At a point when British policing actually needs to display a united front, probably now more than ever before, elements of the police in England and Wales are (unwittingly) placing their heads on the government’s chopping block of cuts and so-called public sector reform…
Immediately after the Chancellor’s recent budget delivery, many within policing breathed a sigh of relief, no more cuts to policing, thankfully. There was still going to be a cap on public sector pay rises of 1%, extended for a further year to 2015-16. In addition, a think-tank (and we all have an opinion about them) suggested that; “any further spending cuts by government departments have in effect been put off until 2015-16” (perhaps not coincidentally until after the next election).
…austerity will tighten from 2015-16 as public sector worker National Insurance contributions rise sharply…(Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies)
The usual budget bitter pill was sweetened slightly by small concessions such as, the cancellation of a fuel duty increase and the reduction in tax on beer however; it appears that any light relief and additional breathing space, which most of us were thankful for, was even more short-lived than many of us had (naively) expected.
The Armed Forces and the police will face further spending cuts because the Coalition will not sanction any more reductions to welfare payments, senior Treasury minister Danny Alexander has warned…(telegraph.co.uk)
There are clear indications of a disagreement within government on where further spending cuts should fall. The first duty of government is the protection of its citizens, and as we approach a spending review which will impact on the next election, the use of policing as a political football is outrageous. Any further cuts to policing budgets will inevitably lead to less protection for our communities despite our officers’ best efforts. There is only so much we can do…(Steve White, Vice-Chair PFEW)
With all the austerity turmoil set to be in place for some time yet, the recent decision by the Constables Central Committee (CCC) of the PFEW is, in my opinion, a little short-sighted to say the least. Despite understanding the angst of many Constables across England and Wales, now is not the time for any fractures within police staff associations.
In deciding to suspend funding to the PFEW joint fund, in relation to their views on the decision about an internal independent review of PFEW, the CCC may be making a stand and adding substance to their voice of concern however; their stand is probably a dangerous one. It is also a move which actually plays into the hands of the government’s ‘divide and conquer’ methodology!
Things ain’t going to get any easier any time soon… We all need to address not only the negative impacts upon our jobs but also, the bigger picture of how those impacts are (potentially) damaging our society as a whole. Any fragmentation of what is mostly (arguably) a united and strong voice will actually prove to be counter-productive in the long-term. Now is really not the time for internal wranglings or overt militancy and posturing, simply to make a point.
As Syreeta Lund, Editor of POLICE, the monthly magazine of the PFEW pointed out recently; these are undoubtedly Uncomfortable Times not just for policing but also, many other areas of the public sector and our wider society.
For the first time in my lifetime I have seen the proliferation of food banks – people who are in such poverty that they are turning up for boxes of groceries because they cannot afford to feed themselves and their families. The economic climate is bleak…(Syreeta Lund)
With all the economic and organisational crap that is currently taking place; is fragmentation of any group that seeks to challenge our government about (arguably) misguided policy, really a viable or sensible solution? It simply allows that government to proceed unchecked, often to the benefit of the few at the expense of the majority.
As the provision and management of policing services becomes increasingly difficult and is subjected to even greater scrutiny and financial constraint, thankfully some of the federated ranks arch-enemies are becoming a lot less insular and self-serving in their approach to many of the issues involved. Various members of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Police Superintendent’s Association of England & Wales (PSAEW) are now thankfully, all be it belatedly, starting to look at the bigger policing picture.
Ch Supt Irene Curtis, President Elect of the PSAEW, recently gave an interview to the Federation’s Police Magazine. She spoke about the need for changes to police ‘culture’ and also called for changes to the predominant and damaging ’bean-counting’ management that currently exists within policing. I have followed Irene Curtis for some time now on Twitter (@barrackslass), much of what she has to say makes a refreshing change and (in my opinion) tends to bode well for the future management of policing.
Now that some of the senior ranks are finally starting to see that our police service isn’t simply a conduit for their personal career aspirations and jobs, perhaps there is a greater understanding of how professional and effective policing underpins and the quality of life we all hope to enjoy within our society. We deserve to receive the best possible police service, we all pay handsomely enough to hold that expectation!
