May day

The Home Office is a dreadful department, the purpose of which often seems to be to enact as many criminal offences as possible.

 

But good grief: what a speech today by the Home Secretary Theresa May to the Police Federation.

 

The highlight can be watched here (and it can be read here – but it should be watched first if possible).

 

One almost felt sorry for the police officers listening.  The picking of a selection of unrepresentative examples so as to tar the majority is similar to what Grayling is doing with the legal profession.

 

And it was also possibly unwise: any government needs the goodwill of the police, in the same way it needs the goodwill of those who work in the legal system (and, of course, the goodwill of nurses and teachers, and so on).  There is no point the Home Office promoting more criminal justice legislation if the police are unwilling to help make it work.

 

 

But.

 

These things needed to be said, and they needed to be said by a Home Secretary and they needed to be said to this audience.

 

The accumulation of so many dire examples of misconduct and malpractice can no longer be excused as the famously few bad apples. Even though most police officers do a great and difficult job, there is a problem of confidence, and it needs to be addressed not evaded.

 

And not only did these things need to be said; there are things which need to be done.  Here the Home Secretary’s concrete ultimatums in this respect are as welcome as much as they are astonishing and unexpected.

 

 

It is all so strange.  Home Secretaries are not ‘supposed’ to make speeches like this; instead they should blather about how we need identity cards and do not need human rights, and so on – so as to please any passing tabloid editorial writers.

 

They are not expected to say anything, well, serious – or to do anything sensible.

 

But it seems this one has done. And it was remarkable.

 

One can only wonder what the consequences will be.

 

38 thoughts on “May day”

  1. Before speaking today, May and her HO team knew what Fed members were proposing to accept as necessary change and how much of Normington they would embrace. But rather than mend fences and show some goodwill, she chose to go on a one dimensional attack. She attacked the Police Fed for errors that the Police Fed cannot directly fix. The egregious abuses of Stop & Search is not a Police Fed issue. It’s operational. Fiddling crime stats – operational and sanctioned on high? The horrors following Hillsborough – again operational directives – from above? The smearing of the Lawrence family – surely we are not falling for that being the operations of a ‘rogue officer’?

    I watched it wondering if she was actually getting off on slagging off those present, none of whom are the most senior officers who should shoulder responsibility for many of these catastrophes, and knowing that they were not the ones ultimately responsible for the most serious instances of police failure. She can harangue some in the Police Fed over Plebgate, misconduct and refusal to answer IPCC questions – but what else?

    It was a forceful but cowardly speech.

  2. Pablo

    Interesting point of view. You may well be right.

    But there is (I think) a certain attitude. It is not one held by all police officers; and it may not be one held by the majority of officers. However, it is one held by many officers.

    It is an arrogant and deflective attitude: in effect it says that however gross the misconduct, it should not be taken too seriously. Walk along, there is nothing for you to see here.

    This attitude is what is undermining confidence. It is a refusal to take things seriously. Of course there will be operational failures; it is in the nature of what is a challenging role. But it is the sense of constantly minimising and covering-up the failures which nags the doubts.

    All must concede it was a remarkable speech; was it a fair and wise one? Let’s see what happens next.

    1. David, I completely agree on the attitude issue and the instinct to cover up and close ranks. Tomlinson is a perfect recent example (not just the Met coverup but the IPCC cockups). May has every right and indeed duty to address Police Fed members on misconduct, attitude and culture.

      May has every right to rip them one on how the Police Fed conducts itself in representing its members in disciplinary matters or the rather nasty politicking a la Gaunt of past months. She can slam them on how they go about negotiating on pay, pensions etc.

      But operational and strategic failures they can’t fix (and nor will they ever be able to), even if their members are part of those failures. It’s not the remit of the Police Fed. The PF will always defend its members, just as any trade union would be expected to do. I get the feeling many misunderstand the role of the Police Fed.

      It was a remarkable speech. But I think she should have been delivering most of it to a packed conference of ACPO members. They are the ones who manage their forces, who set the strategic and operational directions – and should be the ones on the receiving end of May’s justified wrath.

  3. May’s speech is certainly significant. It may even be sincere. But it may also be part of a push to be the next Tory leader.

