^ All story additional links ^
THE NSW police force is in crisis, with officers threatening to desert in droves, blaming poor pay, red tape, mismanagement and an interfering State Government.
An exclusive poll of serving police by The Daily Telegraph has found that a staggering one in four officers expect to leave the force within the next five years. And according to the poll of almost 1500 officers, 77 per cent say they will reconsider their positions as police officers if the Government caps wage increases at 2.5 per cent - well below the inflation rate.
Three-quarters of the more than 15,000-strong force also say they would consider moving interstate to work if offered better pay and conditions.
The poll has painted a devastating portrait of a force that believes it is no longer held in high public esteem and is being overwhelmed by paperwork and a lack of support from judges and the government.
Are you being served? Share your personal stories with us about NSW Police officers by filling in the story feedback form below at the very bottom of this story.
Plus: NSW Police vent their spleen - Underpaid. Undermanned. Underappreciated.
One police officer reveals: Why I'm leaving Sydney for the bush
Cops in crisis: All we want is Taser stun guns
Editorial: Why police poll findings make arresting reading
"We are the joke of the community because we earn less than other professions that walk around an office all day," one officer told The Daily Telegraph. "Papercuts are NOT dangerous, but guns, knives and syringes are."
Another said: "There is nothing that can be done to save the police force from the mess that it is in. I will be leaving the police as soon as possible."
Many of the police surveyed said they could not afford to raise a family on an officer's wage and were considering applying for country postings or quitting to find higher-paying jobs.
The poll, which surveyed almost 10 per cent of NSW officers, also found that:
65 per cent of police say Police Minister David Campbell has done an average to below average job, with just 5 per cent rating his efforts as above average;
AN overwhelming 98 per cent say red tape is getting in the way of their efforts to protect the community;
NINETY-four per cent claim policing is more dangerous than at any previous time; and
NINETY-two per cent believe there are not enough operational police to maintain "proactive" policing patrols, including in the City of Sydney.
The survey methodology was scrutinised by Galaxy Research - the polling company that predicted the result of last year's federal election to within 1 per cent accuracy.
Its principal, David Briggs, said: "When you are seeing these big numbers in a survey it doesn't really matter if 90 per cent or 94 per cent of police think this way, because the only conclusion that you can draw is that those on the front line are virtually unanimous in their belief that there are just not enough operational police."
The poll results indicate the police union is on a collision course with the Government, which has capped pay rises for public service workers at 2.5 per cent and insisted any increase above the cap be covered by employee-related savings.
Scott Weber, a sergeant at Marrickville and the vice-president of the Police Association, said it was easy to understand why so many officers were considering packing their bags.
"The State Government loves to talk about doing the right thing by our frontline police, but with the cost of living in Sydney on the rise it is asking police officers to now take a cut in take home pay," he said.
Police who responded to the survey were unanimous about being deluged in paperwork.
Some said they were embarrassed by police response times to non-critical emergencies and believed the public was losing faith in the force's ability to serve and protect them.
One officer wrote: "Let police start policing, doing the job the public want and wish for."