MORE than half of Sussex Police officers say they have low morale as one retired detective warned of a “leadership crisis” in the force.

About 54 per cent of the 1,142 officers surveyed said they had low morale, according to the Sussex Police Federation.

And almost eight in ten officers said they were dissatisfied with their pay.

Federation secretary Simon Steele said officers no longer felt valued.

“All police officers accept they will never be rich, none of us do it for the money,” he said.

“But they all deserve to be respected and paid fairly for the demanding and often dangerous job they do.

“For too long we have relied on the goodwill of officers to ensure the service is not brought to its knees.

“The force and the Government need to take positive action immediately.”

Meanwhile retired Detective Chief Superintendant Kevin Moore blamed the force’s leadership.

“They don’t have their priorities straight,” he said.

“They put out a release about Sussex Police winning an award on gender equality.

“The leadership shouldn’t be focusing on that, they should focus on operational policing.

“Sussex Police lacks direction.

“Officers feel demoralised because they can’t do their job properly any more due to cuts.”

He singled out Chief Constable Giles York for criticism, saying he had not shown leadership.

“During the Gatwick drone crisis it was Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne who went on TV and spoke about it,” he said.

“That should have been Giles York.”

Ms Bourne said she “recognised resourcing strains” had decreased morale.

But she said the 176 additional officers set to be recruited by next March would help matters.

“Our 100 extra PCSOs (police community support officers) are nearly all recruited and assigned to their designated areas,” she said.

“They are already offering crucial support to officers in their investigations and intelligence gathering and providing a welcome visible presence in local communities. PCCs continue to work with the national pay review body, looking into pay for officers and police staff,” she said.

“They take on board any recommendations as they arise and this survey will undoubtedly form part of that process.”

Adrian Rutherford, director of Peoples Services for Surrey and Sussex Police said: "Our police officers undertake a demanding and often dangerous role; ensuring that we keep Sussex safe and protect the most vulnerable from harm.

"We’re proud of the commitment and bravery that they demonstrate each and every day.

"As a force, we are doing all that we can to ensure that we’re alleviating some of the pressures faced by those on the front-line.

“We have seen our largest police officer recruitment drive in a decade; already welcoming 108 new officers into our organisation and onto the streets of our communities and a further 96 officer by the end of the financial year.

"We’ve also launched a wellbeing strategy which places officer and staff wellbeing at the heart of the organisation; ensuring we’re looking after our people mentally and physically, providing them with the support they may need.

"When it comes to pay, the feelings highlighted are not unique to Sussex.

"Officers from across England and Wales share similar views and we agree that those who are keeping our country safe should be paid at the right levels.

"We hope that the respondents from this survey, and their viewpoints, will be listened to as a priority by whomever the future Government may be.

"We will be looking closely at the findings of the survey alongside our own Employee Opinion survey.

"We wish to be an employer of choice and will continue to work with our colleagues in the Federation, as well as our own people, to ensure we’re doing all that we can to demonstrate the high value we place on our officers and staff and be the best employer that we can be.”