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Running the survey ruler over Police culture

Some of Police's more unflattering workplace problems are laid bare in the results of its 2022 Workplace Culture Survey.

Although the majority of NZ Police staff still say it’s a great place to work, ongoing concerns about bullying and unfairness continue to dog the organisation two years on from the last workplace survey and an IPCA report that highlighted significant bullying and a related “negative culture”.

The best the Commissioner has been able to say in 2022 is that there has been a “modest” improvement in the number of people (up by 3%) who had not experienced bullying or other negative behaviour in the past 12-24 months.

The results make it clear that not only is bullying still a problem, with four in 10 reporting that they had been affected by it in the past year, but more than half of constabulary staff are very unhappy about some other aspects of the job.

Only 38 per cent of constabulary staff are satisfied with the Police strategy and direction and half of Police employees feel they don’t receive the same treatment as constabulary staff.

The survey was done in April and 6015 staff took part. On questions of workplace environment and overall culture, the red “strongly disagree” and dark blue “disagree” bars indicate where the most strongest dissatisfaction lies (see graphs).

Overall, the report says, in contrast to many positive changes in the work environment, staff are less likely to feel the culture is improving and there has been a decline in the number of staff who feel valued and supported.

As Commissioner Andrew Coster noted when releasing the results last month, Police is one of the few public sector agencies that continue to do organisation-wide surveys. This one comes on the back of two challenging years for policing, dealing with the Covid-19 response, enforcing restrictions, supporting MIQs, mandatory vaccination orders and Operation Convoy.

His interpretation of the results is that, despite the overall positive aspects of working for Police, “a reset is needed”. He believes that Police staff want to get back to the basics of policing – preventing crime and harm and keeping people safe.

“People feel overstretched, and there has been an overall softening in how supported they feel to do their work.”

His commitment is that Police will respond in four “key” ways – managing frontline demand, investing in development, “valuing our people”, and “engaging with our people”.

The salient points are a promise to tackle “pockets of serious negative behaviour”, including improving support and development for managers, or even moving people out of leadership roles if they “can no longer do them in a way that supports Be First, Then Do”.

“Valuing” and “engaging” with staff is explained as “a stocktake” of policies and the collective employment agreements to ensure fair and equitable treatment of Police employees, and a visit by the Commissioner and the Police executive to every district and service centre this year.

Work on changes to the appointments process is already under way, but Police says it will also introduce guidelines to regulate the use of expressions of interest (EOIs) to aid fairness and transparency.

The positives on “negative behaviours” were that:

  • the prevalence of bullying or harassment has remained stable or decreased across all incident types
  • Sustained bullying was less likely to occur, and “top of mind” mentions of bullying and harassment decreased by 13 per cent from the last survey.

Police Association president Chris Cahill’s take on the survey results is that they support what members have been telling him.

“They feel overwhelmed with demand and are struggling to understand what their priorities are, and they feel unable to respond to the community with the level of service they deserve.

“The association is supportive of work being done in the four key areas identified and, clearly, when only 38 per cent of constabulary staff are satisfied with the Police strategy and direction there is a disconnect, which must be limiting the organisation.

Commenting on the difference in satisfaction results between managers and the rest of the organisation, Chris says that while that would be expected to a degree, it is concerning, and points to the need for better communication. “I would suggest more listening to the concerns of sergeants and constables,” he says.

He is, however, pleased that most staff still feel that Police is a great place to work.

In fact, the survey showed that camaraderie is strong, with nine out of 10 staff appreciating their relationships with team members.

Among the other positives were:

  • Most staff enjoy their role and are confident to be themselves and raise issues.
  • Most leaders are performing well, with three-quarters of staff satisfied with their managers.

Full survey results are available in the Publications and Statistics section of the Police website, police.govt.nz.

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