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Tuesday, 5 September, 2000, 15:55 GMT 16:55 UK
Why aren't people joining the police?

A campaign launched by the UK Home Secretary, Jack Straw, aims to attract 9,000 new police officers in England and Wales over the next three years.

The total number of officers has continued to fall since a peak in the mid-90s. Even with the new recruits, the Home Office says the number of officers leaving the force could mean there will be fewer on the beat in three years.

So why isn't joining the police considered a good career move anymore? Is it a question of status or is the job just not rewarding enough? And will the new campaign change people's perceptions?

Here's what you had to say.

It is very difficult to comment if one does not have the information by rank for those leaving the Police. I personally think it is time we thought about having a national police force. It would never get past the Police Officers Federation but should we not consider a rank structure similar to the armed services?
Dennis Hayward, UK

The police have become so remote from the community at large that it's not a respected profession anymore. Also, police officers who are boorish, macho, rude and hold the public subject to their prejudices are making the PR situation worse. People's image of the police is shaped by how they are treated when they come into contact with them, not by 'caring and sharing' TV advertising. If the police want to recruit, they must focus on the long-term and sharpen up their people skills.
Annie, UK

The three most demoralised professions, which all seem to have recruitment and retention problems seem to me to be the Health Service, teachers, and now the police. It is no coincidence that each of these is a public service subject to budget restraints by the Government and continual political interference in order to help politicians appease minorities and pressure groups.
Steve Dooley, England

Perhaps the police high command is unaware of how bad their recruiting system is!

Ian Ward, Canada
I am not surprised that the police cannot recruit - it's because they are not trying! My son applied; he has 3 A levels, no criminal record of any kind, he did work experience with the Kent Police while he was at school and he is a very fit 21 year old. He applied to the join the Met and he didn't even get an interview. His application was rejected by post without any explanation. Perhaps the police high command is unaware of how bad their recruiting system is!
Ian Ward, Canada

The only job in the public sector with long vacations, good pay, great pension and lots of freebies is in Parliament. The rest are downgraded, despised, and ridiculed by the Politico Class. If you do a socially useful job, you are despised and badly paid; do the opposite and you are praised and rewarded.
Peter, England

Frankly, racism, sexism, homophobia and every other prejudice exists amongst workers in any industry. The police are no better or worse than anyone in any other job in terms of attitude towards people. The only difference is that they get reminded of this and have their reputation worsened because of it.
Corey, UK

If a criminal injures a policeman it is accepted as an occupational hazard, but if a policeman injures a criminal the force gets sued for it. If a white policeman arrests a white suspect nobody takes any interest, but if a white policeman arrests a black suspect there are immediately cries of racism. No wonder people are leaving the police force.
John B, UK

People are finally realising that the police force is racist, homophobic, sexist and down-right bigoted. They don't stop crime - instead the majority of them deal in crime, are morally corrupt; shall we mention all those deaths in custody, police brutality and incompetence? Do you really want all that baggage to carry when you join? Jack Straw stupidly thinks that by pandering to the rabid right will get him votes, Labour wasn't voted in to outdo the Tories.
Alex, UK

Politicians pander to the bleatings of 'pressure groups' who see the police as an easy and defenceless target

Tony, UK

Don a blue uniform - you're now a racist, homophobic, corrupt tool of the state, watch hardened criminals go free on ridiculous technicalities, get blamed for all the woes of the country, get no respect from the people whose lives you're helping to save, get paid a pittance for putting your life on the life (did you know that some police have to buy their own knife jackets - depending on where they are in the country) Politicians pander to the bleatings of 'pressure groups' who see the police as an easy and defenceless target. Would you join up under those terms?
Tony, UK

There may be some good police officers, but they tend to support the bad ones by keeping quiet when they see any wrong doing. If they stood up and helped to weed out the bad apples, there may be a chance that some decent people might be attracted to the force. Also there are too many deaths in police custody and nothing been done about it. The police can get away with murder.
Michelle E, UK

The courts and legal system do not support the police or victims. Too many politically correct do-gooders undermining the efforts to maintain law and order. One of the penalties of committing crime and other anti-social acts is that you loose your civil rights. No one forces a person to break into a persons house. Three offences and your're out - bring in a death penalty, especially for those that murder or use fire arms.
Nathan, UK

