Police Federation

National Chair Steve Hartshorn addresses Annual Conference

He poses more asks of the Home Secretary to keep politics out of policing.

11 October 2023


The keynote speech by the Police Federation of England and Wales National Chair, Steve Hartshorn, was a wide-ranging appraisal of policing that acknowledged the errors of the past, recalled the heroics of many Federation members over the past year and called out the Home Secretary where support was absent and acknowledged and thanked the Government where it was due.

Mr Hartshorn, who was keen to ensure the hard work of police officers is recognised and praised, said: “In what has undoubtedly been a hard year for police up and down the land, with the actions of a tiny minority overshadowing the great work done by the vast majority of officers in all forces, it is right to support and thank our members for the work they do day-in and day-out to protect the public.”

Facing tough news for PFEW is a responsibility of the Chair and Mr Hartshorn did not shy away from this. He stated: “Past organisational failings have come home to roost with the judgment of the employment tribunal in the pension discrimination claim.”

Mr Hartshorn again offered the Federation’s apologies: “I want to say again - I am sorry that as an organisation, in some of our past decision making, we let some members down. I’m reassured that the processes and practices now in place mean that will not happen again.”

He looked to the past 12 months acknowledging the work done, the work still to do and the missed opportunities. Starting with police pay, he outlined: “It’s pleasing the Police Remuneration Review Body listened to what we and others have been saying – and the pay uplift of 7 per cent is a welcome step in the right direction.

“But according to the Social Market Foundation, we are at least 17 per cent behind where we should be, so I trust this year is just the start of putting things right to ensure police pay is fair.”

Mr Hartshorn also acknowledged the work of the #MedalsForHeroes campaign that has fought doggedly for a posthumous award for fallen police officers and other emergency workers.

“There is no formal state recognition when someone dies doing their job keeping our communities safe and protecting the public,” he said.

Mr Hartshorn addressed the Time Limits campaign, especially relevant given recent developments and procedural changes.

Rather than listen to the Federation and its combined and acknowledged expertise in this area, the Home Secretary appears to question the legitimacy and decision-making ability of legally qualified chairs in police misconduct hearings.

“Home Secretary, this does not help restore public confidence, the confidence of police officers; nor ensure more timely, fair and impartial misconduct hearings,” he stressed.

Equally important to Mr Hartshorn, and all members, is the issue of protected learning time and he spoke on this.

Importantly, Mr Hartshorn challenged the Home Secretary to impress upon all of her colleagues in Government of the need for clear

Ian Collins and Steve Hartshorn

Ian Collins and Steve Hartshorn

 and obvious support for the police, something that is felt to have been absent in recent years.

This support can start with the allocation of long-term funding settlements for chiefs, so they can plan more than one year ahead, ensure the best long-term procurement deals and invest in appropriate technology and kit.

“The Chancellor talks of fiscal responsibility,” he said. “Well, I believe that his fiscal responsibility to the public of England and Wales is to allow chief officers to plan for more than one year, to secure the best long-term procurement deals they can, and invest in the technology, kit, equipment, and people to do the job needed.

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

Of particular concern to Mr Hartshorn, given his operational policing background, was the recent decision by the CPS to charge a firearms officer, who was carrying out his duty, with murder.

Mr Hartshorn rightly impressed upon the Home Secretary that of course all firearms officers accept being held to account for their actions, part of which is the expectation to be subjected to a fair, independent, and transparent process.

“Firearms officers volunteer to carry firearms in the knowledge they are putting their lives on the line to ensure the safety of the communities they serve,” he continued.

“While they unreservedly accept being held to account for their actions, they rightly expect to be subjected to a fair, independent, and transparent process.

“The decisions they make in split seconds when faced with an immediate threat to life must be understood just as much as the decisions they’ll be making on their own in deciding whether to continue as a firearms officer.”

