16 November 2023
The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has welcomed a raft of recommendations from MPs sitting on the Home Affairs Committee on policing, especially on support for its #SimplifyDG6 campaign.
Following recent high-profile criminal cases involving police officers, the service is under more scrutiny than ever and rebuilding public trust and confidence is vital.
Launched in July last year, the Committee launched an inquiry on policing priorities, taking evidence from PFEW, academics and policing bodies on a vast array of topics, including culture change, balancing demand, retention, funding, training, community policing and improving national conviction rates.
Much of the evidence submitted by PFEW, written and through National Chair Steve Hartshorn attending Parliament in person, who stressed “officers are reaching breaking point”, has been incorporated into the final publication of the findings and recommendations.
In a bid to improve conviction rates and securing justice for victims, the asks from PFEW’s #SimplifyDG6 campaign has formed key recommendations to the Home Office.
Changes made by the CPS to disclosure rules has forced investigating officers to spend at least an extra four hours to every case for redaction, which in some cases has resulted in victims withdrawing from cases as a result of a much slower system.
Understanding the damaging impact on its members, PFEW officially launched the #SimplifyDG6 campaign on 30 August 2022, lobbying the Government to amend the Data Protection Act to simplify the redaction obligations placed on police officers.
It also calls for the NPCC, the College of Policing and the CPS to jointly work with the Federation to ensure all members receive face-to-face training on disclosure procedures.
Thanks to campaigning by PFEW, with support from the National Police Chiefs’ Council, the Home Affairs Committee has recommended the Home Office expedite, with urgency, its work with the Attorney General’s Office and CPS to identify potential solutions, including considering necessary changes to data protection regulations.
PFEW has a feasible, legally approved, drafted clause ready to be adopted into the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill, with the support of Jane Hunt MP, who sits on the Bill’s committee. She has spoken about the amendment during the Committee Stage and has given Ministers time to bring in the necessary reforms themselves.
The Committee also recommended the creation of a “data bubble” trial between the police service nationally and the CPS, something PFEW proposed initially, but lawyers determined this cannot be a solution due to data protection legislation.
Responding to the positive news, Ben Hudson, chair of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum, spearheading the campaign, said: “We have taken big steps forward since the launch of our #SimplifyDG6 campaign, and we are pleased to see it gather more momentum through being raised at the Home Affairs Committee.
“I urge the Government to adopt our amendment into the Data Protection and Digital Information Bill.
“The proposed clause would have no obvious disadvantages. Security of the personal data would not be compromised.
“The redactions, which are needed to protect our personal data would still be undertaken, however this would be done at the appropriate stage.
“Most importantly unnecessary redaction would be avoided; which is everything we have been looking to achieve.
“Adopting this approach enables the Government to demonstrate they are supporting policing and freeing up thousands upon thousands of policing hours nationally for our members to dedicate their services to front line policing.
“For chief constables this would mean their officers are back within their communities rather than being stuck at computers, and our members would be able to do what they joined up for; serve the public, keep them same safe and prevent and detect crime.”
Trust in policing and culture change
The Committee highlighted how vital strong leadership is when it comes to creating a culture whereby officers feel comfortable and fully supported when it comes to reporting misconduct and innaproporiate behaviour, which PFEW agrees with entirely.
“Improving policing culture means creating a safe space for personnel to raise concerns,” the report said. “All team members, especially supervisors, should have the skills and resources needed to nurture positive team cultures and support those coming forward with concerns.”
It recommended the College of Policing sets leadership standards whereby leaders have the responsibility to support team members who call out inappropriate behaviour.
PFEW is pleased to observe its concerns on the number of officers with non-disclosure orders imposed on them, who have been silenced by their force from speaking out, have been included.
Between 2017 and 2022, at least 243 NDAs have been handed out – with Durham Constabulary being the only force which has disclosed it is no longer using them.
