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'Policing is on its knees' Fed chairman tells Home Secretary

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Steve White says government is playing 'perverse game of risk with policing'.

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Police Fed Chairman Steve White

The police service needs a five-year funding strategy to take “the politics out of policing” Police Federation Chairman Steve White told Home Secretary Amber Rudd today.

In a wide-ranging keynote speech at the Police Federation of England and Wales 2017 annual conference in Birmingham, Mr White also accused the government of playing a “perverse game of risk with policing” by slashing officer numbers and the service’s budget.

There was also applause when he jokingly suggested handing over the protection of Parliament to private security firm G4S.

He said: “We cannot do it all. So let us make the changes needed.

“We either invest or we divest. Put more resources in or take demand out. They are the only options.

“Stop dealing with drug use perhaps and decriminalise Class C drugs? Leave policing the roads to Serco? Leave missing people to the experts in missing parcels, the Royal Mail? I know, let’s hand over the protection of parliament to G4S…

“In its report, HMIC also said, and I quote ‘We cannot realistically expect the police to meet every possible demand we might make of them’.”

Mr White started by reiterating his view that policing was too big an issue to be used by politicians as a way of scoring party political points.

He said: “Policing is too important to be a political football and we look to politicians to raise the debate to where it needs to be. Front and centre. Fair and square. Listening to the public. The electorate.

“And as the Prime Minister decided to skip the electoral cycle, please do the same.

“Take a long term, unpolitical view of policing.

“Whilst the world will move on, if you have a five-year parliament, give the police a five year funding strategy. Why not?

“After all, politics and politicians will move on, but policing, its officers and people’s safety will always be needed.

“No matter who is in government.

“Put policing before politics, put the people before politics, and put those who pledge to serve before politics.”

Mr White warned the service was in dire need of further support saying it was in ‘intensive care’.

He added: “We are 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 getting impossible. In the last year we have seen a further loss of approximately 3,000 police officers.

“Home Secretary, it is like me telling everyone in your own constituency of Hastings and Rye that every single police officer in Sussex is to go.

“So, 3,000 is not just a number.

“It is much, much more than that. It is 3,000 fewer police officers patrolling and protecting communities, 3,000 fewer cops investigating crimes and supporting vulnerable victims, 3,000 fewer tackling cyber-crime, dealing with historic offences and tackling the atrocities of terrorism. A sorry total of 20,000 police officers over the last four years.

“That is not just uniformed officers. In its PEEL report HMIC referred to the shortage of qualified detectives as a ‘crisis’.

“A crisis that we don’t have enough police officers to deal with the demands placed upon the service.

“On March 22, we lost one of our own as he fought to stop a terrorist at the heart of British democracy.

“In the past we used to say ‘Not if, but when’.

“The reality now is that it is, ‘Not when, but where next’.

“Policing is on its knees. It is in intensive care. It is fighting for its life.”

The theme for this year’s conference is Protect the Protectors – the Fed’s recently launched campaign – with Mr White demanding those convicted of assaulting police officers are hit with harder sentences.

He said: “Many expressed support for a change to see harsher sentences for those convicted of assaulting officers.

“And so, today I ask you and every politician seeking to be elected – can we have a firm commitment to make this happen.

“No more excuses about timetabling. No more excuses about process or protocol.

“We have clearly seen that when the Prime Minister and your parliamentary colleagues want something – it happens not in months, in weeks.

“We want a commitment that you will give the police officers of England and Wales the support and protection needed to do their job.

“When she was Home Secretary, the Prime Minister told us we should have a single mission – to fight crime.

“We said it then, and I say it again now, policing is so much more than just fighting crime.

“Tell the family of a suicidal man with mental health issues making threats to end his life that it’s the NHS they need; it’s not one for the police.

“Tell the elderly victim of a burglary seeking comfort and reassurance that time is money and the job of the police is to fight crime and capture an offender, rather than counsel them as a victim.

“Home Secretary, you cannot put a price on the value of policing.

“And no government can cut tens of thousands of police officers and expect us to pretend that it won’t make a difference.”

Mr White said the federation remained “gravely concerned” that, under current legislation, officers are not being afforded adequate protection during police pursuits.

He told the audience the current test of what is dangerous driving is outdated, misinterpreted and “downright ridiculous at worst” in the way it applies to police officers.

Talking about the criminals, he added: “And they drive off laughing as they kill another innocent bystander or police officer.

“We want to ensure that, if a situation arises where an officer, doing their duty, has to engage in a response or pursuit in a police vehicle, that they are not unfairly processed through the court.”

On police pay, Mr White outlined how some officers were struggling to survive on their salaries, saying changes were badly needed.

“Remove the shackles from the Police Remuneration Review Body,” he told Mrs Rudd.

“Allow them to take the evidence we provide – full and detailed analysis – and decide for themselves what pay award officers should receive.

“Allow them their independence.

“Do not pretend it is an open and transparent process if you are tying their hands by setting a one per cent cap for any public sector increase.

“I see some benefits of the pay review body in the detailed recommendations they make on a number of issues.

“I see how they listen to what we say.

“How they take our evidenced submission and make recommendations in a number of areas, using information we provide.

“But I also understand that, for the men and women out there policing today, they just see what their annual pay increment is.

“And understandably, they question the point and purpose of the review body if its hands are tied behind its back.

“I ask, what is it with politicians and maths?

“For every MP last year must have misread the one per cent pay cap. Perhaps they were seeing double, giving themselves 11 per cent instead.”

Mr White paid tribute to the six officers who had died in the line of duty in the last year (PC Austin Jackson, Leicestershire Constabulary, PC Paul Briggs, Merseyside Police, Inspector Mark Estall, Essex Police, PC Joe Mabuto, Thames Valley Police, PC Gareth Browning, Metropolitan Police and PC Keith Palmer, Metropolitan Police) before outlining the Federation’s requests.

He said: “We want a national system of welfare provision for police officers, we want legal protections for officers doing their job, the right protective equipment for officers, no further budget cuts and an immediate halt in the reduction of officer numbers.

“We want a long-term five-year investment to build the numbers up to provide the resilience needed and to allow the service to continue to deliver. A progressive culture and an open environment where the police service learns from its mistakes.

“And finally, we want a government that supports the police.

“Not just in words.

“In actions too. All we ask is that government does its duty too. And protects the protectors.”

View on Police Oracle

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