Half of senior police say they are stressed and depressed

Long hours and bullying superiors leave top-rank officers ravaged by anxiety

More than half of senior police officers are suffering from anxiety and depression brought on by under-staffing, bullying chief constables and 60-hour working weeks.

The survey of 800 superintendents and chief superintendents in England and Wales paints a picture of police forces ravaged by record levels of stress-related illnesses. Nearly one-quarter described their anxiety symptoms as moderate or severe, while a similar number said they suffered from depression.

In one recent case, a 40-year-old superintendent suffered a heart attack after working 30 days without a day off. The findings are so worrying that the Police Superintendents' Association is to raise the report with Sir Hugh Orde, the new head of the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo).

More than half of the senior officers questioned also complained of working 50- to 60-hour weeks, which the report said was a breach of European working-time directive laws.

And one third said they would rather use their holiday allowance than take an official sick day.

Superintendent Robin Jarman, a member of the national executive of the Police Superintendents' Association (PSA), which commissioned the report, said the survey showed the situation was getting worse, not better.

He added: "It's disappointing that all of our efforts [to encourage the police forces to take action] are not being listened to. It's particularly sad because we are talking about officers who are loyal and committed to the police."

Nearly 40 per cent of officers reported that senior management's approach to managing performance was "harsh and unhelpful", and nearly a third said chief constables showed "bullying behaviour". Others said stress and depression could be triggered by the exposure to traumatic incidents they encountered during their work.

But there were also worryingly high levels of demands placed on the officers' daily workload. Particular concerns were raised about the management of "difficult people", attending numerous meetings, and receiving a high volume of emails and work phone calls at all times of the day and night. Nearly 40 per cent said they did not have enough resources or staff to do the job. And the vast majority said they found it difficult to balance the demands of work with their family lives.

Emma Donaldson-Fielder, the occupational psychologist who analysed the research, said: "The majority of respondents perceive everyone in their organisation to work long hours; working long hours is seen as a way to show you are performing well and that people feel they mustn't be seen as fallible. We still need to convince people that a 'persistent long hours' culture is unhealthy and contrary to the European Working Time Directive, which is in place to protect staff."

The new figures for moderate or severe levels of anxiety symptoms are 6 per cent higher than they were three years ago, when the results of a similar survey were published.





On behalf of ACPO, Vice-President Tim Hollis, Chief Constable of Humberside said:

“The Superintendents Association undertakes personal resilience surveys every three years, a move which I fully support as a means of gauging emerging issues for their members. As such if there are challenges to be discussed, ACPO would actively encourage a meeting with the Association to find a way forward.

“Unfortunately the issue of targets is something that frankly is not going to go away. Comparative crime statistics continue to feature significantly in the ongoing monitoring of police performance and I see little evidence that this will change in the near future. Indeed, as budgets get tighter, pressure on the service in relation to performance is likely to increase.

“High quality leadership training throughout the service is essential if we are to meet the complex demands made of us without people feeling poorly managed or led. For that reason, I welcome recent improvements in training across the ranks and the leadership within ACPO is keen to work with both the Superintendents Association and the Federation in addressing any issues that they have identified.”

The full findings will be unveiled at the PSA's annual conference this month.





The stretched blue line: One chief superintendent's story

Chief Superintendent John Smith, 43 – not his real name – was in charge of policing a large urban area in southern England before his excessive workload led to severe depression

I joined my local police force in the south of England in the early 1980s because I wanted to serve my community as well as work in an interesting job. I found I really liked the work and rose quickly through the ranks so that by the time I was in my mid-30s I had been appointed a superintendent responsible for 300 officers.

The new job was hard and I soon found myself putting in ridiculous hours. There was also a lot of travelling to and from work which meant I was leaving for the office at 6am and, because I had to go to lots of meetings after work, I was not getting home until 9pm. But my borough was winning awards for some of our projects and initiatives which had helped to bring national attention to my officers. Because of these successes, all the extra hours seemed worthwhile.

I decided I would push for the post of chief superintendent and started putting in even more hours because I thought this was what was required. But slowly my health began to suffer and that caused my family life to suffer too. I was feeling more and more depressed about little setbacks and because I didn't have any time to exercise, I was also putting on weight.

It all came to a head when one of my superiors told me that I had to go sick. I was finally diagnosed as having severe depression brought on by the stress of my job. It was a shock but also a relief because at last I could address the stresses and anxieties which had brought on my illness. In the end I was off work for six months until I could come back on a part-time basis.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones