while I'm at work. I have to put on a positive attitude and go out and do my job to the best of my abilities. I have to go to work with a Christian attitude. I have to show my people that I care for them even when they think I'm being a jerk--and I do love my people. They are good people who want to work hard. I have to some how motivate them and encourage them that what they the work they do transcends what goes on at city hall. I have to encourage them to keep bailing even when the higher ups don't seem to want to fix the hole in the ship