  4. Hi Mark

    May is a politician and so it would not be significant that she had a politician’s motives in making any speech.

    But politicians can only use the material available to them; if you are right, then the fact a Tory Home Secretary believes it would help her personal ambitions by publicly laying into the police is important in itself. It indicates just how far the police have fallen in the minds of right-wing law-and-order types.

    And, also in terms of politics, it is becoming clear that “Plebgate” was a monumentally stupid thing for the Fed to get involved in.

  5. Plebgate was a truly catastrophic error of judgement by the police. All public sector unions have been outspoken about cuts etc but the Fed were seen as underhand and dishonest. And the employment of Jon Gaunt wasn’t the best move either.

    After their behaviour in the miners strike (something May forgot to mention) they had no friends on the Left. Now it’s clear they have lost their traditional supporters on the right.

  6. Very odd, this sensation of having no sympathy at all for a public sector under attack from a Tory Home Office minister.

  7. Pablo – a couple of points.

    First – the Federation represents its members, and it’s reasonable to believe that it reflects their views and culture and can influence them. The examples May gave illustrate a culture that needs to change.

    Second – although the Fed is perfectly able to make a lot of noise when it chooses, I don’t ever recall it doing or saying much to suggest that its members objected to stop and search or any of the other matters. Quite the opposite – whenever anyone outside complained about excessive use of S&S, or racial/ethnic imbalances, if the Fed had anything to say, it was only to attack the critics.

    So the notion, implied in you comment, that the ordinary copper is a defenceless victim of high-level pressures and is forced to carry the can for actions beyond his/her control is open to challenge, to say the least.

    I should note, in the interests of full disclosure, that I loathe May and her ilk, and find myself embarrassed to applaud anything she says or does.

  8. Had the Home Secretary delivered that speech to an ACPO conference then I fear that the audience would simply have defered blame to the lower ranks.
    It was a spiteful speech and possibly delivered a few years too late. Mrs May had the right to be that personally angry the year after she was treated so ungraciously at Conference.
    The general consensus seems to be that the police had it coming and deserved it. The feeling seems to be shared by many who are not generally “anti-police.”
    The Home Secretary needs to ensure that her message is also delivered to ACPO, the Superintendents Association and PCC’s.
    As you rightly point out – she chose to deliver it to the ranks who operate at the tactical level.
    The failings of the police are largely strategic and they are also cultural.
    There are others – who perhaps hold more collective and historic responsibility – who need to hear that anger as well.

    1. Nathan – thank you for taking the time to respond. As you are a serving police officer, your insights especially welcome.

    2. It’s not surprising that the focus of discussion has been on the last half of Theresa May’s speech (i.e. removal of the Home Office’s Police Federation funding, making the Federation subject to FoI etc).

      However, her speech did contain several strong messages for others – well worth reading the seven paragraphs halfway through the speech that start “If we…”.

      https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/home-secretarys-police-federation-2014-speech

  9. God, I don’t know. It’s abusing a room of people for something they’re barely responsible for. There is no “problem of confidence” – that’s a construct created by the tabloid press so they have something to write about. Confidence in the police has been dented, barely , but it’s still impressively high.

    This is May saying she’s won the PR war, and now she gets to claim forge the police into whatever shape she wants it. The fact that she’s cutting government funding to the fed – the only representation police officers have, no matter how rubbish it might be – to instead redirect that cash to a new graduate scheme – that will inevitably be comprised of the best off, least representative officers – makes that pretty damn blunt.

    1. “a construct created by the tabloid press”

      But the tabloids are usually pro-police (and sponsor police bravery awards and rely daily on the police for many of their stories). If the tabloids (which usually follow rather than lead opinion) are against the police, wouldn’t that be also significant?

      Some would say you are showing a denialist, bunker mentality. Would those people have a point?

      1. They’d have a point if I disagreed that the police needed reform – which I don’t. I’m a big believer in most of the normington report, and was a fan of many Windsor recommendations, but the home Secretary ignored all of those that didn’t quite fit the agenda, much to my disappointment..
        You’re right that a shift in tabloid attitude means something, but public confidence has barely been affected by plebgate and all the other crises of the last couple of years. That means something too.

