By Peter Smets, EuroCOP delegate, Belgium
Over recent years, we have seen significant changes in our lives. Previously, life in Europe was far removed from conflicts, economic problems etc. We had a relaxed and peaceful way of living.
The economic crisis forced governments to choose new ways to finance their countries. Budget cuts in the military and security services were the first solution found to fill the gaps and save some money. But these solutions meant less resources, fewer officers and salary cuts.
Life in Europe is getting more expensive but due to the budget cuts, salaries have not increased. Instead, some countries are even thinking of going back in time and militarising police forces, so they can limit their social rights and make them work more for less.
After the economic crisis, radicalisation became a new factor in a lot of European countries. Certainly, in Western Europe, police officers have to work long hours due to this threat. They are even the target of radical aggression. Due to those long working hours, they are having a lot of problems in their family lives. More and more talented and motivated police-officers are looking for new jobs outside the police, because the salary is just not enough, if you consider the risks they have to take on the job.
In Eastern European countries, police officers have to get a second job to support their families. The salary of a police officer is simply not enough to get through the month. So, after their long working hours in the police force they still need to work somewhere else. This results in a low quality of life and generates a lot of health issues. Those countries are very important in Europe because they are the link to solving a lot of security issues. They form a first contact and barrier for both refugees and terrorists.
In the South of Europe, our Italian, Greek and Spanish colleagues have to work incredibly long hours, and in terrible circumstances. The refugees coming from the North of Africa are another result of war around radicalisation. This means that police officers even have to do work they are not trained for. In Greece, for example, they work a 15 or 16-hour shift but do not get any extra wages.
The conclusion of all this is that, due to budget cuts, the salaries of the different police forces in Europe are not keeping up. Police officers have to work longer for less. The expectation of a police officer today is 45 years in a hard world for less retirement wages. We stood still 10 to 15 years ago and, due to the problems that our society faces, life is more expensive but wages remain as they were a decade ago.
If we do not want to lose more colleagues due to work circumstances we have to motivate more and younger people to join the police force, and we have to make the job more attractive. Life in Europe must be safe again, and our fellow Europeans have the right to count on a well-equipped, organised and motivated police force.