People are not joining the police force because they are increasingly libertarian and as such, unwilling to accept that the rule of law is necessarily correct. I am sure that most people under thirty have smoked cannabis or know someone who has. Would anyone really want to represent an institution that will seek to prohibit (with potentially long prison sentences) normal activities such as cannabis smoking? In short, people no longer believe in what the force stands for
Gareth Wilson, UK

My friends became a police officer and she became very unpopular and lost a lot of her friends

Andrea Carbon, USA

The police are getting an increasingly bad reputation and no one wants to be associated with them. One of my friends became a police officer and she became very unpopular and lost a lot of her friends that were non-police because her friends were associated with groups that have traditionally been at odds with the police- minorites (people of colour) and gays. The police are associated too much as an oppressive power these days rather than the old friendly "bobby on the beat" image.
Andrea Carbon, USA

I think part of the problem is the "nanny state" that has evolved over the last 20 years or so. People want to be safe & secure, yet they do not want to get their hands dirty. If people had to struggle for resources, etc. from an early age, a tough relatively low-paying job like policing wouldn't seem so unattractive.
Akshay Anand, US/UK

Why are people not joining the police? Has anyone heard the way these young people are spoken too by the public? As a nurse I hear it all too often. Why should anyone set themselves up to be on the receiving end of such abuse, knowing they cannot react to it without risking their career. Knowing too that their pay doesn't compensate for it. This comment is applicable to nurses, ambulance crews, firemen and others who choose to help people in their hour of need, what thanks do they really get?
Sue, UK

Justice must be seen as bigger than the law, not the other way about. The courts must temper judgements on the law breaker with justice for the crime, like burglary and robbery, when justice prevails a confiscation of personal property to the value of property taken or more must be enacted for all crimes. This is only one example of justice and not the punitive various punishments given by the courts.
Peter Kerr, UK

In the old days few people had cars and a policeman was someone you saw on his beat and called on when you needed help. Nowadays, a policeman is someone that you watch out for in your rear view mirror or at the roadside with a radar gun. Take traffic law enforcement out of police hands and the public will respect them for doing their proper job of solving crime and catching criminals.
Brian, U K

People need to be reminded that a civilised society needs all professions including teachers, medical staff, the police, the fire service, and the refuse collectors, etc. to survive

David T, UK
People need to be reminded that a civilised society needs all professions including teachers, medical staff, the police, the fire service, and the refuse collectors, etc. to survive. The media and the politicians focus on the bad aspects of everything. Can't we have a Good day viewpoint? Something must be going right somewhere - the press, the government and the public need to acknowledge it. Otherwise chaos is closer than we think.
David T, London - UK

Neil suggests that all police officers are racist busy bodies. Has he by any chance been in trouble? Narrow-minded bigotry as shown by him is one reason why people are put off the police. Other reasons are poor pay, bad hours, dangerous conditions, and constantly having to deal with the lowest of the low. I work closely with the police - the vast majority of officers are dedicated professionals. Of course, Neil, if you get burgled you won't call these racist busy bodies, will you?
Simon, UK

In the good old days being a Policeman was a position of honour in the community

Steve Foley, England
Its not just the money. Police morale is rock bottom. Why? Blame the Politically Correct Do-gooders! Nowadays the Police are accused of Institutional Racism, whatever that may be, are done down by the Macpherson and Scarman reports, are always being accused of corruption. Add to this the soft sentences handed down by the Courts assuming the CPS actually present the case, and it is easy to see why the Police are at such a low ebb. In the good old days being a Policeman was a position of honour in the community. We have lost this to our peril and the policing by consent that we consider the envy of other countries may be replaced by a more robust means of maintaining Law and Order.
Steve Foley, England

Usual reasons for poor recruitment in the public sector. The 'indignant right' screams about rising crime (or increased waiting lists or growing class sizes), but run scared of the radical tax increases necessary to properly fund the state. The problems caused by inadequate funding is compounded by the 'well-meaning left' bringing pressure to bear on issues such as racism and corruption faster than large organisations are able to adapt.
Neil, UK

I know, I'm going to quit my well-paid, safe job in the City where for the most part I work sociable hours and enjoy the respect and support of my peers. Instead I'm going to give up my whole life working unsocial hours, put my life on the line apprehending louts so the courts can release them again, sacrifice the respect I currently enjoy and have the nation assume I am racist for no reason other than my white skin. Just to top it all, I will accept a 75% pay cut. Great idea!
Willy Davidson, UK

