The impact of the cost of living crisis has been laid bare by Devon and Cornwall Police, who have revealed one of its officers is relying on food donations to feed her child.
As the UK faces freezing weather, soaring gas and electricity bills and rising food costs, police officers are struggling to make ends meet after receiving real-terms pay cuts over the past two decades.
This was demonstrated by the Truro, Perranporth and Tregony policing team, who shared a photo of a "welfare provision" food package donated by one of the UK’s 228 Basic Command Units.
The force tweeted: "This is the reality for serving police officers. Support from the BCU is greatly received.
"One officer was unable to heat her home and feed her child last month. This is unacceptable. Fair play [sic] for emergency workers is needed."
This is the reality for serving police officers. Support from the bcu is greatly received. One officer was unable to heat her home and feed her child last month. This is unacceptable. Fair play for emergency workers is needed. pic.twitter.com/V6cOruMN6K
— Truro, Perranporth and Tregony Police (@TruroPol) March 9, 2023
The revelation came as the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) said it had reports of police officers resorting to food banks, as it called for a 17% pay increase.
The demand followed an independent study by non-partisan think-tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF) that showed real-terms police pay has fallen by almost 20% behind inflation between 2000 and 2022.
Police were found to be an outlier, as "protective service" workers had a 1% real-terms pay rise over the same period, compared to 14% for public sector staff and 5% for all workers.
Meanwhile, over those 22 years the salaries of MPs rose from £48,371 to £84,144, the report added.
The SMF's study calculated that if the trend continued over the next five years, police pay would drop a further 4% in real-terms by 2027.
Researchers said the P-factor – an element of police pay reflecting unique responsibilities and risk to physical and psychological health – doesn't feature in the report, "highlighting that the actual figure of degradation of police pay is significantly higher".
National chair Steve Hartshorn labelled the research a "wake-up call for policymakers in the UK".
He said: "Police officers put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect their communities.
"That is why our National Council has taken the decision to call for a minimum pay increase of 17% for our officers.
"The government can no longer sit by and ignore our members' basic needs and must recognise the impact of this independent research.
"In the context of ongoing inflation, indications of a police retention crisis, and reports of officers being forced to turn to food banks, the issue of police pay must be addressed now after more than a decade of being ignored.
"Police officers deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and that begins with better pay."
The calls were echoed in January by Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley, who said officers have been left "frustrated" by how their living standards have declined over the years.
Leicestershire Police Federation chairman Adam Commons also said officers in his county were struggling to heat their homes and were using food banks to feed their families.
He added: "We have a retention crisis. Experienced police officers are walking out of the door because they cannot afford to stay in the job."