        Again, we do need reform. But we need reform that’s holistic and evidence based. What we’re getting is whatever May thinks she can afford and will look good in the court of public opinion.

      2. “tabloids usually follow” – agree with most things you say Mr G, but that’s far from my impression…

  10. My son in law is a serving PC, and dedicated to his profession. In a recent conversation with him, I mentioned Plebgate, and suddenly I noticed that he was becoming very distressed and close to tears. It was soon apparent that he couldn’t discuss this, such was his distress about the image that this episode has created around the police in general.

    There is a genuine problem of morale amongst rank and file police. SiL works in the Home Counties, but not in London. However metropolitan forces work and whether they have different standards to non-met forces I don’t know, but targeting all police. as the Home Secretary did yesterday. and suggesting that there is a general malaise within the national police force is ill considered. I haven’t had a chance to speak to my son in law about yesterday’s speech, but I cannot think that it has helped his morale one iota. And that is a very sad thing for I believe we will see decent (i.e. the majority of) policemen reconsidering their careers now.

    1. SussexLiz,

      I think you and your son-in-law are mistaking the cause of his low morale.

      It’s quite clear that there are officers (those “few bad apples”) who are resistant to change, dishonest, incompetent and corrupt. When something happens they avoid scrutiny/action by pulling in your son-in-law and making it about “all police”.

      They’re using officers like your son-in-law as a shield.

      1. I understand that, Tony, but that is exactly the problem. They all get tarred with the same brush. Ms May’s speech sadly doesn’t help, imho, as it will be taken to heart by all. The Federation has its problems, and they need to be sorted out, but as they represent the bobby on the beat, s/he also hears her message as one to them too. It is deeply depressing to any profession to hear high profile speakers using such language to their representative body – I know, I’m a teacher. By all means take on the bad apples and bad practices, but be forensic in your arguments and diplomatic in your tone. To cause affront will only deepen divisions.

        1. What do they take to heart?

          Take Tomlinson, for example:

          A) that one of their colleagues assaulted Tomlinson, a member of the public he was sworn to protect, leading to Tomlinson’s death? That colleagues stood by as this happened? That other colleagues failed to deal with the matter and concentrated on misleading the general public?

          B) that May drew attention to A?

          B depends on A. Had A not happened, May could not have thrown it down in front of the Police Federation. And given the fact of A, given the long list of As, the government is pretty well duty bound to raise the issue. Any distress resulting from B is, pretty, much a natural consequence of A.

          By all means take on the bad apples and bad practices, but be forensic in your arguments and diplomatic in your tone.

          It’s pretty obvious that the police are not taking on the bad apples and bad practices unless and until forced to. Tomlinson, Plebgate, Hillsborough, Daniel Morgan, hacking; it’s a common theme that “bad practices” (read: “criminal behaviour”) rarely get acted on when the police’s hands are not forced by exposure.

          As for the “tone”, is there any form of words that May could have used that would influence the police to dispose of these bad apples that wouldn’t be taken the wrong way? I don’t think you can give one, the objection is not to the “tone” of the criticism but to the criticism itself. And isn’t “tone” of B a pretty minor issue in comparison to A?

          1. Well, as I’ve hinted at below, there was clearly absolutely no excuse for the way the Tomlinson incident was treated, beginning with Harwood, his colleagues, and then the service. And we know of many other examples of closing ranks to protect individual, or group, actions. That isn’t my point – of course this needs to be addressed. But if it is wrongly handled, the newer generation of officers who are the hope of the force will be driven away by a pervasive negative view. We need a good police force, and need to work out how to get to a point where individual officers feel safe to report incidences of bad/criminal behaviour amongst their colleagues.

  11. Having gotten myself into a whole heap of grief, writing about things in the current police reform agenda which deeply disturbed me, I found myself in agreement with what the Home Secretary said in the speech to the Police Federation.

    The list of things wrong, that have surfaced, is so extensive, varied and serious that I cannot possibly see how it could have gone unsaid. There are individual failures, strategic failures, cultural failures – there was historic, current, overt and buried. This must have left a quandary as to whether it was the right room, but the Federation represent the largest portion of the service – including all of those who will be the future leaders open to make such mistakes again. Delivering that speech to the senior officers of today would have been pointless.