The Police as a whole did little during my formative years to project a positive image as far as I am concerned. That can only help to dissuade people from joining now. Forgetting for one moment the poor reputation of the West Midlands force amongst genuine football supporters, it was the general incidence of bigotry coupled with the rush of Officers to the North Notts/South Yorkshire coal picket lines, the Police betraying their impartiality for the ridiculous amounts of overtime pay and the chance to brain picketers without fear of prosecution that finally ruined their reputation for many of my generation. To me and thousands of my age they will always be thought of as Maggie Thatcher's Stormtroopers.
James , UK

Tthey have to wear those silly pointy blue hats

Guy Francis, UK

The police in the UK have a drawback in that they have to wear those silly pointy blue hats. I wouldn't be seen dead in one, although the flat round ones with the checkered band are quite nice.
Guy Francis, UK

"Low wage scape goat" comes to mind when I think of a career in the police
Bert, UK

The criminal justice system in this country favours the criminal. Courts hand down insignificant sentences to habitual offenders who, as a result, laugh at the police. It's no wonder police officers are looking for new jobs and nobody wants to replace them - would you put your personal safety on the line every day for minimum reward, no backing from senior officers, and for what? So the courts can let you down. Perhaps if the system wasn't so ineffectual more people would want to be a part of it.
James, UK

We are living in a society that has become too liberal, too permissive, too ill-mannered and too politically correct, creating just the right environment for the budding young criminal, who knows that under the age of 16 he can literally get away with murder. The new EU human rights legislation is going to make the work of the police even harder. The government talks tough but it is a collection of spineless jellies who have done nothing to solve the problem of rising crime.
Alex, UK

The overriding concern for me, as with any public based organisation, is positive discrimination. Why pump thousands of pounds into recruiting ethnic minorities and women. If these groups wanted to join the force they would. It send a clear message that if you want a career with the police you need to be in a minority group. If you are white, heterosexual male then your career progression will be limited to pounding the beat!
Darren Lock, UK

The police have very silly laws to enforce

Judith, UK

The police have very silly laws to enforce and the easiest targets are always people who use soft drugs or try to defend themselves against attackers and so on. Normal people are becoming wary and afraid of the police. The current laws and focus of the police leaves a bad taste in many people's mouths and they want nothing to do with it.
Judith, England

The police are now seen as one of the most corrupt groups in the country today. Politicians serve themselves through lies and bits of paper and the police do it through lies, petty egos and a need to fulfil their quotas. People just don't trust the police any more, who would want to get a job like that?
Paul C, UK

The police are now seen as one of the most corrupt groups in the country today. Politicians serve themselves through lies and bits of paper and the police do it through lies, petty egos and a need to fulfil their quotas. People just don't trust the police any more, who would want to get a job like that?
Paul C, UK

There has been a gradual militarisation of the British Police over the last decade - and I'm not one for the army.
AJP, Austria (British National)

The police have always been underpaid for what they do, and that will never change. However 10 years ago there used to be incentives for becoming a Police Officer such as free housing, clothing allowance, dental care and so on, all of this has been removed. How can a Police Officer be expected to live and work in London on 16000 per annum?
Colin Jones, UK

Without government intervention public sector services will crumble

Dr. S, UK

I guess the recruitment and retention problem is the same as that in the NHS, schools and academia. Highly qualified staff are fed up with low pay and job insecurity. Like many academics and public sector workers I'm leaving my job at the end of the year to take up a post with industry. Without government intervention public sector services will crumble until there is nothing left.
Dr. S, UK

Some reasons - they're not the only ones - are the appalling reputation of the police in general and the Met in particular on race relations: If you are a copper there's a good chance people will automatically assume you are a racist. Secondly there are rumours of bullying and unhealthy peer pressure within the force and finally there are laws few people want to uphold at all, or already break. How many coppers smoke marijuana?
Owen, England

Competative pay.
Carl Hensman, USA/UK

Over the years we (the people) have seen so many instances of police corruption and stupidities that we would in no way want to be a part of that system. If you then add having to deal with violence, racism and having to sit by the side of a road to tell someone off for doing 35mph in a 30mph limit you paint a very uninspiring picture.
Paul Charters, England

Probably because most of the population aren't racist, ignorant, self-important busy bodies who think they're above everybody else.
Neil , England

It's small wonder the police have difficulty recruiting - people see them as being in the unenviable position of being caught between the press, politicians and do-gooders. Whatever they do they're bound to be sniped at from some quarter! Perhaps they would have more time to tackle serious crime if the government could see their way clear to repealing some the laws which don't actually result in anyone (other than the individual concerned) getting hurt or losing anything.
Steve W., England

Where's the satisfaction in doing your job well?

