Free speech comes at a cost – you have to listen to those you disagree with
Thursday, 12 May 2016
by Steve White, PFEW Chair
It’s a juicy line-up at this year’s PFEW Annual Conference.
If you haven’t yet had a look at the agenda, do it
The speakers include the Home Secretary Theresa May, Shadow Home Secretary Andy
Burnham, HMIC’s Sir Thomas Winsor, College of Policing’s Alex Marshall and
NPCC’s Sara Thornton. And you can watch
it all LIVE online.
Our theme is #BelieveInBlue
– believe in your local force, believe in the bobby on the street, believe in
your local neighbourhood policing team – duty is just the beginning. There are
so many fantastic police officers out there, risking their lives every day, and
we want to highlight those men and women in blue.
Conference is an exciting time. There’s a lot of media attention on us and it
offers the chance to get our biggest issues some air time. It’s also a chance
for us to come face to face with some of policing’s most high-profile critics
and with partner organisations that we might not always see eye to eye with.
We often get asked why we continue to invite the Home Secretary to speak at
conference. If we don’t engage with the Secretary of State to get our messages
across to government, who are we going to speak to? Negotiation is our main
weapon in the absence of the right to take industrial action, and we need to
get the people who can make the changes we want in the room to do that.
Last year, particularly as a result of the Q&A session at conference, there
are a number of things that the Home Secretary took away and said she would
action, and she has done so. For example, officers being unable to retire
because of misconduct - that has been reviewed and there is a 12-month window
now. This change was a direct response to a question that was raised by a
delegate at conference.
Increasingly there are staff associations that are unable to attract those with
the power to make change happen; other Secretaries of State often don’t go to
their relevant union conferences for all sorts of reasons. The fact that we are
firmly in the calendar of the Home Secretary and the Shadow Home Secretary
demonstrates the importance of the Federation as a staff association and its
members. It demonstrates that frontline police are important and the government
wants to listen.
But if we don’t listen to them, how can we expect the government to listen to
us? It’s hugely frustrating when we can’t get a person or an organisation to
even come to the table.
It would be easy to say, ‘we don’t like the government of today, we will have
nothing to do with them’. But we cannot negotiate without having a
conversation. We have to work with the people who are in the seats of power in
order to make things better for members and that’s why we invite those figures