Tom Winsor has gone public but, are we about to see an end to all the previous media fueled comment and speculation, as the ‘inspectors’ start to paw over the latest tool in the government’s WMD arsenal for police reform? I doubt it…
The party political rhetoric and sparing between opposing sides of Westminster will continue, as will the posturing between the aggrieved (Police Federation) and pro-reform (Association of Chief Police Officers) interested parties however; we can now all finally sit down (assuming you’re interested enough and many won’t be) to digest Tom Winsor’s (some would say) hastily convened piece of work, and pick through the gubbins and myriad of recommendations.
The ‘Independent Review of Police Officer and Staff Remuneration and Conditions’ was published today and I have to say, on initial perusal, it makes for some interesting reading…
BBC News: An independent review of police pay and conditions in England and Wales has called for the abolition of a series of allowances and special payments… Officers on front-line duties could see their pay rise but 40% may lose out… (Read more)
Over recent weeks and months the media, politicians and some stakeholders have shown a concerted effort in whipping up public support for one side or other of the political debate on the subject of police pay and conditions. I have to say, there are some outstanding errors in the recipe for baking the police reform cake.
Much of the information that has been passed off as ‘fact’, has however been subjected to a liberal dose of self-interested icing and a good portion of political spin. A lot of it has more to do with emotive headlines designed to sell more newspapers, or support the interests of individuals and organisations, than about informing the public (electorate) about the real issues. Bonuses go in bonfire of police perks (Telegraph.co.uk) is just one such example.
Editors and journalists have had it easy of late. It doesn’t take much to invoke mass public condemnation of anything given the present financial climate. All that’s required is to use the words ‘bonuses’, ‘perks’ and ‘public sector’ in the first paragraph and the job’s sorted, if you can include anything that mentions ‘job for life’ or gold-plated pension’, so much the better! Just make sure you shy away from anything that shows the dangers or any of the other negative impacts on the individual who performs that role and it will be ok.
There will be some who immediately assume they know where this is going and they will accuse me of towing the Police Federation party line. After all he’s a retired cop, he would say that wouldn’t he etc. Nothing could actually be further from the truth.
Throughout my thirty years police service, I was never averse to change indeed, much of the change occurring now has been a long time coming. Neither have the remuneration issues of policing been a major concern of mine, so long as it was fair and I was paid for what I did, I had no complaint. For many years I have supported the view (which has subsequently become a Winsor viewpoint) in that; how can it be right that an inefficient and lazy officer receives the same pay as his/her more competent and professional colleague? It can’t and that alone is one of the fundamental problems in the service. Despite already having many of the tools to do the job, police managers have in general been lacklustre when it comes to managing poor performance and discipline issues.
As a slight aside but broadly relevant; the whole ethos of allowances should be one of compensation and not profit… By that I mean, an employee shouldn’t be ‘required’ to incur undue and additional personal expense, simply to carry out their role. It is wrong to expect an employee to be financially disadvantages simply for doing their job. That said, without effective management of allowances, and the individuals who are claiming them, there will always be some who attempt to bend the rules. The Parliamentary Expenses Scandal was a prime example… Just because there is an ‘entitlement’ to an allowance doesn’t always mean a claim for payment is ‘ethical’.
Tom Winsor’s report into policing pay and conditions of service is however just one aspect of the massive reform process the government are pushing through. It has been suggested that; the government’s blueprint for police reform, modelled largely on US cities such as New York, will “breed corruption and undermine the professionalism of the force.” So says Jessica De Grazia, New York’s former chief assistant DA. She also believes elected police commissioners in England and Wales would “damage public faith in the legal system.”
Tom Winsor is partly right when he says; society has changed, the policing process and public expectations have changed but the police have not. That said, any proposed change must be implemented for the benefit of operational delivery to the public and those within the service, not simply to save money!
My major concern as ever is; what will be the ultimate impact upon service delivery to the public and our society? Secondly but almost as important, what will the overall effects be upon police officers, police staff and their families? If change is applied incorrectly or with the wrong reasoning, the government will simply undo all the efforts of the last 30+ years. Realistically, there has been an ongoing modernisation process of the police service for years. One that has made British Police one of the most accountable (and efficient) in the world… Please don’t mess that up!
Update (10th March): The next aspect of public sector reform, the Hutton Report into Public Sector pensions has also now been published (see here). For the full details of the 27 recommendations, please see here.
- Police working unsocial hours ‘should get more’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Review will ‘shatter morale’ says police union (telegraph.co.uk)
- Theresa May: police must accept pay cut or lose jobs (telegraph.co.uk)
- Theresa May warns police of pay cuts (guardian.co.uk)
- Police officers pocket £3.8 billion in overtime (independent.co.uk)
- Coalition’s US-style shakeup of police ‘would breed corruption’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Crossing the thin blue line (bbc.co.uk)
- Politics live blog – Tuesday 8 March (guardian.co.uk)
- Police warn of ‘morale meltdown’ if pay is cut as promised (guardian.co.uk)