    The problem faced is that the right messages now need to be delivered to the rest of the service, and with such intense bad feeling, the Federation may get this wrong.

    In the room, I appreciate, the impact of atmosphere would have amplified the feelings; but that is not reflected in the video: what you see is a Home Secretary acting like a Home Secretary should. In particular, it is worth noting that the Home Sec faced jeering in that room not two years ago…perhaps then it is a small wonder that she approached broadside and gave no quarter. There is subsequently a question to be answered, as to whether any perceived vitriol was for the whole police service, or whether that was purely present because of the specific audience – because of the fractious relationship with the Federation itself.

    It was a landmark speech, of that there is no doubt, but it is also an opportunity. The police service has to be able to rise to the challenges and no longer defend, or excuse, what has taken them to this point – the best way to respond to the challenge laid down is to make sure it never happens again and, more importantly, never needs to.

  12. I agree with much of what David has said. I was in the room, as were a number of my @policesupers colleagues and chief officers. I think we were all in shock, not just at the changes to the Police Federation that the Home Secretary announced, but more at the way in which the speech was delivered.

    I could go on, but think that maybe there is a blog about this waiting to emerge so I’ll hold onto those thoughts for later, save to say that I believe that the best way for the police service to deal with this situation is not to play politics, but to go out there and do what we all joined to do, to the very best of our ability – to serve and protect the public. Anyone who doesn’t do that is playing into the hands of politicians and the media.

  13. Pablo Byrne shows his true colours displaying the sort of misogyny that one suspects abounds in the Police. No one would deny it can be a difficult job. I think confidence is at the heart of the problem. Each individual must have the confidence in their own views and actions. Like an alcoholic, the road to recovery starts with admitting there is a problem. Full marks to Teresa May, shame on the Fed for continuing to squirm.

  14. In terms of public perception of the Met Police, Jack of Kent and Theresa May have actually got it about right in my opinion. I appreciate the subtleties of who May’s message was given to, but it’s not the first time this Home Secretary has read the riot act to the Met – and by extension, the whole of our police – with very good reason, as Imran Khan illustrates so clearly here:-

    “”It was shocking to read it [Ellison Report],” says Khan. “A shock in the sense of a victim seeing someone acknowledge what has happened to them; in the sense of, finally, someone gets it. Finally, someone in authority has matched it all up, drawn it all out and given a conclusion I always knew to be the case,” he says. “It’s a cathartic process: ‘Now it is out in the open and everyone believes me.’ I remember sitting opposite the home secretary and letting out gasps, actual physical gasps each time I read a conclusion.”

    The grasping of that nettle amazed Khan, and Doreen Lawrence, who sat beside him. But so did the immediate reaction of May. “There was a Conservative home secretary sitting there suggesting things that went completely against everything she and her party must have wanted to do. [She was talking about giving] the cops a good kicking. She read out what she was going to say to the Commons and it was mind-blowing. You would have thought you were sitting opposite a liberal home secretary in a Blair government. That should have been Jack Straw but it wasn’t.””

    In terms of public expectations of our police – many of whom truly are the dedicated public officials we hope them to be – the Home Secretary has a duty to ensure that professional standards are adhered to. If proven corrupt behaviour emerges into evidence, she has the responsibility to deal with it and becomes answerable if she doesn’t. Believe me, I am no apologist for this government and the sooner they depart the better, as far as I am concerned. But if I aim to have a balanced opinion, then I must agree Theresa May is correct in her assessment of current police behavioural standards. I also believe she got her audience right too. If you really want to change an organisational culture, always start at the bottom and work up.