Tony, UK
Basically I see two problems : 1) Pay is not enough for the danger involved 2) The police catch the criminals but they get silly sentences or let off. Where's the satisfaction in doing your job well?
Tony, UK

Wasn't the mid nineties when the government decided to change pay and conditions for new recruits. Would you do the job for the pittance that is now paid? The police never get any thanks and there are always people too quick to assume that they are all rogues. They never get any backing from superiors, who are all too concerned about what will happen to them if they don't tow the line
Julie, england

People aren't joining the police because the idea of 'service' in this country is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Everyone wants to be a celebrity or get rich quick. This is combined with a general lack of respect for each other and authority. Thus, the public witnesses the general abuse meted out to the police and thinks..."no thanks". Also, the only time the average person only sees a policeman when they are punished for some minor misdemeanour, whilst bigger crimes appear to go unpunished. Is it any wonder public confidence is evaporating?
Jon Yuill, UK

The police profession does not lead to climb in social ladder. Police officers must deal with low life in society. The job is filled mostly by uneducated people. It is susceptible to corruption. It is a low wage profession.
Alexander, Canada

Governments do not set rewarding pay structures

Paul Copson, USA (UK national)
People are less inclined these days to pursue careers that are more personally and socially rewarding (policing, nursing, teaching, etc) because the Governments do not set rewarding pay structures. With average house prices now at 100,000, you need to earn around 35,000 a year to afford the mortgage. The professions mentioned above don't pay those levels until you get quite senior. Couple this with the deteriorating standards of human behaviour and the rewards for these professions are unrealistic. No wonder. Hasn't this been predicted for years?
Paul Copson, USA (UK national)

I couldn't join the police as I would find myself unable to enforce the laws which criminalize the possession of soft drugs. As the use of soft drugs in the UK is widespread and increasing, especially amongst young people, I imagine this might be the reason other young people would never wish to join the Police.
Brian Milner, UK

Britain is often viewed from abroad as a very lawless country. I should have thought the answer to the question is policing is getting increasingly dangerous, and there are now more alternative ways of finding employment. In addition, it must affect morale when criminals are caught and the 'justice' system then appears to let them off with derisory sentences. Why risk your life for that?
Ken Beach, Germany

I for one would trust a policeman as far as I could throw him

Graham, England
The police force is a joke. Youngsters in England do not want anything to do with the corrupt side of the police. It has got nothing to do with racism, just laws that give police vast powers without redress. I for one would trust a policeman as far as I could throw him.
Graham, England

The Police have a tough job, no one can deny that, but this is not made easier by reports of racial/homophobic/sexist problems that still exist in the forces today. I am not in a position to judge whether they are true or not, but what incentive does this really give to someone from any minority who wants to join? More importantly what message does it really give to generations who are being told on one hand that prejudice is wrong, only to see the law enforcers publicly accused of that same behaviour?
Simon, UK

I think the recruitment problem has been brought on the police by themselves. When young people leave school and start looking for a career they want a job where they have self respect and the respect from the public. The police force is not know seen as fitting that criteria. Perhaps the police should look at why their PR has gone so badly wrong. They have a problem.
Robert, England

Maybe if the police were better paid, better trained and much better supported, then we would not have the problem we have at present. Gone are the days when going into nursing, the police or fire service, etc was a VOCATION - look at it as a career they tell us - then they need to treat it as a career with all the benefits that go with it!
Elaine Walker, UK

You wouldn't catch me doing it!

James, UK

Why aren't people joining the police? Because the pay's rubbish, the hours are horrible, and you have to deal with the worst parts of society abusing you every day. You wouldn't catch me doing it!
James, UK

Who wants to join a force that gains such a bad press. Just look at one story on your site today. A tragic one involving the deaths of two women. The police spokesman said "The BMW was seen to travel at speed. "The police vehicle initially followed it, but lost sight of it... it was then involved in a serious road traffic accident." So, the police were not even chasing the car at the time. And the driver was a criminal, as he sped off when the police wanted him to stop. So why headline the article "Women killed in Police chase". It is misleading - and implies it was a police car that hit the women. In these cases, we should condemn the people who were breaking the law, that the police were trying to convict.
Andrew J. Chisholm, UK

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