- London cops slam ‘ignored’ votes on right to strike (morningstaronline.co.uk)
- Thousands of police vote to strike but not enough to take industrial action (dailymail.co.uk)
- Police ‘right to strike’ vote fails (bbc.co.uk)
- British Policing: The Engineer of It’s Own Demise? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
Since news broke about Tom Winsor‘s selection for the post of HMIC, the sounds of incredulous disdain have been deafening amongst policing forums. Members of the policing community are (rightly) sceptical and angry about the ‘political’ process which elevated Winsor to being the preferred candidate for HMIC, according to an independent survey (see here).
But if the Winsor gig is actually a done deal, and day by day it’s looking more likely that is the case, how sensible is it to continue to ignore that fact? What would be the ultimate gain for policing if all those who represent the service simply adopted their best ostrich posture?
In my view it’s always better to engage in a process of constructive dialogue and debate, rather than ignore the situation. The major problem with this particular situation are; (1) too few people so far, other than from within policing, actually understand (or care about) all the implications and impacts upon our society and (2) until there is more widespread public concern about the issues, politicians driving these changes can and will ignore concerns. They can (wrongly) write them of as insular and based upon self-interest amongst the police community.
But the issue of policing and consequent impacts upon service delivery to our communities is far to great an issue to ignore. The ethic and value of ‘engagement’ was also espoused today, despite some fairly disparaging comments from some within policing, by Julie Nesbitt, Chair of the Police Federation Constable’s Central Committee.
Comment: We Must Work With Tom Winsor - …we, the constables of the Police Federation can either continue to fight the impossible battle to urge Theresa May to think again or we can, and must, use this opportunity to say yes… (Police Oracle)
The main consideration here, apart from service delivery and quality of service must be; are we happy for politicians to carry on using policing as a political football? The answer for everyone’s benefit, not just police officers, has to be a resounding No! And now a timely reminder about the thing that once made British policing the best in the world from the Chair of the North Yorkshire Police Federation…
Before those rushing headlong into police reform reach another brick wall and have to show they don’t have a tin ear to concerns about privatisation & politicisation of policing along with 20% cuts, Winsor, Hutton and the professional body please take time to reflect on the fact that before ACPO became a plc and made money from policing we were at one time apolitical, impartial & independent…(Mark Botham)
As Mark also pointed out… Please, if you haven’t already done so, lobby your MP and encourage your friends & family to do the same!
Constructive and continuous debate is never wasted, even when those with opposing views appear not to be listening. Talk loud enough, talk long enough but above all continue to talk and never underestimate the power of persuasion!
- Police anger as Winsor, the lawyer who has never been a police officer, is tipped to become watchdog (telegraph.co.uk)
- Tom Winsor for Chief Inspector of Constabularies – Yay! (minimumcover.wordpress.com)
- Tom Winsors HMIC application (inspjulietbravo.wordpress.com)
- MPs likely to try to block Tom Winsor’s appointment as police watchdog (telegraph.co.uk)
- Independence (thecustodyrecord.wordpress.com)
- Alone in the canteen – Winsor/HMIC SHOCK! (inspectorgadget.wordpress.com)
Policing in the UK is changing beyond all previous recognition and much of that change (in my opinion) isn’t good for our society. For years there has been far too much political interference in the policing process and now it’s set to get even worse (see here).
The service has also been subjected to any amount of self-interested and/or lack lustre leadership and wrongly, the public have consistently been deceived by the lies and half-truths of politicians and police governance…
Masses of political rhetoric, public relations hype and manipulated statistics have provided the public with a distorted view of reality, mostly for self-interested reasons. Media sensationalism and (unfortunately) I have to say, the attitude of many cops when dealing with the public hasn’t helped the situation. The raison d’être of some police officers, mostly reflective of traits prevalent within our society, is often worrying.
In short the British police service is actually being hoisted by its own petard. In addition we now see large rafts of largely unaccountable privatisation (see here) in a service that has also become a little too insular.
Policing has never been changing as fast and as much as it is today… While public demands for better policing continue to rise and the government pushes through a major police reform programme, the police find themselves striving to deal with new threats posed by terrorism and transnational organised crime while working within tighter budgets imposed by the recession…(www.police-foundation.org.uk)
You will note that I (unlike many today) use the term ‘service’ despite having joined it during the era when it was usually refered to as a ‘force’. Strange how the nomenclature is also at odds with reality? When policing was actually delivering ‘service’ we called it a ‘force’ where as now, it often does little more than apply ‘force’ in confrontational situations and we choose to call it a ‘service’ and it’s actually getting worse.
