Policing must be put ahead of politics

17 May 2017

PFEW Chair Steve White

PFEW Chair Steve White giving his keynote speech

Chair Steve White has called on whoever forms the new Government to make policing a priority.

In his keynote speech at the Federation's annual conference today, to a crowd including Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Mr White addressed a number of issues facing the police.  The conference, held over the past two days at the ICC in Birmingham, has focused on the need to 'Protect the Protectors'.

He repeated calls for tougher sentencing for those convicted of assaulting officers, and called for changes in a number of other topic areas, including greater protection for police pursuit drivers.

Mr White, who has been chairman of the PFEW since 2014, told the crowd that the importance of policing must not be lost on politicians when they form the next Government following next month’s General Election.

“Policing is too important to be a political football,” Mr White said. “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 – no matter who is 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, and Mr White told the crowd that this is simply not sustainable in the long-term if the police are to continue to be “the very best in the world, envied and emulated across the globe”.

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.

“It is a crisis that we don’t have enough police officers to deal with the demands placed upon the service – and that should be very worrying for government, whose primary responsibility is the safety and security of its citizens.”

Mr White then turned his attention 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, last year you and politicians from all parties expressed support of our Protect the Protectors campaign,” Mr White said. “A campaign aimed not just at reducing the number of assaults on police officers, but also by 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.

“And so, today I ask you and every politician seeking to be elected – 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 needed for officers to be able to effectively do their job is a wider roll-out of Taser. Approval has 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,” Mr White added.

“We are 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 in the transformation fund. Let’s do something useful with it…”

Police pay and pensions was also brought into focus, particularly as officers up and down the country wait to discover if they will be awarded a pay rise next year. The Federation has asked for a 2.8% increase for all officers, and the decision is currently with the independent Police Remuneration Review Body (PRRB).

“As an organisation, we have taken the brunt of the anger and frustration officers felt when the government introduced a new pension scheme,” he said. “Officers having to work longer, having to pay more in to 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.

“And coming after other changes to pay and conditions of service – is it any wonder that officers feel angry, undervalued and demoralised?

“Last week I heard in the news 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. So, allow me to suggest one. Remove the shackles from the Police Remuneration Review Body.

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

“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 scheme of government budgets it’s negligible.

“And that increase would be just to stand still. To stand still so that we don’t lose even more that the real terms decrease in pay of 15% that we have already suffered.”

Mr 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 open environment where the service learns from its mistakes and a government that supports the police.

Steve White's speech in full

More on Conference 2017