Work still to be done addressing police workplace culture – survey

The 2022 Police Workplace Culture Survey found only half of those surveyed felt comfortable with the workplace culture.  (File photo)

Alden Williams / Stuff

The 2022 Police Workplace Culture Survey found only half of those surveyed felt comfortable with the workplace culture. (File photo)

A year on from a troubling report into police workplace culture, there’s been little improvement with a recent survey finding half of staff who took part were uncomfortable with the workplace culture.

The 2022 Police Workplace Culture Survey, followed a 2021 report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority looking into bullying culture within police that found there to be a “boys’ club” among senior officers and a culture of fear.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said it was an “incredibly different and improved organization” from when he first joined 25 years ago, but any incident of bullying was “completely unacceptable”.

“We know we’ve still got work to do,” he said.

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Conducted in April this year, with more than 6000 staff responses, the survey found while the proportion of employees who experienced incidents during the past 12 months had decreased, four in ten staff still reported having been personally affected by bullying.

Additionally, one in five experienced isolated incidents of abuse, bullying behavior or harassment and a similar proportion have been deliberately excluded, marginalized or had their workplace experience made more difficult.

The survey found only half felt the culture was improving or were comfortable with it.

Those in the constabulary were especially unhappy, with the report finding satisfaction was “clearly lower further down the sworn hierarchy”.

Half of constabulary staff disagreed that the process for allocating appointments and promotions was fair. While there was a sense the process had improved, there was still room for more.

“There’s a large perception gap between the executive level and the rest of the organization around the process of allocating opportunities and favoritism,” it said.

Coster acknowledged transparency in appointments was challenging, especially as there was only one employer compared to other industries where people could change companies if unhappy with their career progression.

Police had been trialling a slightly different approach with recent senior appointments, including using more assessment tools and a more diverse selection panel composition.

The survey also found reporting of issues to employee’s manager or supervisor was low, and most who did make a complaint felt dissatisfied with how it was handled.

Following last year’s findings, Coster committed to improving the reporting systems for bullying and culture issues, including developing a new, separate reporting channel with 40 additional staff appointed to this initiative.

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster acknowledges there is still work to be done.  (File photo)

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff

Police Commissioner Andrew Coster acknowledges there is still work to be done. (File photo)

He said this allowed them to address workplace issues early, and focus on improving behavior or restorative resolutions.

Coster was pleased to see some improvements and that people were overall positive, adding Covid-19 had presented unprecedented challenges, with increased demand responding to family harm, mental health and organized crime.

A more sustainable approach was needed, and he felt the survey reinforced the view many wanted to return to police’s core business.

Police Association president Chris Cahill said it was “disappointing” to see there was still work to be done in relation to issues of bullying

“You’d struggle to read this and think the improvements we’d hope to have seen have been achieved. It clearly says police are going to have to do more in this area. “

Cahill said this generation was much more cognisant of workplace culture and values, which created a risk for recruitment efforts currently underway. “This generation we’re trying to hire now, they factor these things into their decisions.”

Police Association president Chris Cahill is disappointed about ongoing issues of bullying, but says there have been some positive changes made.  (File photo)

Kevin Stent / Stuff

Police Association president Chris Cahill is disappointed about ongoing issues of bullying, but says there have been some positive changes made. (File photo)

He acknowledged Covid had made policing a tough environment to work in and that this would impact survey results, in particular adding the pressure faced by frontline staff was causing stress. “Somehow we have to reduce the demand. It’s just unsustainable. “

There was some good news and Cahill was pleased to see the majority still thought it was a great place to work.

He also felt there had been some improvements made to the reporting system, though it would take time for people to trust in the new reporting processes.

Cahill wanted to see more attention paid to address demands on frontline staff and making the appointments process more transparent.

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