Suffolk mum forced to give up on detective dream due to low pay
- Credit: Lucy Taylor
A Suffolk mother-of-one who gave up on her dream of becoming a police detective due to low pay said she was forced to choose between her family or the force.
Danielle Fisher, 29, who was part of the direct entry detective scheme at Suffolk Constabulary and began training in September 2021, said she found herself unable to pay for petrol at the end of the month after funding her son's childcare.
Mrs Fisher, who left the scheme in March this year, said handing in her notice was the "hardest decision" she has ever had to make.
“When it comes to putting a roof over my child’s head, I simply couldn’t compromise. And the sad part is, I loved the job, but there was no other option," she said.
“The salary of officers needs to be reviewed, or the force will continue to miss out on some really good officers because they can’t afford to live.
“Don’t get me wrong, I did so much research before I started but it’s not until you’re actually working those long shifts, and experience the low pay, that you realise just how difficult it is.”
Mrs Fisher was sharing her story as part of Suffolk Police Federation's 'Fair Pay for Police' campaign, which is aiming to address the number of recruits quitting before the end of their probation.
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Joining the police was a lifelong dream for Ms Fisher, who admits she knew it would be hard to stretch her finances each month but was initially willing to make the sacrifice.
But after paying the cost of full-time childcare sessions, Ms Fisher says she had around £100 to spare, which meant she was making a big dent in her savings each month.
“Things came to a head when my re-mortgage was declined and wasn’t able to afford fuel for my car. It was putting pressure on my family to pay for more too,” she said.
“Between myself, my tutor and sergeant, we tried to make it work but, in the end, I had no other choice. My son had to come first and looking after him is my priority.
“If you speak to any of my friends, they will tell you that they noticed a real difference in me. I felt like a failure, like I was having to choose between something I loved doing and supporting my family. It had a severe impact on my mental health.
“I had sleepless nights worrying. Handing my notice in was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. Being in the police is everything I ever wanted to do and now it’s just gone, out the window.”
Mrs Fisher, who was since returned to her previous job at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds, said peers in her police cohort would regularly have conversations about the low salary.
“We would literally be asking ourselves, 'how will we survive financially each month?' I know some officers would opt out of their pension to save money, which isn’t something I wanted to do, for the sake of my future," she added.
“I can honestly say, if I could’ve afforded to continue on the course, I wouldn’t have left. I absolutely loved the job."
Mrs Fisher is backing the police federation's pay campaign.
“Better pay will mean better retention, it’s that simple,” she said. “The salary either needs to be reviewed or perhaps officers can be helped with their pension contributions until they earn more.
“Ultimately, with the cost of living rising, it’s impossible for the salary of officers to stay the same.”
Darren Harris, chairman of Suffolk Police Federation, said for the force to not only successfully attract new officers but retain them, there needs to be a better focus on pay and working conditions.
“The recent figures surrounding new recruits are nothing short of abysmal, yet I’m not surprised at all,” he said.
“Sadly, Dani’s story is just one example of too many, who feel they have no other choice than to leave the Force if they want to survive – not just for their sake, but for their families too.
“I feel embarrassed and ashamed that we’re even having to launch a campaign for better pay but hopefully sharing these stories will help get our voice heard with those in power.
“For Dani to feel like she has to choose between her dream of joining the police or affording to live is shocking and it needs to be addressed.
"We cannot continue this way, something needs to urgently be done now before we lose more recruits and put additional pressure on current officers."
A spokesman for the Home Office said: "Police officers work tirelessly to keep our streets safe and put criminals behind bars and we thank them for their work, especially in the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic.
“It is the role of the Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB) to consider and make recommendations to the government on the appropriate level of pay and allowances.
"We value the independent and expert advice of the PRRB and give very careful consideration to their recommendations."