NT Police attrition rate 10 per cent over the last 12 months, with 171 officers leaving: NTPA figures

by | Jun 26, 2022 | Cops, News | 0 comments

There were 42 officers leave the NT Police from late February to late May, a slight reduction in the rate from the three months before that, but the attrition rate hit 10 per cent for the last 12 months, with 171 officers having left, which compares to the about 60 who left the force each year several years ago, according to NT Police Association figures.

Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker, told Budget Estimates last week that there were 1669 sworn officers in the NT Police force, which was up from the figure of 1,537 at July 31, 2021 cited in the NT Police annual report.

It means the attrition rate has risen to 10.2 cent for the period from May 25 2021 to May 24, 2022, which is the last resignation or retirement date in the latest set of NTPA figures.

According to the NT Police annual report tabled in late October, the attrition rate at June 1 for the last financial year had nearly doubled to 8.51 per cent, up from 4.53 per cent in the 2019-20 financial year, and 4.66 per cent the year before.

Mr Chalker who started in the role in late November 2019, has repeatedly said the demands on officers during the COVID-19 pandemic – which began in April 2020 – led to burnout and police leaving, and former Police Minister Nicole Manison had previously said NT officers were so good they were being recruited by other jurisdictions.

“Matters relating to COVID-19 mandates and a number of criminal and disciplinary matters involving our members have added to these challenges.”

Last week the NTPA confirmed that nine of the 12 union regions had motions from members from the floor during NTPA meetings asking for a vote of confidence in the commissioner,  with at least 450 officers having supported motions for the vote.

NTPA president Paul McCue said the vote would happen in the “coming weeks”.

Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker at Budget Estimates.

In the most current recording period, there were six retirements and 33 resignations over the 93 days from February 21 to May 24. There had been 41 officers leave in the 84 days from November 26 to February 18, including 11 officers who retired.

While from the middle of September to about the middle of November there were 33 officers leave, with 55 leave from May 25 to the middle of September.

This adds up to a total of 171 officers leaving the NT Police force for that 12 month reporting period, meaning on average an officer is leaving the force every 2.1 days.

Neither Mr Chalker or Mr McCue responded to NT Independent questions about the attrition rate.

The attrition rate is calculated using resignations, terminations, retirements and dismissals.

The NT Independent’s analysis of NT Police Association figures found 142 left in the 2020-21 financial year, with six of those having been dismissed, 17 retired, and 119 resigning – more than double the 66 in total who left the force the previous year.

The NTPA itself cited an attrition figure of 148, but it seemed to include six who had actually resigned in the previous financial year.

By comparison to figures from 2021 for September, October and November where 33 officers left, there were 15 officers leave across those three months in 2020.

But the annual attrition rate is put in start contrast when considered against comments made by Mr McCue in late October last year where he said there were formally only 60 officers leaving each year on average a few years previously.

At the time he warned there were nearly 10 NT police officers resigning or retiring every month, and warned of looming problems without increased recruiting. In the last six months there have been about 14 leaving per month.

Mr McCue said if the attrition continued at that rate for the next six months, the force was going to be in “a huge hole.”

“There has been more recruiting happening of more recent times, but the last two years of the previous term of government, there was very little recruiting so we’re now in this void, but we need to play catch up again,” he told Mix 104.9 radio.

“What concerns me recently, and that is, you know, generally our attrition has been sitting at around five or six per month so maybe 60 odd per year.

“It’s my understanding that’s almost doubled in recent times, so around nearly 10 [police officers] a month have been either resigning or retiring through the police force.”

NT Police recruitment figures

According to Mr Chalker there has been an increase in recruitment. While he told told Estimates the attrition rate in the NT Police was 8.81 per cent in the nine months to March 31, recruitment had stayed above attrition.

There are no unified total recruitment figures provided by NT Police for this financial year, but figures can be calculated from NT Police media releases and paying attention to the graduate squad numbers listed. There were three constable recruit squads graduate last year after July 1, with 51 constables and 10 Aboriginal community police officers graduate in recruit squad 142 on August 13, 28 constables in recruit squad 143 on November 26, and 26 constables in recruit squad 144.

It did not list any specific accelerated recruitment process squad graduations in that time.

That is a total of 115 who graduated in that time period, where based on the attrition averages, there would have been about 85 officers leave. But there has been a 132 person increase in the total number of NT Police from July 31, 2021 to March 31, the end of the Estimates reporting period.

There first recruit squad to finish this year graduated in June 17 so should not have been listed in the Estimates figures.

In a December media release Mr Chalker said there had been 11 squads have graduated in 2021, made up of six constable squads, four auxiliary squads and one ACPO squad, totalling 245 new members to the force.

We can look at last year’s annual report for comparison. it gave two slightly different figures for the total number of recruits in the 2020-21 financial year, with one section stating a total of 145 recruits graduated from eight recruit squads, including 109 constables, nine police communications auxiliaries, and 24 police auxiliaries. It did not say what roles the three other recruits were in.

Another section had 142 sworn officers (with the same category makeup as above) from eight recruit squads, along with 34 Aboriginal liaison officers for a total of 176.

It also stated there was 12 ACPOs recruited in one squad, 61 communication and other auxiliaries in five squads (despite previously seeming to say there were 33 in total), and 15 people recruited in one “accelerated recruitment program squad”, with 216 “participants” in seven constable squads

Why police say they were leaving

Sources have told the NT Independent the lack of confidence in Mr Chalker stems from the Constable Zach Rolfe murder charge in the shooting death of Kumanjayi Walker in Yuendumu, and the subsequent Supreme Court trial. But there is also deep unhappiness at the increased attrition rate, a view that disciplinary action is being used for frivolous matters and to prevent members transferring to other jurisdictions, as well as a belief the executive enforce standards on the rank-and-file that they do not uphold themselves.

There have also been five known suicides of current or former police officers this year while police well-being service positions have been cut by the executive.

In early October, the results of the NT Police Association’s 2021 member survey were released with officers citing management issues as their reason for leaving.

Of more than 531 respondents, 60 per cent or 318 police officers had either applied or are considering applying for a job outside of the NT Police.

In another serious finding, 64 per cent of officers surveyed said their morale is “low or very low”.

The majority of officers raised concerns around the police force’s current management, with more than 70 per cent saying they were unhappy with the current direction of the NT Police force, have issues with the leadership, and felt unsupported by senior/executive police management.

Nearly half cited the murder charges against Constable Rolfe  as their reason for wanting to leave the police force.

Unsatisfactory discipline processes were also raised by 45 per cent of the respondents and 28 per cent cited the police commissioner’s forced transfer policy as their reason for leaving.

Meanwhile, only 28 per cent of the officers who participated in the survey cited career opportunities.

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