Speaking at the organisation’s Annual Conference, Police Federation chairman Steve White has called upon whomever forms the new Government to make policing a priority. In his speech to an audience including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, White addressed a number of issues facing the police service.
He repeated calls for tougher sentencing for those convicted of assaulting police officers and also called for changes in a number of other topic areas, including greater protection for police pursuit drivers.
White, who has been chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales since 2014, told conference delegates that the importance of policing must not be lost on politicians when they form the next Government following June’s General Election.
“Policing is too important to be a political football,” said White. “We look to politicians to raise the debate to where it needs to be – front and centre. After all, politics and politicians will move on, but policing, its officers and people’s safety will always be needed and important no matter who’s in Government. Put policing before politics, put the people before politics and put those who pledge to serve before politics.”
Officer numbers have fallen by 3,000 in the past year. White told delegates that this is simply not sustainable in the long-term if the police service is to continue to be “the very best in the world” and “envied and emulated” across the globe. He added: “We’re a service that wants to deliver what the public want, when they want it and how they want it – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but this is becoming impossible. It’s a crisis that we don’t have enough police officers to deal with the demands placed upon the service. This should be very worrying for Government, whose primary responsibility is the safety and security of its citizens.”
Protect The Protectors campaign
White then turned his attentions to the Protect The Protectors campaign, which was put before Parliament earlier this year and received cross-party support. It was launched after staggering statistics suggested that, on average, a police officer was assaulted every four minutes last year.
“Home Secretary,” said White, “last year you and politicians from all parties expressed support for our Protect The Protectors campaign. A campaign aimed not just at reducing the number of assaults on police officers, but also giving officers the right protection, equipment and support. Whatever duties officers are doing, they all need protecting. Many of your colleagues from all political parties were vocal and stated their support for a change in legislation. Many expressed support for a change to see harsher sentences for those convicted of assaulting officers. Today, I ask you and every politician seeking to be elected a simple question: ‘Can we have a firm commitment to make this happen?’ We want a commitment that you will give the police officers of England and Wales the support and protection needed to do their job.”
Among those provisions required for officers to be able to effectively do their job is a wider roll-out of Taser. Approval has already been granted for the use of the new X2 Taser model, but many forces are struggling to fund its introduction.
“We know and have seen first-hand the benefits of Taser and body-worn video,” added White. “We’re pleased that the use of the Taser X2 was approved by the Home Office. Now, all we need are the devices and the money to pay for them. Last time I looked there was still millions of pounds present in the Police Transformation Fund. Let’s do something useful with it.”
Police pay and pensions
Police pay and pensions were also brought into sharp focus, particularly as officers up and down the country wait to discover if they’ll be awarded a pay rise next year. The Federation has asked for a 2.8% increase for all officers. The decision is currently with the independent Police Remuneration Review Body.
“As an organisation, we’ve taken the brunt of the anger and frustration officers felt when the Government introduced a new pension scheme,” explained White. “Officers are now having to work longer, having to pay more into their pension and then receive less when they retire. We know things cannot always stand still, but Government moved the goalposts halfway through the game. Coming after other changes to pay and conditions of service, is it any wonder that officers feel angry, undervalued and demoralised?”
White went on to comment: “Last week, I read in the news some speculation that politics may be going back to the 1970s. Well, police pay is certainly heading that way again. A new Government will be formed next month with an opportunity to make changes for the better. Allow me to suggest one. Remove the shackles from the Police Remuneration Review Body. Allow it to take the evidence we provide – full and detailed analysis – and decide for itself what pay award officers should receive.”
He continued: “We have evidenced the need for an uplift of 2.8%. The difference between an increase of 1% and 2.8% – £90 million. While that may sound like a lot, in the grand scheme of Government budgets it’s negligible. That increase would be just to stand still: to stand still so that we don’t lose even more than the real terms decrease in pay of 15% that we’ve already suffered.”
White finished his speech by summarising what he and the Federation are demanding from the next Government – fair pay and reward, a national system of welfare provision for officers, legal protection for officers doing their job, the right protective equipment, no further budget cuts, an immediate halt in the reduction of officer numbers, a progressive culture and an open environment where the service learns from its mistakes and, last but not least, a Government that supports the police.