    Each individual police officer is an adult and employed to carry about adult responsibilities for society – it does not behoove any police officer to evade or avoid these because, frankly, it breaches your contract with the public requiring you to discharge these adult responsibilities in a scrupulous and proper manner. The problem here is that when individual officers do take their personal responsibility to the public seriously, they often get thrown to the lions *eyes James Patrick*. One big problem James seemed to have was the tacit consent to senior officer actions by his peers and colleagues – as though they feared the same would happen to them if they spoke out or refused an order that clearly breached the heart of their contract. Such professionally unbecoming behaviour invites the kind of speech Theresa May gave the Fed yesterday because it’s needed! As any employed public servant must, police are required to obey lawful orders; equally their duty also calls upon them to refuse to obey unlawful ones. It’s that second duty which has failed, especially and most obviously in the Met.

    I have no intention of being unkind to police officers who understand and feel this dilemma. I know you exist because I’ve met you but I’ve also met bent coppers and suffered heavy consequences as a result of their behaviour. What I am saying is that it’s time for you to translate your understanding and feeling into action because, if you don’t, someone else will do it for you and you won’t like the results. In effect, Theresa May was giving you the same message as I am here.

    In the interests of finding a constructive solution that benefits the public, I think this is an important message that every police officer and public official needs to learn from.

    You’re not children anymore.

    1. I think we are all agreed that there are problems, and that they need to be tackled. However, taking a sledgehammer to the entire profession is less than sophisticated. Moreover, I think she could have delivered the same message in a manner that wouldn’t have caused offence to those who are doing their duty honestly, professionally, and with the highest standards. Most police officers and public officials do not need reminding of their duties and are aghast at bad practice. As my SiL put it, there are very few Simon Harwoods in the police force.

      1. The one thing that bothered me about the Harwood incident was just how many of his colleagues stood there and watched him do it and did nothing.

        In my view, that is the real problem.

        1. Yes, I agree with you entirely on that point, David, about the onlookers. And for all my previous comments here, there is plenty that bothers me about individual incidents involving the police, and which also bother other policemen, like my son in law. There is certainly a history of policemen backing up fellow officers, and a culture where to whistleblow is problematic (and that’s probably putting it mildly). However, alienating the ‘good’ officers by damning the entire service isn’t, in my opinion, the answer. Somehow a system needs to be put in place whereby the bad apples are picked out systematically, and it is seen as honourable to do so.

          For what it’s worth, my son in law was reduced to tears talking about the Tomlinson case to me, and he doesn’t want to be judged by the lowest standards of the force.

          1. Please understand that I am not having a pop at the best police officers on the force – they are worth their weight in gold. Further, not every Police force is the Met and some really do uphold their public duty from the top down. The problem good officers face, like your SiL, is that these reports of corruption impact on them all and so few are seen to be doing anything about other than say “We’re not all like that”. I don’t disagree. Nevertheless, a significant few – in positions of power – have been ‘getting away with murder’, not once but many times over a prolonged period of time and little or nothing seems to have been done about it – with a very few honorable exceptions. Over time, these omissions say more about the overall police culture than the word of individual officers. That’s not to doubt the sincerity of those officers’ protests, but if this were a crime outside the police, how might investigating officers view all those who remained silent when they could have spoken up?

            As a woman, I am dependent upon the police to provide lawful protection in times of genuine need. What of those officers who don’t offer that? I’ve lived in places like that and accepted corruption in the police extends out into the community, to the detriment of the law-abiding. In a choice between your SiL’s feelings and public protection, which do you think I ought to make my priority? In my reality, there is no choice if I am exercising my social responsibility as a citizen. I mean your SiL no disrespect or harm – far from it! I, too, would like him to work in an environment where such events do not occur. Whilst that reality sounds true in his workplace is something to be applauded and I do. It is, however, self-delusion to believe that his experience is repeated elsewhere because the evidence is plain that it is not, however much it hurts to realise it.

            The problem needs dealing with. Whilst I’m worrying about your SiL’s feelings, I’m not paying attention to what is happening to those police who are exercising personal responsibility – like James Patrick (who I regard as a friend, even if it’s only virtual). Once your SiL has had time to process his feelings, I’d be surprised if he didn’t agree with me if he’s the professional you say he is. He wouldn’t want me to treat him like a child, not when the public is endangered by it.

            In my experience, this understanding of social responsibility is understood across all vocational professions and, in the police, marks the difference between those who truly mean their Oath of Constable and those merely pulling a wage until their pensions kick in. Vocational professionals are about the best folk we can ever meet because, when they hit a difficulties like these, they get over them together for the sake of the public they serve and start working together. Your SiL knows which he is – as do all those in the Police Federation who heard May’s speech.

