90 days from today is Tue, 27 February 2024
22 December 2022
Christmas and New Year Message for Members from Andy Symonds, Chair of Norfolk Police Federation.
So as I look back over 2022 its been yet another tough year for police officers.
From the increased demands created by other services reducing their capacity due to lack of resources and being unable to cope with demand which is rising all the time. Mental health trusts, ambulance service, social services and others. To demands from the increased use of mutual aid being requested by other forces requiring assistance to police various protests and other significant events such as the Queen’s funeral.
The stresses and pressures can feel relentless.
And there is also the threat of physical assault as well. Nobody should be assaulted for simply doing their job but in policing this is sadly a reality. As the days become years, we can be storing up a mental health timebomb for ourselves. We are all human and can be negatively impacted both physically and mentally as a result, even if we don’t realise it at the time.
I am delighted that the Police Federation of England and Wales is funding the Welfare Support Programme for another year until December 2023. This is a lifeline for members who are struggling with their emotional and mental wellbeing, either because of their experiences at work or in their private life. The programme is run by Defence Medical Welfare Service (DMWS), an independent charity, and has already helped more than 500 members by providing a clinical as well as a listening ear, timely advice and signposting since 2020.
We’ve also read the reports from various forces including our own about police officers behaving in a way that brings the service into disrepute. It shakes public confidence in the service we all are proud to be part of. In fact many of the reports into the Professional Standards Department come from police officers.This shows that those of us in the service who are committed, professional people are the same people who want officers who behave in these ways out of the service.
Currently the acts of the minority are having a disproportionately negative impact on all of us. I know that everyday you all go out to police our communities and do things that make a real difference. Be that getting charges against serious and dangerous offenders, acting with selflessness and bravery when confronted with dangerous situations. Making the lives of our community better in many ways.
However this is sadly not reported in the same way as those officers who commit acts that damage all of us. It doesn’t make as interesting reading so it never sees the coverage it deserves. However I will continue to highlight all the outstanding work you do every single day of the year. We stand tall and strong in the face of adversity and I will be your advocate both internally and externally.
We’ve seen the introduction of PEQF into our force earlier this year and come April 2023 we’ll see those students land into their permanent postings after a year of not being counted in the establishment figures. Some of you would have read my position on PEQF which was that it is wrong to only have routes into the service which either require you to have a degree or obtain one whilst learning to be a police officer. Interesting that the Home Secretary only recently announced that she has instructed the College of Policing to explore a non-degree entry route into policing. Exactly what I’ve been calling for since the announcement of PEQF.
On 30th November the new regulations, became effective, which set out the prescribed training that will in effect give trained police drivers the better protection in law afforded to them under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act. This is long awaited after many years of tireless campaigning by the Police Federation, led by Tim Rogers. This is an example of how the Federation can make a real difference in the professional lives of our members.
We’ve sadly seen a number of our colleagues and friends pass away this year. A difficult period for those that knew them and were close. However as a Federation we will never forget them or those officers that passed or died on duty in the years past. We will remember them all each year in the various services we attend on behalf of you our members. Lest we forget.
In August this year I finally launched the Norfolk Police Federation welfare van. It’s been a long time coming and not helped by long delays in getting the van itself from the manufacturers. The van contains a microwave, fridge, sink and boiling water dispenser. The rear has a toilet, hand-washing facilities and storage, while the rest of the van has room to seat up to six officers, along with three in the front. The cabin contains comfy chairs and table, there is an awning to provide shelter, and the van will be stocked with hot and cold drinks. The van will be deployed at certain crime scenes and pre-planned policing operations. It’s important for when officers are out at a scene where they can’t easily get back to a station. They might have to stand there for hours on end in inclement weather, or too hot weather, so they’ll have somewhere they can go to seek shelter, warm up or cool down, get off their feet, relax and take a cup of tea or coffee, use the toilet and get back out. It will make a world of difference. Our view is the force should have been doing this years ago, and they do have some static bits of kit but they are cumbersome and take a few days to get organised. This van is going to be super-quick, it can be deployed anywhere and everywhere and it will enable cops to take a well-earned breather.
The cost of living has bitten hard for all this last year with rising prices on everything from food, fuel for heating and prices at the petrol pump. This year’s pay award was weighted towards those that were younger in service with all officers being awarded £1900. Which meant for those starting out as a student received a 7.6% pay award. But those Constables at the top of the pay points this equated to a 4.6% pay award. Regardless of this percentages this was another real terms pay cut for all of us. We’re now seeing this winter becoming a winter of discontent amongst most other public sector workers who have or will be on strike or balloting their members to ask them the question.
Seeing this sort of industrial action generally leads to officers asking me why aren’t the Federation looking at balloting you our members on if we should start the legal process to attempt to gain the right to strike. In terms of the right to strike many of you will not be aware of a case taken to ECHR by the Spanish Police Union. The case taken was seeking the ability for Spanish police officers to have the right to take strike action. They took the case through all of the various levels in the Spanish court system and ended up at their last port of call the European Court of Human Rights.
The decision was that the ECHR rejected their case.
If we through a ballot of all our members voted for the ability to strike then PFEW would have to start the court process in the English courts in the same way the Spanish police union did. And all those attempts failed which is extremely likely then we would also end up at the ECHR asking the exact same question the Spanish police union asked them. We’d end up with the same result a rejection of our case.
Therefore as an organisation that has to spend members money wisely as we only have a finite amount of it particularly as you say everyone including the PFEW are struggling with costs of everything including legal advice/solicitors/barristers to support officers through investigations etc. Currently every £1 of subs PFEW collect we currently spend 87p on legal.
To pursue the right to strike through all the courts and ultimately to the ECHR would cost a significant amount of money. Not only this, the process to see it through to the ECHR would take a number of years.
Taking all of this into account, personally I see little point in a ballot of the membership re industrial rights.
I’d like to say a massive thanks to you all. Day in day out you all deliver consistently. Regardless of the constant negative media headlines and stories. I see first hand the work you all do. I see through the many Post Incident Procedures we support officers through, after a death or serious injury occur. You all do things many in society simply don’t see, understand or if they do they would not be able to put on that uniform or carry the warrant card and deliver the service you all do even under the severe pressures we’re all facing.
The above reminds me of a famous extract from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt back in 1910.
“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Locally all of our Fed Reps and the office staff continue to work hard on your behalf. We’ve supported lots of officers through various difficult times in their personal and professional lives. We’ve achieved good outcomes for many. Being their safety net when there is no-one to fight your corner. It’s a privilege to be your local Chairman, an honour to be your voice and I want to thank you for your support.
Finally I hope that you all find some time over the festive period to spend time relaxing and enjoying with your families. I know for many you’ll be working so your Christmas may very well not be on 25th of December but either before or after on your well earnt RD’s.
Take care all and be safe.