4 November 2019
Around three weeks ago, we found out that Derbyshire Constabulary will get 85 new recruits in the first year of the Government’s three-year programme to take on 20,000 officers across England and Wales.
The Home Office announced that 6,000 officers would be recruited in the first year of the initiative with the existing funding formula being used to decide the share each of the 43 forces would receive.
Of course, we welcome that allocation – who would look the gift horse of 85 new officers in the mouth? Extra feet on the ground has to be a good thing. We have been stretched to our limits in recent years as we have tried to do more with less. Our communities have suffered, through a reduced policing presence and increased crime and disorder, but our officers have suffered too with officer stress and mental ill-health being widely reported at forces nationwide.
We are almost 300 officers down on where we were in March 2010 so, while these 85 new officers are a good start, we actually need around 200 more just to restore the Force’s establishment to pre-austerity levels.
But, it’s not just about numbers. We also need to see forces invest in effective officer safety training and the very best safety equipment available to them and they can only really do that if the Government of the day gives them the resources to do so.
As a Police Federation, we want to see increased roll-out of Taser. We know it can be a vital piece of kit for officers and that, more often than not, simply drawing Taser can enable them to bring a situation under control, in turn protecting the public, themselves and colleagues.
We also still need to see tougher sentences being handed down to those who assault police officers – to punish them accordingly but also to act as a deterrent to others. We’ve had a couple of serious incidents in Derbyshire in the past weeks with fairly commonplace incidents - including a report of a street robbery and a domestic incident - resulting in officers being attacked and injured. The officers involved are being supported by the Federation and the Force. But it seems to me that barely a week goes by without there being more shocking news of an officer being injured while serving the public. This cannot be allowed to continue. An assault on a police officer, doing their job, serving and protecting the public, is an attack on society itself.
The law needs to protect officers in other ways too and I am pleased that the Queen’s Speech at the start of October outlined plans for the Police Protections Bill. This aims to give better protections to police drivers so that they are judged according to their skills and training rather than the current standard of the careful and competent driver. Too many police officers have been prosecuted or faced conduct proceedings for simply doing their job so I hope this bill, which also enshrines the Police Covenant in law and allows Specials to become members of the Federation, will give them the confidence to serve their communities without the fear of being disciplined for doing so.
We will watch the progress of this bill with interest but will continue to campaign for more to be done to protect officers.