Whilst we have not yet had sight of the report and will need time to digest it, we feel it only right and proper to offer some initial views on the back of Theresa May’s speech last week and the national media reporting that has followed. Which it would be fair to say has left our members Confused, Worried, Angry and Frustrated.
A recent survey conducted by MORI on behalf of the Police Federation shows that the overwhelming majority of the public are happy or satisfied with the service they receive from the Police. This supports previous surveys, including the British Crime Survey, which has shown that the last few years have seen record falls in crime and criminals brought to justice. Police Officers recognise that they are responsible for bringing offenders to justice and the fact that the prisons are full is testimony that they have delivered on this responsibility. They are not however responsible for all society’s failings which creates the environment for criminality and anti social behaviour to flourish, although they often feel that they are blamed by Government for the consequences of the failings to tackle all of society’s problems.
The surveys show that Policing is delivering its side of the bargain preventing crime and bringing offenders to justice and police officers have worked hard to achieve these results. They are therefore confused that this Government takes every opportunity to attack them and undermine their professionalism. They are confused why the Government seems set on an agenda to undermine the fundamentals of British Policing which is admired across the world.
Like many other workers police officers come to work to provide a service, but also to support their families and pay their mortgages and meet their other financial commitments. They expect to be adequately and properly rewarded for the work they do. They are therefore worried about the implications of the Winsor Report and the comments of the Home Secretary that they must face a pay cut and whether this will mean they are unable to continue to meet these commitments and adequately provide for their families in the future.
They are also worried about their future job security and about their future pension provision to which they have contributed 11% of their salary since they joined the service.
They are angry at a Government and Home Secretary which seems to take every opportunity to attack them and undermine their professionalism. They are angry at what is happening to policing and the level of cuts which have been imposed which will impact on front line services delivered to the public.
They are angry at some within ACPO who seem intent on protecting their own positions whilst undermining the conditions of those they purport to lead.
They are angry that they are being singled out from other public sector workers, in that not only they do they face a two year pay freeze, a position they accepted without protest, but alone they also face a further attack on their pay and conditions.
They are angry that they will be expected to police protests from other workers who face attacks on pay and pensions when police officers share many of the same concerns and fears with those whom they will have to police.
They are also angry at the relish the Home Secretary and others appear to be taking in tackling this situation and imposing these cuts.
They are frustrated at the lack of balance in the debate to date and what appears to be an orchestrated media campaign to mislead the public and deny them the high level of public support they have always had.
They are frustrated that they appeared to be getting blamed for the introduction of performance payments which were forced upon them by a previous Government and which records will show they overwhelming majority opposed in the first place. These payments are now being wrongly portrayed as a bonus system akin to that which bankers receive. They are frustrated at the wild figures that have been bandied about in terms of overtime and do not recognise that this is the true picture of what they earn.
More importantly they are frustrated that there is little they can do about this other than raise their voice through the Police Federation. They are denied industrial rights taken for granted by the majority of other workers. They cannot strike, work to rule or even refuse to work additional hours and are denied access to Employment Tribunals for independent scrutiny of many decisions that affect their working lives.
They are frustrated that this position is being exploited by a Government and Home Secretary that is acting like a school yard bully – they have the power and they intend to use it on the weak and vulnerable.
The above sentiments do not make for good industrial relations and have undermined the morale of rank and file officers. The Home Secretary should not underestimate what this means in terms of service delivery and the “can do” mentality she spoke about last week. She should think through very carefully how she responds to the service if she is not to lose the confidence of every rank and file police officer in the country.