11 October 2023
The headline take away from the Home Secretary’s speech at Annual Conference 2023 was the launch of a new 24/7 mental health crisis helpline for all current and former members of the police service and police staff.
We welcome this and thank her for it. Mental health is an ever-present concern in policing and all work towards looking after our members’ mental health and wellbeing is worthwhile, but we point out this only now brings parity with the other emergency services. There is still so much more to do.
We had hoped for an announcement too, on the Medals for Heroes campaign and rumours had been this may be announced today, but whilst acknowledging the great work of the campaign and her support of it, no announcement was forthcoming and we heard that often repeated phrase in the Q and A after her speech, “I hope to be able to make a positive announcement soon”.
Much of the Home Secretary’s speech was full of praise for our members, and to give her credit, the review into firearms procedures she has called for on the back of recent events we hope will bolster the legal certainty and clarity these officers operate under. The Home Secretary spoke directly to firearms officers when she said:
“I want you to know that I have heard your concerns that you are not being treated fairly and that processes overlap and take too long.”
She touched too on the success of Greater Manchester Police in in turning round their poor status and reputation, led by Chief Constable Steve Watson, though the underlining tone of this reference was that it is a stick to beat us all – if they can do it without extra resource then it should be possible for all forces to ensure all crime is investigated. There will be no extra resource or finance to help meet this demand.
It is such actions as this that the Home Secretary feels will help restore the public’s faith in policing.
Along the same theme was the announcement that the success of the Right Care Right Person programme trialled by Humberside would be rolled out across all forces with the expectation that this could save up to one million police hours.
The Home Secretary claimed: “We also listened when you said officers were spending too much time with people suffering mental health crisis.”
She was able to find new money for the rollout, dependant on successful trials, of the new T10 Taser. And she pledged to ensure police had access to the best available tech and kit wherever possible.
This winter part of the Government’s commitment to tackling homicide will see a focus on the prevention of homicides amongst young men, referencing the one punch homicides.
She also announced 2000 police investigators will receive new rape and sexual assault training by April 2024 and that all new recruits will receive compulsory rape and sexual offence training.
Furthering one of her touchpoints on the welfare of officers, and in response to concerns raised by PFEW, the National Police Wellbeing Service is to conduct a review of the Police Treatment Centres to understand the demand on these services and how to best support it.
There was funding too in support of phase 2 of the Fatigue Project that the National Wellbeing Service is conducting with Liverpool’s John Moores University. “This is a unique research project not just here, but in the world and we are already seeing significant improvement in those taking part,” the Home Secretary was proud to say.
Referencing indirectly the criminality by some officers who should never have been in the police, the Home Secretary noted: “Decent police officers suffer badly when a minority fall short of the standards required. The culture in policing does need to improve and that is what part two of the Angiolini Inquiry will focus on.”
In other areas of policing, the Home Secretary said she was pleased to be able to give police officers a 7 per cent pay rise and appeared to be wilfully ignoring the very real pay cut our members have suffered over the past 13 years and more, a fact Steve Hartshorn pressed upon her in the Q and A session after her speech.
She was also pleased to support new powers given to chiefs over misconduct and disciplinary panels, rather than look to those on whose watch poor leadership has allowed some of the terrible behaviours which have occurred.
As Steve Hartshorn pressed again in the Q and A after her speech: “There isn’t a single senior police leader that has been held to account for the failing we have seen in the last decade. That is unacceptable. Where is the organisational responsibility to make sure the things that we have challenged as a federation are being held to account…”?
The Home Secretary told us: “I believe in the Peelian principles. I believe in investigating every crime and keeping the public safe by catching criminals. Anything that distracts from this is unwelcome.”
Watch the keynote address below.