RGP needs ‘credible and long-lasting solution’
By Calum Bruce, Chairman of the Gibraltar Police Federation
The Commissioner of Police, Richard Ullger, gave a frank interview to the Gibraltar Chronicle recently relating to staffing levels in the Royal Gibraltar Police, which was published on Monday the 3rd of July 23.
In the article he highlights the fact that we are currently operating with a shortfall of 20% of our workforce available for deployment and this of course is creating an unsustainable strain on those trying to wear multiple hats and cover numerous roles, on top of their day-to-day functions.
As he rightly points out, the RGP are competing for an ever-decreasing pool locally of individuals to fulfil the vacancies and to some extent we are trying to compete with one hand tied behind our backs due to workload, accountability, pay and the abrasive nature of our work.
The impact of the HMICFRS report on such a small force has had repercussions, that perhaps were not envisaged at the time, exposed to the harsh light of day.
Regardless of that, a credible and long-lasting solution needs to be found to a problem that will only get worse if not addressed.
The perceived necessity to create a number of new departments immediately should have come hand-in-hand with an increase in personnel, to allow for these improvements to the force, whilst maintaining the levels required in the existing departments to meet the demands placed on them, or future demands that the creation of new departments would create.
Working culture has also changed and is changing at a rapid pace and we are getting left behind.
With the changes to pensions that came into being a number of years ago, there is no longer the draw of the golden handshake (or golden handcuffs as some might say) after your 27 years of service, and now we find ourselves in the position where work trends focus on entering a career for a few years, gaining experience, knowledge and recognised qualifications and then leaving and taking those skill elsewhere, often once the onset of burnout kicks in.
We need to face the reality that policing is no longer a job for life and that at present there is no real incentive to join a career where you feel unappreciated, undervalued and often over worked, and more worryingly overwhelmed emotionally with the pressures you are put under and the very real mental and physical health issues this creates on both you and those around you.
We have been working out of police headquarters which are not fit for purpose and are a decaying throwback to times long ago and quite frankly an embarrassment.
When you need to bring often vulnerable witness or outsiders in, you often find yourself apologising for the state of the building and its’ not so hidden dangers.
We have even resorted to asking members of the public who come to dispose of their unwanted vehicles if they would be willing to sign those vehicles over to us so we could have them mechanically checked and if found to be safe or repairable at minimal cost then allow us to take them on.
Now I am all for recycling and protecting our planet, but that in my view is a ridiculous situation to find the leading law enforcement agency having to resort to due to lack of resources.
Policing is undoubtedly a key pillar to any community and society and with the current strain being placed on it due to a number of circumstances, the cracks in those pillars are not just starting to show but are now turning into gaping holes and that will result in only one thing if not addressed immediately.
Manning levels need to be increased to cope with the additional departments created off the back of the HMICFRS report and additional and more detail intensive work loads officers now face, coupled with a continuous cycle of recruitment to cater for the changing nature of working culture.
The cost-of-living implications are being felt across the board and unfortunately without pay increases or an attractive benefits package to entice individuals to join the police and not opt for another law enforcement agency, then the future looks increasingly frail and uncertain for policing.
We ask that all parties involved come together to find a way forward and provide solid support for the hard-working officers of the RGP to enable them to deliver the best service possible for the community they serve.
Mr Bruce contributed this article on behalf of the Gibraltar Police Federation, of which he is chairman.