10 November 2023
Operational policing decisions must remain independent of political interference. This is the clear message from the Police Federation of England and Wales in response to comments attributed to the Home Secretary, published in The Times this week.
National Chair, Steve Hartshorn notes, “It is entirely reasonable that the Home Secretary might raise concerns with senior police leaders in private, it is unacceptable to publicly attempt to tamper with the operational independence of policing.
“Policing must be free of politics. Operational independence is a key pillar of UK policing and must be respected. Policing does not comment on political manoeuvrings, and we expect to be able to carry out our duties without political interference.
“The policing of protests should be left to those who are charged with that role. They will make a risk assessment based on intelligence available to them and this should be done free of political interference. Our members are the professionals and have been entrusted to fulfil such duties, without fear or favour.
“I encourage all who may attend tomorrow’s march to remain peaceful as is the organiser's aim. Free peaceful expression of opinions is a cornerstone of our democracy and one we are legally obliged to uphold.
“Officers on the ground are in the unenviable position of having to deal with issues in real time and without the benefit of hindsight. It’s not unusual that intelligence collated in the control room may differ to what officers and the public witness or experience at ground level, meaning that sometimes officers may hold back from taking certain actions in order to maintain or try to preserve public order and safety. Evidence is often gathered, and action taken once situations become less volatile, or after the event even, when it is safer for all.
“This weekend is going to be demanding enough for police officers, without the need for unfair or ill-informed criticism from the side-lines. I therefore implore the public attending events, marches and protests this weekend to be respectful and peaceful. And to politicians, please leave operational policing decisions to the police."