Low morale and a lack of provision for working mothers could risk damaging the diversity of employment in the UK’s police force, a new survey suggests.

A poll carried out by the Independent Police Commission has found that four in ten female police officers have given serious thought to leaving the force.

The study, which saw the participation of 3,410 women officers in England and Wales, revealed worryingly low levels of morale among female staff in the police, with more than three quarters saying they felt downbeat about what the future held for the service.

One officer with 22 years of experience commented: “Morale is the lowest I have ever known. The changes in our force are ill conceived.

“I have worked in CID for over 15 years but due to lack of frontline recruitment we are having to backfill any uniform vacancies. Do I feel my experience is valued? Absolutely not! I wish I could leave tomorrow.”

Among the main reasons given by respondents for low morale were the lack of opportunities for flexible working and a belief that the force does not take into account women’s particular circumstances both when they are pregnant and when they return to work after having a child.

Lord Stevens was appointed to chair the Independent Police Commission – an independent review into the future of policing – by shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper last year. Its final report will be published next March.

“We have learnt that morale is a key issue facing our police service today,” he commented.

“The police service plays a key role in our society and with evidence showing that where morale is high, best performance is attained, it is crucial that we give due consideration to addressing these concerns.”

According to government figures, only 14.3 per cent of senior police officers are women.