The Home Secretary has said it is “plainly ridiculous” that Chief Constables would not introduce spit guards for police officers. And he rubbished the idea that all police officers need degrees.
In an uncharacteristically harmonious question and answer session at this year’s Police Federation of England and Wales Annual Conference, Sajid Javid received applause from delegates as he threw his support behind the #ProtectTheProtectors campaign and promised more cash for forces.
Speaking on Wednesday, he said:
“I know you’re stretched. I will prioritise police funding in the spending review next year.”
At recent conferences, Home Secretaries have received a frosty reception from officers as they appeared to not understand or not listen to their concerns.
But just three weeks into post, Sajid Javid told the meeting in Birmingham:
“Let’s reset the relationship between the Government and the police. I will give you the tools, power and back-up you need to get the job done. To those of you on the front line, be in no doubt that I am standing with you”.
Lisa Stanhope, a Thames Valley Police Federation representative, told the Home Secretary on Wednesday:
“The spit guard research has been done and chief constables have it. But some chiefs put public perception above the safety and wellbeing of their officers. That is unacceptable. It is a right for employees to be given the personal protective equipment they need. Can you pledge to my members that you will mandate police constables to provide spit guards without further delay?”
Mr Javid replied that he did not know if he had the legislative power to mandate chiefs, but added:
“I do know that with spit guards chiefs can make that decision. And 33 forces have made that decision. I completely agree with you. I think it is ridiculous that any chief would put public perception before police officers’ protection. It is plainly ridiculous.”
And when asked whether he agreed that all police officers needed degrees to do their jobs, he was met with applause as he replied simply, “No, I do not”.
Mr Javid told the conference that he grew up in Bristol on one of Britain’s most dangerous streets and that he was a member of a gang along with his brother:
“It was gang of two. We were called the Crimebusters. Our mission was to find crime and bust it. Our equipment was two knackered old bikes and two walkie talkies.”
His brother is now a police officer – a Chief Superintendent in West Midlands Police – and as a result he told the conference he understands the impact of police assaults.
Mr Javid added:
“My brother has been hospitalised by being assaulted on duty more times than I can remember. He once missed Christmas from having his jaw dislocated. I have seen the impact the Job has on family life. I went out with him once and I wasn’t prepared for the abuse he received that night – swearing, spitting, and being called ‘you paki bastard’.”