12 August 2021
A controversial Force video message accusing Derbyshire officers of letting down murder victims and their families has caused upset and offence, and also “missed the mark”, according to Police Federation branch chair Tony Wetton.
Tony said members had commented to him that they had found Chief Constable Rachel Swann’s video insulting and inappropriate and that they felt they were being held personally responsible for wider failings in the Force. Some described being left in tears by the images of four victims which were used to create a desktop background on Force computers.
The pictures have since been removed and Tony said he had asked the Force not to consider using them for this purpose again.
He told BBC Radio Derby that officers who worked on the four cases had been particularly upset by the desktop background and video.
Tony explained: “The officers and staff I have spoken to are deeply upset by what has happened. The Chief Constable has identified that the Force needs to improve the way it deals with vulnerability.
“That has come from various inspections and reports from HMICFRS and the IOPC which have come back and said we need to improve the way we deal with vulnerability.
“It is really important to note there is no suggestion that any officer individually involved in these cases has done anything other than their very best and done a good job in those circumstances.
“People shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Derbyshire Police officers are brilliant at what they do, they work really hard and they do a good job.”
Tony said Derbyshire Police Federation welcomed the Chief Constable’s plain speaking, no-nonsense and down-to-earth style.
But he added that in the case of this video the message was “very, very blunt”. Chief Constable Swann highlighted four cases of people who had tragically and brutally lost their lives – stating: “We let them down.”
Tony said: “I think the idea was that she wanted to illustrate very clearly to everybody at Derbyshire Police the consequences of when things go wrong but I fall out with it over a couple of issues in the video.
“The Chief Constable says we let those victims down but there is a big difference between letting those victims down and not being able to stop what happened to them and then learning from that when it has gone wrong and getting it better.
“And officers don’t really appreciate being told that being busy is no excuse.
“I don’t think for one minute she intended to cause this level of upset or offence among her staff and officers. I think she intended to focus everyone on the need to improve but her message has missed the mark.
“I am sure her view was that seeing those victims would focus people’s attention on the need to get vulnerability right but staff and officers are very upset.
“There are staff and officers who dealt with those victims and they are very upset. We have officers verging on PTSD, we have officers with PTSD, we have officers who were badly affected by dealing with those jobs and we are already seeing people go off work because they are affected by it.
“We have had officers tell us that it made them cry when they saw the faces of those victims.”
Tony said the Force had done the right thing by taking the pictures down.
He said: “From a health and safety point of view, it has made people poorly and, from a practical point of view, the reaction to having those photos on desktops is counterproductive.
“So, my strong advice to the chief officers has been: take them down and please don’t consider using them again.
“Derbyshire Police Federation is here to support its members whenever and however they need it. If you have been affected by this or any other issue then please contact your local rep or the Federation office and we will put that support in place for you.”