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Gwent Police Federation

Federation conference: frustration over Medals for Heroes

11 October 2023

The chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) says he is ‘disappointed and frustrated’ after Home Secretary Suella Braverman failed to sign off the Medals for Heroes campaign during this year’s Annual Conference.

While Ms Braverman threw her support behind the campaign during her keynote address, she was unable to sign it off - a move that had been anticipated by many.

The Medals for Heroes campaign, which seeks to award a posthumous medal to emergency workers killed on duty, was launched by the Federation, the Police Superintendents’ Association and the Prison Officers’ Association last year.

Ms Braverman said: “There is no greater privilege as Home Secretary than working with the heroic men and women of our police. 

“It is always deeply sobering - and moving – to hear the roll call of officers who have fallen in the line of duty in the past year.

“Words cannot do justice to the debt we owe them, nor to how keenly we feel for their colleagues and loved ones. They will be forever cherished.

“I support your campaign for a Medals for Heroes.” 

Although the Home Secretary was unable to confirm the creation of a posthumous medal, she hopes the Government ‘will be able to announce something soon’.

Following her speech, Steve said: “We were really hoping for an announcement today. It would have been a real gift to policing.”

Acknowledging the fact that Bryn Hughes MBE - who’s been a driving force behind the campaign after his daughter PC Nicola Hughes was killed on duty - had made a special trip to Manchester, where this year’s online conference is behind filmed, Steve added: “I’m disappointed, it would’ve been special. 

“To us, it seems so simple and I’m very frustrated.”

Steve was speaking after his keynote address, in which he called upon the Home Secretary to ‘protect officers from burning out’.

He mentioned this year’s seven per cent pay award, calling the move ‘a step in the right direction’ but urged the Home Secretary to ‘put things right to ensure police pay is far’, noting that police officers are ‘at least 17 per cent behind where we should be’.

Steve told how members feel there has been ‘a real breakdown in the special relationship that has existed between governments of all political colours and the police’ which has led to the organisation ‘talking about seeking greater industrial rights’.

He later added: “Nobody joins the job expecting an easy life. But they do expect to be appreciated, valued and supported. Regrettably, it does not always feel that way – whether it be the media, senior police leaders, and sorry to say it Home Secretary, but Government too.

“For several years now, we have called out the need for sustained, long-term funding for policing. Funding that would allow us to plan for the future, rather than depend on yearly hand-outs which can only ever provide a short-term sticking plaster to a deep wound.

A five-year inflation-linked funding settlement would be a good start.”

Steve later called on the Home Secretary to ‘protect officers from burning out’. He explained: “Another issue facing officers, because of increased demands and workloads and less downtime, is that of fatigue.

“The Health and Safety Executive identify fatigue as a major factor when it comes to people’s health, their performance, and the increased likelihood of accident or error. 

“Your support to protect officers from burning out would be appreciated Home Secretary.”

The national chair ended his speech with this year’s asks for the Home Secretary:

  • We want to keep politics out of policing
  • We want fair pay and a truly independent pay mechanism
  • We want police officers to have access to the best possible protective kit and equipment
  • We want a fair, open and transparent process of vetting and time limits on misconduct investigations
  • We want the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy that prevents officers from getting on with the job
  • We want long-term funding for policing so we can plan and make best use of economies of scale
  • We want to know you have our backs and appreciate what police officers do, that you understand the difficult, dangerous and demanding environment in which we work. 

He ended: “And [finally] that you support us and speak up for us Home Secretary - in your words and your actions.”

Speaking via video link Ms Braverman addressed her recent decision to launch a review into police impartiality, having accused officers of ‘being involved in political matters’.

She said: “I’m not fighting my campaign against political correctness in policing only for the sake of the law-abiding majority who want to see officers patrolling the streets, not policing pronouns on Twitter.

“I also know that’s what the majority of you signed up for, too.

“You need clarity from political leaders and I could not be clearer: I believe in the Peelian Principles of policing, I believe in investigating every crime, and I believe in keeping the public safe by catching criminals.

“Anything that distracts from this is unwelcome - whether that’s enforcing non-existent blasphemy laws, unnecessarily recording a non-crime hate incident or joining in with political demonstrations.”

Ms Braverman praised forces for agreeing to ‘follow all reasonable lines of enquiry for all crime types’, adding: “I expect to see significant improvements in the way police approach crimes like phone theft, car theft, shoplifting, and criminal damage – in order to solve more crimes and restore public confidence in local policing.

“Crime investigations should not be screened out solely on the basis that they are perceived as “minor” and all crimes merit investigation where there is a reasonable line of enquiry to follow up.

“I’m pleased that the police have all committed to attend the scene of every domestic burglary. It’s a terrible crime which causes misery and fear for victims.

“Nor must we ignore the havoc wreaked by anti-social behaviour. The Government’s action plan takes the fight to perpetrators, including through the dispensation of immediate justice.

“Neighbourhood policing is the bedrock of keeping the public safe and making sure they feel safe.”

The Home Secretary spoke of the Government’s work surrounding stop-and-search powers, the banning of zombie-style knives and hopes to approve new Taser devices next year. 

In response to concerns surrounding fatigue, Ms Braverman said: “It is perfectly understandable that you are worried about levels of fatigue in policing and its effects on wellbeing.

“Long, irregular, and uncertain hours doing an exceptionally demanding job are inevitably challenging – but that doesn’t mean we should just accept that it will take a terrible toll.”

Ms Braverman drew attention to Phase 2 of the Government-funded fatigue project and the launch of the first national family support package, both being co-ordinated by The National Police Wellbeing Service Oscar Kilo.

“Mental health matters just as much as physical health.

“Indeed, mental ill health can, tragically, claim lives – as some of you know all too well.

“I am very pleased to be able to announce that we will provide additional funding to set up a 24/7 Mental Health Crisis Support Line for current and former members of the police workforce.  

“There are employee assistance programmes in a number of forces, with telephone counselling available, but there is no national 24/7 suicide prevention line.”

The Home Secretary ended with a final thank you: “You have chosen a job that is never easy. But it is also immensely worthwhile. Indeed, it is essential – the consequences of not having a world-class police force are too terrible to contemplate.

“And so, my final message is a simple one: thank you.”