            Sometimes, employers are legally required to kick-ass with their public employees and when they do, those employees frequently comment that it was the best thing that ever happened to them. It woke them up to a very real danger to everyone that they hadn’t appreciated before. These events can be profoundly constructive if applied in the right way at the right time.

            With the deepest of respect, SussexLiz; I want to be certain that, were you endangered, the police officers who came to your ‘aid’ actually did their job by protecting you and not, as some have and apparently still do, endanger you further. I really cannot see how any vocational police officer could disagree with me. That is the personal but this matter is ‘political’ too.

            Politically-speaking – which assumes this is an adult conversation, where personal issues are set aside in favour of the needs of the collective – the only way to be certain of those vocational police officers is to reprimand all officers for not speaking out when they witness others abusing their public position. What this reprimand does is draw a line under the required behavioural standard the public expected. In my view, by confronting with issue at the PoliceFed Conference after previously being booed off the stage, Theresa May dropped this duty on everyone’s’ shoulders. Personally, I’d invite everyone to take this power being offered to you. You see, this particularly applies to all those issuing orders to others without examining their lawfulness first. It is the duty of the Constable to question the lawfulness of orders that conflict with your Oath. Those for whom policing is a vocation ought to get this because they will hold their Oath ‘sacred’ by whatever personal method the individual chooses (and none of anyone else’s business). Sacred does not, however, equal ‘religious’. Atheists can be as sincere in their Oath as some theists insincere. This is about the personal meaning we attach to the Oaths we give to the public about how we will work on their behalf. I’ve had the privilege to meet any number of vocational professionals across all the CJS professions and I’ve found we agree on this, if nothing else.

            This challenge Theresa May threw down to vocational professionals at the Police Fed conference yesterday could be the making of the British police, if everyone decided to choose to take up this responsibility together. If the Fed is become a real trade union at last, come August, then I think the membership is about to find out who, in the Fed, is a true vocational representative or not. This ought to be remarkably educational for an intelligent police officer working as part of a team.

            You do exist. I’ve met you – even at the worst of times – and you have all been wonderful. Please do not doubt my sincerity. If you can hear the tough stuff, you can hear the good stuff too. As long as the Fed was funded by government, front-line officers could not challenge abuse of managerial power because the Fed was compromised, in ‘spirit’ if not in fact. Evidence? It’s Christian but says it neatly: a man cannot serve two masters. Loyalty – amongst jobsworths and beneficiaries – follows the money, not the real needs of the membership. I speak as someone who once ran the in-house staff association for Corporation of London white-collar staff – the union paid me to represent their members. I know what a difference it will make to the Fed.

            Theresa May changed that yesterday. Frankly, I believe it’s the best medicine ever for the spirit within the Oath of Constable and I bless it with all my personal ‘might’. It might also help alleviate the guilt currently being carried by vocational police for the sins they’re not guilty of in commission but could well be guilty in omission through no real choice of your own. This is what changed – Now you have more freedom to choose. It’s up to each individual to decide whether to take this choice seriously or not… and then act on that decision. These days, I find it quite easy to identify those who have chosen a different path because their behaviour doesn’t change, even after correction.

            As a desisting ex-con, I’m also not asking you to do anything I haven’t done myself – and paid top price for. What I can say is it was worth all of it to be able to reply to SussexLiz this way – thank you, Jack-of-Kent for creating the space. Through her, and her very clear public protectiveness of her SiL, I give my equally public protective response to all those police officers who get where I’m coming from.

            You’re all bright lads and lasses (it’s Geordie – so PC off) – you ought to be able to put it together from here.

            Ask your Oath! That’s where your answers are.

          2. Wildwalkerwoman, I do not disagree with the substance of anything you have said, and I share your passion for driving out bad practice and corruption from the police force. I’m simply concerned that the good apples aren’t driven out by the negativity surrounding Ms May’s speech. We’ll see how it turns out.

