25 May 2023
Derbyshire Police Federation has warned proposals to change regulations covering police conduct and dismissal would hand “undemocratic powers to chief officers under the guise of police reforms”.
The proposals from Labour MP Harriet Harman and London Mayor Sadiq Khan include the automatic dismissal of a serving officer who is convicted of a serious criminal offence, automatic suspension of an officer charged with a serious criminal offence and giving chief constables the power to reopen misconduct investigations.
In a joint letter to Home Secretary Suella Braverman outlining the proposals, Mr Khan and Ms Harman said their Police Reform (Performance and Disciplinary) Bill had the support of MPs from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats.
Ms Harman said the current procedures for disciplining and dismissing police officers were “not fit for purpose”.
But the Police Federation said the reforms contained within the newly-published Bill would “put police officers at the mercy of a politically-motivated mechanism which is both arbitrary and creates bad law”.
Derbyshire branch chair Tony Wetton said the proposals could undermine the work of the police service.
“We don’t like the idea of policing being used as a political football and unfortunately that seems to be the case here,” he said.
“We know that policing is in crisis and recent headlines have had a huge impact on public trust and confidence but our members need strong cross-party support, not one side trying to score points against the other.
Harriet Harman and Sadiq Khan have called for sweeping reforms
“We are talking about our members’ livelihoods here - their pay, their working conditions and their employment rights - and they would be at risk under these poorly thought-out proposals.
“At times like this police officers want to see leaders engage positively in supporting a fair legal process instead of promoting piecemeal priorities and knee-jerk reactions intended to grab the political limelight and newspaper headlines.
“These proposals would just be giving undemocratic powers to chief officers under the guise of reform.”
The Police Federation earlier expressed its dismay at the proposed Bill and said it was “actively engaging” in the ongoing Home Office review into the process of police officer dismissals, which is examining various aspects of the decision-making.
In February, it submitted detailed evidence to the review to ensure it “reflects the correct state of affairs” and suggests “robust reforms”.
It warned that cultural reform and service-wide change must not be brought in by giving sweeping, uncontrolled powers which would allow police chiefs to dismiss officers without following due legal process.
It accepted the need for change in police recruitment, vetting, training, standards and leadership but insisted any reform must be fair, considered and backed by proper evidence rather than conjecture.
The Police Federation has also been demanding a Royal Commission on policing to evaluate and define the role, purpose and responsibility of the police by engaging members of the public.