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Norfolk Police Federation

Chair Reacts To Tom Winsor's Statement on Wanting to Trawl Police Officer's Private Mobile Phones

8 November 2021

Andy Symonds, Chair of Norfolk Police Federation, said: “Just when I thought Sir Tom Winsor was talking some sense in terms of his role at the inspector of constabularies, he goes and says something which is not lawful, proportionate or in any way practical to implement and enforce.

“This proposal will not stand the test of scrutiny under the human rights legislation. This is the proverbial sledgehammer to crack a nut. This only feeds the hostile environment my colleagues are currently working in.

“It is political opportunism and simply tramples all over the civil liberties of my colleagues. I accept that we must and can do better to root out those amongst our ranks that simply do not belong in the service.

“However what we cannot do is move to a position in which police officers have no right to a private life. Police officers are very good at rooting out bad apples from our ranks. Our Professional Standards Departments receive lots of reports from officers via confidential reporting system.

“These reports are dealt with and officers where appropriate are investigated and if it meets the threshold are held to account via the misconduct processes.

“Officers are rightly held to the highest standards due to the powers we have over our fellow citizens. However we already have the standards of professional behaviour, the codes of practice, criminal law and misconduct regulations.

“So the powers are there they just need to use them fairly and proportionately. What Winsor’s proposal would see is officers that have not done anything wrong whatsoever having their personal phones taken from them by the force and someone going through their phones to check what they’ve been texting, messaging on other platforms… what they’ve been looking at.

“These messages are private between their loved ones and close friends. Where there is a power in law to seize and interrogate devices and phones then I have no issues with this.

“This is akin to police forces having the power to take a phone from a member of the public without any allegations or suspicion and searching it for any content that may constitute a criminal offence. Should police officers have the power to seize phones from people who hold positions of trust in our society so they can just search it to make sure it’s acceptable?”

The Police Federation of England and Wales said: "Police officers are subject to the law, like anyone else. Random checks of their personal phones for nothing more than a fishing exercise would be excessive, disproportionate and unlawful.

“Police officers deserve to have a private life."