            (For some reason I seem unable to post this directly under your last comment, but you will note the sequence from the timing)

  15. The Tory Party’s attitude was always more complex than the popular belief of “The Bobby’s Friend” This grew largely from the mid to late 1970s when “Law and Order” , not only public fear of rising crime but also the increasingly violent picket line and street clashes by both Right and Left. climbed the political agenda. The Federation, representing the rank & file of what was then a far more socially conservative Police Service than today began to lobby that a undermanned, over stretched and under paid police could no longer hold the line without more officers, more powers and more pay. Importantly it argued that police officers needed support in Parliament and in the courts.
    Prior to this period the Federation had been long seen as an ineffective body with its campaigns to increase pay and improve conditions largely unheard by all parties; The 1970s was a period when experienced officers were leaving in droves and being replaced by teenage recruits. The Federation had traditionally been seen as a Labour supporting body “Blue Coated Workers” as NUM leader Jack Jones once described them. Its long serving representative in the Commons had famously been Labour MP and later PM James Callaghan. However as the Labour Party left wing began to subject the police to a previously unheard of level of criticism on a range of issues from alleged racism to excessive force against pickets and protests the Federations political sympathies began towards that of Mrs Thatcher’s Tory Party who instead spoke of giving full support to “The Thin Blue Line”. The nadir of Federation relations with the Labour government came in 1978 when outraged delegates surrounded the official car of Home Secretary Merlyn Rees.
    Mrs Thatcher was a social conservative whose belief in “Law & Order” was marrow deep. If the police required more manpower, more powers then she believed they should have them. However an examination of the men she appointed as Home Secretary shows that her core belief in fully backing the police was not wholly shared; With the exception of David Waddington they were all socially liberal Conservatives with Willie Whitelaw being famously jeered by the Conservative Party conference.
    The policing of the Miners Strike remains bitterly controversial but very many police officers of all ranks viewed the strike as a basic struggle between left wing subversives,”Rent A Mob” agitators and violent pickets versus British democracy. It was James Anderton who first spoke of an “Enemy Within” undermining democracy and public order two years before Mrs Thatcher did in 1984.
    Towards the end of the 1980s with continued rising crime rates Tory MPs began to openly question the efficiency of the police service which ultimately led to the proposals of the Sheehy Report of the early 90s. The Federation mobilised a highly effective campaign and managed to prevent most of the report being implemented. The general mood of much of the parliamentary Conservative Party soured towards the Federation with it increasingly seen as a stagnant, reactionary body resisting much needed reform, a feeling which has continued to today.

  16. I am somewhat surprised nobody has yet mentioned the elephant in the room: Class.

    British policing is very much a working class prerogative. The staunchest supporters of the police are to be found amongst the working classes, the staunchest critics of the police are to be found amongst the middle and upper classes. Exceptions there may be, of course, but the argument largely stands. Take for instance the recent call for senior officers to be recruited on a commercial basis, from outside of the ranks. Regardless of whether it makes operational sense or not, it is another attempt at trying to break the mould and bring the ‘white collar’ into the police.

    Having set this argument out, it then flows that this largely middle- and upper-class Government and this largely middle- and upper-class Opposition are now united in their fronting out against what effectively is a Trade Union trying to represent the interests of its largely working-class members.

  17. James West – I really think that’s a blinkered view, if not twisting the narrative to fit a preconception. Young black and asian men aren’t “middle and upper class” and they (and their friends and relatives) are far from the staunchest supporters of policing. “Exceptions there may be” doesn’t wash when the policing of this and other non-middle-class, non-upper-class groups is at the heart of this debate. Hillsborough, Ian Tomlinson, excessive stop and search, domestic violence – all of these issues revolve around what, in your analysis, are the working classes.

    What has changed, dramatically so, is the position of the middle and upper classes. Until a few years ago, they were solidly behind the police. The incidents above are what has changed their view.

  18. It is not just the high profile incidents referred to that have caused the damage to reputation. Most people are a member of various minority groups, Christian, vegetarian, joggers, horse riders etc, and if a member of that group is treated unfairly, and even worse if a complaint is treated unfairly, word spreads within that group and the reputation of the police suffers.

