The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) acknowledges with absolute dismay the letter from Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Rt Hon Harriet Harman KC, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, to Home Secretary Suella Braverman calling for undemocratic powers to chief officers under the guise of police reforms.
The PFEW is a non-partisan body mandated by Parliament for more than a century to represent and protect the rights of more than 145,000 police officers in England and Wales. We do so, regardless of the political party in power and without allowing police officers to be drawn into political matches played out on social media.
The 18 May joint letter, which sets out a police reform proposal written by London’s Labour Mayor and his party’s London MP to the Home Secretary, and released the next day across social platforms, seeks to put police officers at the mercy of a politically motivated mechanism which is both arbitrary and creates bad law. Policing and the protection of our communities should never be undermined in this way and used as a political football.
Policing in our country is in crisis and police officers desperately need cross-party support. The incredibly hard-working police work force need to set right their pay, working conditions and employment rights. Baroness Casey’s recent review of the Metropolitan Police Service highlights a possible way forward to deliver the changes needed to restore public confidence and deliver an improved service.
Cultural reform and service-wide change cannot be undertaken by handing out sweeping, uncontrolled powers to police chiefs to dismiss officers without following due legal process. Systemic changes in police recruitment, vetting, training, standards, and leadership are needed, but any change must be fair, considered and backed by proper evidence and not conjecture.
The PFEW is 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, the organisation submitted detailed evidence to the review to ensure it reflects the correct state of affairs and suggests robust reforms. It is disappointing to note that Mr Khan or Ms Harman have not found it appropriate to strengthen this important work by providing their insights.
Simultaneously, the PFEW has 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. It would be encouraging for officers to see leaders engage positively in supporting a fair legal process instead of promoting piecemeal priorities and knee-jerk reactions intended to grab political limelight and media headlines at the expense of damaging the service.