Inflation is skyrocketing in Hungary, and wages in the private sector are constantly increasing. However, the salaries in the public sector do not change, which means that teachers, police officers, librarians, and nurses lose more and more money every month. Not surprisingly, these sectors struggle with considerable labour shortages. But there are other reasons why young people do not choose to become police officers.
According to rtl.hu, the number of young Hungarians who choose to become policemen and policewomen decreased significantly in the last few years. In 2014, 3,060 applicants wanted to become non-commissioned officers. Their training lasted two years. This number fell to 460 this year. Official data show that only 10 pc of the police officer positions are unfilled, but union leaders stress that the system would need significantly more officers to avoid their frequent burnout and redeployment.
Unions highlight that most of the crew providing service at the Budapest police departments come from the countryside.
Since there are not enough new cadets for the long training period, the government introduced a shortened one. The 10-month police patrol training welcomed 1,282 students in 2021. However, a third of them do not even start the training since they fail the aptitude test.
Experience shows that the 10-month training is not sufficient to prepare police officers for the challenges they will face on the streets, union leaders believe. For example, they are expected to know and routinely use more than 800 different acts, which is impossible. Unions highlight that the official data is misleading. The high number of vacant positions does not result in the system’s collapse as many officers work overtime. Furthermore, they regularly work far from their homes.
Géza Pongó, the secretary of the Független Rendőr Szakszervezet (Independent Police Union, FRSZ), said that most officers in service in Budapest are redeployed from the countryside.
The government’s single gesture towards the police was that members of the armed forces received an extra six months’ pay before the elections.
Mr Pongó believes that this sum did not solve the problems. Officers can leave service now if their supervisors agree because of the emergency introduced due to the pandemic. However, that rule expires on 1 June.
He said that the starting salary is lower than 526 EUR per month,
so being a police officer is not an attractive profession for young Hungarians. Furthermore, even experienced officers do not get more than 800 EUR per month, so there is no incentive. Therefore, he would suggest a 50-100 pc pay rise.
Furthermore, there are a lot of administrative disadvantages. Some officers work both in the morning and the evening with an 8-hour-long rest period during the day. Lajos (28) was sent to work on the street with zero knowledge after he finished the 10-month training, he said.
Another police patrol told RTL that he earned only 172,000 HUF (453 EUR) per month.
He lives at her mother’s, so he can make ends meet. However, he studies to become an electrician and would like to start his own business with his colleagues. Both said they would be satisfied with a salary above 1,000 EUR/month. Another officer complained that he works 200 kilometres away from his home.
In conclusion, police officers would remain in their profession if salaries were higher and the early retirement option was reintroduced.