Humberside Police Federation

“High degree of survival anxiety” within the front line, Police Federation Conference hears

10 October 2023

The misconduct process needs to be made fairer if the service is to improve from past mistakes, the Police Federation of England and Wales annual conference has heard.

Paul Matthews, national professional development lead, said at the conference today (10 October) that three quarters of police officers have no confidence in senior leadership, the conference heard.

Paul said: "At the moment, we're seeing an inordinate amount of officers getting misconduct hearings and looking at losing their jobs for gross misconduct, and in many cases, quite rightly so. But why we're not seeing the same amount of leaders?

“The grievance process is a dysfunctional process. How many times have the PFEW had to take a matter to an employment tribunal on behalf of a member for the Employment Tribunal to turn around and say that that officer has been discriminated against by a senior leader? And in my mind, if you've discriminated against someone, you should be defending yourself at a misconduct hearing. But we don’t [see that]. Matters are swept under the carpet. And it's no surprise then that the officers have no confidence in the process.

“If [frontline officers] see themselves going out and getting put on a misconduct hearing, because they've just applied that training, why are we not seeing that happen up the ranks? There's a huge and growing disconnect, and we need to see senior officers held to a much higher standard.”

Paul said he was fed up with years of official reports - from Scarman and Hillsbourough identifying failures in leadership, with little effect on senior officers.

He said: “Every time a report is published, the same phrase, ‘lessons will be learned’ is used so much so, that that expression is now tired and has almost become meaningless.”

And he described a “high degree of survival anxiety” within the front line whereby officers “feel threatened by the likely response of senior leaders and the growing fear of the consequences of carrying out their functions as police officers”.

The service has seen a fourfold increase in resignations compared to ten years ago, which he said was not just down to “appalling pay”, but also unmanageable workloads, failed computer systems, lack of meaningful supervision, cancelled rest days and the constant hounding officers get in the media.

He added: “These all contribute to why people are climbing over themselves to leave. These are factors that could be heavily influenced by proper meaningful leadership and through engagements with people who actually do the job.

“How has this been allowed to happen? The response seems to be: ‘Let's sack some low hanging fruit and hope it diverts attention away from us’, or use the sweep-it-under-the-carpet School of Management. The organisation needs to display honesty and candour, rather than closing ranks to protect itself and more notably leaders protecting themselves.”