“It is unreasonable,” said Mr Hartshorn as he was at pains to point out to the Home Secretary “that despite the case having passed stringent legal scrutiny establishing W80’s actions were lawful, the Independent Office of Police Conduct had renewed its direction to the MPS to bring gross misconduct proceedings against W80. This is not a fair or rational way to run a police misconduct system.”

This is why Mr Hartshorn welcomes the review into policing the Home Secretary announced into the actions of police officers and how they are investigated, whilst recognising the appreciation and the apprehension firearms officers have for the job they do.

Moving on, Mr Hartshorn highlighted yet another area of concern that impacts the work officers do, that of fatigue, and he asked for the Home Secretary’s support in introducing fatigue risk management.

“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,” he said.

“That is why we have introduced a Target Fatigue initiative, and I am grateful to my National Board colleague for the work done to drive this forward. As part of this campaign, which raises awareness among police officers and senior leaders in policing, we are pushing forces to implement a Fatigue Risk Management System to recognise and support our colleagues suffering from fatigue.

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

Mr Hartshorn called on Operation Hampshire and the recording of data behind assaults on police to become mandated, helping ensure officers have the right support at the right time.

Latest statistics show there are 40,000 assaults a year on police, which is 100 a day, and about five an hour.

“Being assaulted on duty is not acceptable and must never, ever be tolerated, this is why Operation Hampshire is so important,” he added.

On the Police Covenant, Mr Hartshorn continued: "And I make no apology for being impatient… I want that to move from concept to delivering a first-rate psychological and physical support for police officers, those serving and retired, and their families. Also, for special constables and the many police staff who work alongside my colleagues in frontline roles. The Covenant must be as valid at 2am in the morning when needed as it is now in daylight hours.”

Mr Hartshorn also called for better kit for officers, using the example of positive use of Taser, even without firing to deescalate situations.

“Ensuring officers have the best kit available comes at a cost, and I ask for your support – financial and political – to ensure my colleagues have access to the latest and most advanced kit possible when the time comes,” he emphasised.

Giving thanks where it’s due, Hartshorn thanked the Home Secretary for the legislative change which allowed special constables the opportunity to join PFEW. They now have access to the legal support and advice their regular colleagues have.

“This was the right thing to do and I know that many special constables are grateful for the opportunity to join PFEW and for us, locally and nationally, to support them,” he said.

Then turning to the troubles and challenges policing is facing, Mr Hartshorn acknowledged the accusations of racism, misogyny and homophobia.

“The vast majority of police officers are not racist, sexist, misogynistic or homophobic, but we need to ensure all of our procedures and policies do not disadvantage those from protected characteristic groups – in fact, that they do not disadvantage anyone,” he underscored.

“That is why I welcome the work being done to implement the Police Race Action Plan, and why I have engaged with the Independent Oversight and Scrutiny Board to ensure it makes a real difference.

“I’ve also fully supported the work of the Violence Against Women and Girls strategy and will continue to call out inappropriate actions and discrimination of all forms as there is no place for such views in policing.”

On the changes this has brought about in misconduct and disciplinary procedures, Mr Hartshorn argued, is evidence of a creeping back of politics into policing.

He said: “A return to kangaroo courts to allow chiefs to bypass the processes already in place for them to remove officers from the job who should not be in the job, does not instill confidence in a fair and independent process.”

H raised the issue as he has grown increasingly concerned about independence of PCCs at the expense of party funded PCCs. This raises the question of how much they are putting the wishes of their local constituents forward, or whether they are merely toeing a party line.

In closing, Mr Hartshorn posed the simple asks PFEW has of the Home Secretary and the Government:

  • Keep politics out of policing.
  • Fair pay and a truly independent pay machinery.
  • Police officers to have access to the best possible protective equipment and kit.
  • Open and transparent process of vetting and time limits on misconduct investigations.
  • The removal of unnecessary bureaucracy that prevents officers from getting on with the job.
  • Long-term funding for policing so we can plan and make best use of economies of scale.
  • And 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 and that you support us and speak up for us - in your words Home Secretary, and importantly, in your actions.

Watch the keynote address below.

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