To my mind; any police ‘force’ must be in place to ‘serve’ the community it is responsible for policing but unfortunately, the divide between service and confrontation is getting even more prevalent (see here).
This week the debate about British policing continues at a pace, mainly thanks to the Police Federation Annual Conference (see here) but for how long? Next week after all the stage-managed and theatrical dust has settled we’ll be back to political rhetoric about policing from both sides of Westminster, all interspersed with the pieces of
sensational investigative journalistic tripe. All in continuance of the mostly unintended consequence that is; undermining public confidence in policing.
Although the general change in tac from the Federation over recent years, from the individual to a more organisational based ethos is to be commended, I can’t help thinking it may be too little too late?
Vested interests from all sides of the divide will remain evident. But unequivocally, I have to agree with The Police Debating Directive blog, as the author points out - “Without healthy, informed debate we [the police] will never be the organisation that we and the public can be proud of.”
But, as with any debate, it’s far too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. The current debate must be about the concept of British policing as a whole, not just ’my job and my pay packet’ however; as much has revolved around this later area of late, it isn’t hard to understand the apparent waning support for the police officer’s cause.
Because of all the self-interest displayed by various groups in the debate, it’s also not hard to understand why looking for any effective change is like wading through treacle. The change that we seek (IF change is actually required) must however be solely to the benefit of our society as a whole, it has to be far less insular.
The Police Debating Directive: The Boys are Back in Town: I’ve been watching closely, the last few weeks, seeing how the police fight back against the proposed reforms develops… We are seen as the street-level face of the power, heartless agents of government; because we have been put there. We are often the only contact people have with authority and as such we are easy to hate, hard to love; the urge to fight us is overwhelming and it shows on many fronts…(More)
But it’s often far too easy to get entangled in the here and now, a prime example locally has been Maxwellgate… This week Grahame Maxwell, ex Chief Constable of North Yorkshire Police has left the force. He may have proverbially shuffled off with his tail between his legs but to many, the sickening last episode of this messy debacle is the fat wallet in his back pocket, that and the smug grin on his face…
As most in the area (and probably nationally) also know, Maxwell narrowly avoided dismissal last year after a charge of Gross Misconduct. He was subsequently given a final written warning at a secret disciplinary hearing. Now, to add insult to injury for his staff and the public of the county, he leaves his £133,000-a-year post with a handsome severance payout to the value of c£250K (see here).
Maxwell’s five-year tenure at North Yorkshire police was never without controversy however, the problems generated for the force by his leadership was nothing new and his predecessor also created difficulty for officers and declining public support. Many will remember how Chief constable Della Cannings was unrepentant about accusations of excessive spending and her £28,000 shower (see here).
But what of the legacy for policing in the aftermath of the politics, the media, rude and/or incompetent (sometimes but rarely) dishonest officers and the lack lustre leadership within North Yorkshire Police?
This week Tim Madgwick has taken over at the helm of North Yorkshire Police, following the retirement of Grahame Maxwell after five years in the job.
The temporary Chief Constable of North Yorkshire has said the force must move forward after the controversy surrounding his predecessor…(bbc.co.uk)
Commenting recently on Facebook about the above news I said; “Out with the old and in with the new – at least this ‘new brush’ was actually ‘built’ in North Yorkshire… Congratulations to Tim who is probably more likely than many to actually have ‘his’ force at heart. The public (and their officers) will find the proof of the pudding in the eating as they say!”
I for one am looking to the Police Federation nationally, the temporary new Chief Constable locally and indeed police officers as a group, to ethically and holistically drive forward the debate about the wider picture of British policing for our future. It’s possible but rest assured I won’t be holding my breath for too long!
- The changing face of British policing? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- British Policing: Getting Shafted but officers still carry on! (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Hot irons don’t always mean it’s time to strike! (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Questions continue as top policeman departs (yorkshirepost.co.uk)
- Theresa May is ‘destroying police service’ , say officers (independent.co.uk)