    I am a director of British Naturism and naturists are a substantial minority group, there are about four million in the UK. Amongst naturists I have several times heard statements along the lines of “If a bunch of law abiding predominantly white middle class proffesionals has lost faith in the police because of repeated dishonesty something is very badly wrong.” Actually, to be fair, outright dishonesty appears to be infrequent, but mistakes and spinning the facts to suit prejudice or to avoid admitting a mistake is much more common. However obtaining acknowledgment of mistakes is extremely difficult, obtaining redress for losses is near impossible, and probably worst of all, there is little sign of learning from mistakes.

    The “unreserved apology” received by one of our members from an assistant chief constable a few weeks ago was very welcome but it should not have needed many months of fighting a complaints deflection system, the involvement of an MP, and the threat of legal action, before that happened. If complaints are dealt with promptly and fairly then that enhances reputation. Suppressing complaints often works but eventually a complaint refuses to be snuffed out, or it springs into life again, and then the damage to reputation can be immense.

    Following Pleb Gate I remember several people saying something like “Good, perhaps now the political classes will wake up to how serious the problem is”, and events support that notion.

    As has been pointed out in previous comments, it is a lot more than just a few bad apples, all professions have some, the problem is a culture that protects rotten apples and allows the rot to spread. It is that culture that has got to change, at all levels.

  19. Mrs May said it’s the police job to stop crime, it’s actually to catch criminals! Bit policing is a lot more than that, police are normally first on scene at traffic accidents, take the M25 where an accident has caused deaths the police Get their first ,they have to be able to save life ,Be able to clear the roads to stop more deaths,to be able to have a route in for ambulances to. Help them to keep their heads and be a let ostop the huge pile up of Traffic ,and preserve the scene for forensics,

    Criticising stop/search for Targeting black people, this is already unlawful. Labour look through the electoral register find Black sounding surnames and then. Send them letters saying vote labour or the BNP get in,despite anyone is allowed to vote BNP,and then knock on only black people’s door when there’s not enough voter I’d then suggesting to those target people vote labour, what of the increase in knife crime, due to kids having more of an excuse to carry them.

    The IPCC inquiry found there was no cover up in Ian Tomlinson case, the police didn’t say,that bricks were thrown at them while they tried to resuscitate him,and they didn’t say that it was someone dressed up as A PC who did it, that the press made that up,and that 4 PCs made pocket book entries on Pc Harwoods assault on Tomlinson and 4 PCs informed city police they’d witnessed the assault it was just city police didn’t inform the IPCC when the mobile phone footage turned up, as it went from an independent investigation,into at the time what was thought to be heart attack,to a death after police contact, the Daniel Morgan murder inquiry is still on going, but if find it odd that a crime so clearly linked with news international, when they were working all our for a Tory victory, and breaking the law aka phone hacking to try to smear the unions at wrapping and using the police at Wapping to go all out to try to break the unions,by using, false allegation,to destroy fleet street, seems to have slipped Mays mind, And hilsborough yes,but Lawrence ongoing ,Pleb gate so far PC Rowland hasn’t appeared to have lied,and they needed the miners strike,and Wapping

    Mrs Mays comments to catch criminals,and stopping crime can only be achieved by catching .more of them ,the judiciary putting away,current criminals , so they don’t commit more crimes and that can only be achieved with evidence and unless we live in a police state of ID cards,unlimited DNA data bases,a lower standard to catch crime,and more CCTV , which is what no one wants ,we’re note going to see.

    and unreported crimes up , take Harold hill in the East end of London. Cos of the Olympics,and no one noticing anti social behaviour criminal damage ,drugs knives and assaults and more stabbing aren’t reported, with the safer neighbourhood team gone ,there’s no one to spot it,it doesn’t get reported, real crime figure don’t go up and more stabbing aren’t reported,

    As for the 25% cuts!, The 4grand pay cut, for new recruits, contributing 5% more to the pension, having to work longer and last time this happened,no one was joining the police after the housing allowance had gone then they had to give them a one year 12% pay rise in 1999.

    The huge police cuts, There’s been Nearly 30,000 police officers cut, and to add an insult she and Winsor went to National Memorial Day, the latter wearing a police uniform, despite not being one

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