To bring about further positive change and to ensure learning, openness, and transparency, PFEW is campaigning for forces not to utilise non-disclosure orders in such an arbitrary fashion.
The report also recommended the Home Office, working with the NPCC and the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), should ensure police officers who make criminal allegations against other members of their own force are afforded rights similar to those held by members of the public who make criminal allegations.
Building trust and confidence through neighbourhood policing
PFEW believes community policing is hugely important – not only does it help foster relations between the police service and local communities, but it also aids the gathering of intelligence which can help prevent and detect crime.
Regrettably, in the years of austerity, community policing has been a victim of budget cuts.
The majority of the public told the Committee in its Town Hall (75 per cent) they believed police should invest more in neighbourhood policing, building relationships with local communities.
There was widespread agreement neighbourhood work was the bedrock of policing but too often it is side-lined by abstractions.
The report added: “Community engagement should, however, not be left to neighbourhood officers. Instead, it is core to the work of all policing with a public-facing role.”
It also recommended the College and forces maximise efforts to make neighbourhood policing a recognised specialism.
Training and learning
90% of participants in the Town Hall agreed police across England and Wales should have more consistent training and development.
College of Policing CEO Andy Marsh said there were differences in the CPD offering depending on role and rank, with generalist, frontline officers missing out, while Sir Mark Rowley said investment in leadership training for those in command, line management and supervisory roles is inadequate, with national programmes having been “cut back” over time.
The Committee stated policing must continue its investment in leadership, especially at sergeant level, recommending the Home Office empowers the College to mandate learning curricula and essential Continuous Professional Development.
It also highlighted PFEW calls for Protected Learning Time (PLT).
PFEW Professional Development Lead Paul Matthews said: “PLT must be available to every officer for their professional development. Officers should not be expected to complete assessments in their own time or on their rest days, but instead, be allowed to allocate time during their working hours to complete training courses. This then promotes their wellbeing and a good work-life balance.
“Officers often neglect training because they see it as something unrelated to their work duties. To combat this culture, forces should strive to build a learning culture by making training a necessary part of regular workflows.”
Long-term funding and the funding formula
Given there is no appetite to overhaul the 43-force model, the Committee stressed the importance of the Home Office urgently reviewing the Police Allocation Formula, something PFEW has been pressing for, for a number of years.
It also stated if a long-term funding settlement is not possible, commissioners and forces should at least have the information they need to make medium-term financial plans.
Deputy National Chair Tiff Lynch said: “The acknowledgement the funding formula is out of date is most welcome as we have been continuously highlighting this for years. Members of the public should not experience a postcode lottery when it comes to police support. All forces should be funded fairly, including through significant and sustained funding, from central Government, to deliver the best service possible to the public.
“We will continue to campaign for a long-term funding settlement, as short-term, one-year deals, are not sufficient.”
Recruitment and retention issues
The report outlined in the year ending March 2023, the service saw the highest number of police service leavers and the highest percentage voluntary leaver rate since comparable records began in 2003.
National Chair Steve Hartshorn called for mandatory exit interviews, to provide a greater understanding surrounding the retention crisis so a resolution can be worked towards. The Home Affairs Committee agreed with this approach.
“Police officers were subjected to a two-year pay freeze at a time when other sectors received a pay rise, despite the inherent danger of protecting the public daily. Except for the Armed Forces, there are very few public servants who face the constant risk to their lives and health that our members endure every day of their careers,” explained PFEW National Chair Steve Hartshorn.
“In addition, with an average 7,000 police officers resigning or retiring each year, the police service is haemorrhaging those who have experience. We know that poor pay has been a key reason in those officers moving on.
“It is vitally important police officers not only have proper mental and physical welfare support, but also that they are fairly rewarded for the difficult, dangerous, and demanding job they undertake in society.
“We have been calling for a fair, transparent and independent process to determine and implement police pay. We are concerned that the pay review body mechanism often has its hands tied by government in advance of taking evidence and then its recommendations once published can be ignored by government too.”