Chairman's Speech at Federation Open Meeting 11th May 2016
Chief Constable, recently elected Police & Crime Commissioner, guests, ladies and gentlemen welcome to Kent Police Federation's Open Meeting at the Mercure Great Danes Hotel.
We didn't meet in 2015, preferring to delay proceedings to hopefully the more clement weather of a spring May evening and to give the newly elected PCC a week to change his mind.
We last met in November 2014. Thankfully we have not seen any police officers die in service. Sadly other police forces have not been so lucky. There have also been a number of retired colleagues who sadly passed away. Let us stand for a few moments of quiet reflection as we remember those who are no longer with us.
Let me begin by introducing the platform.
We have two open meeting first-timers here tonight - firstly T/ACC Neil Jerome. Mr Jerome you are most welcome to your first and last open meeting as you are moving onto the Metropolitan Police. Move over Commander Bond - here comes Commander Jerome. Secondly I am also pleased to welcome Mr Tony Blaker who soon joins us from Sussex as an ACC. Welcome to the Premier League. If you haven't guessed already, you don't have to be mad to work here but it helps.
I'd also like to welcome a group of great people to their first open meeting - members of the Special Constabulary. On behalf of your regular colleagues I'd like to thank you all for the hard work you do supporting them and keeping the people of Kent safe. It is right and proper that you take your place with your regular colleagues at this meeting. You will always have a friend in this Federation and, like you we look forward to the legislative changes that will enable you to be full, legal members.
Recently I was pleased to attend the bi-annual Special Constabulary Conference in Chepstow. At the Conference Chief Constable (& Chiefs' Council lead) Dave Jones outlined proposals to align the Special Constabulary with other police volunteers.
Whilst I would never seek to disparage any volunteer, the Special Constabulary is different. They are Officers of the Crown. They should and must be aligned with their Regular colleagues. Talking to delegates at the Conference, this is most certainly what they want and reactions to Mr Jones' plan ranged from concern to outright hostility. Mr Pughsley, perhaps you could liaise with your Chief Officer colleague and encourage real and meaningful consultation with the grass roots of the Special Constabulary. Let's keep the Special Constabulary where it belongs shoulder to shoulder with their regular colleagues.
"Now is not the time for further police cuts, now is the time to back our police and give them the tools to do the job."
"I am today announcing that there will be no cuts in the police budget at
all, there will be real terms protection for police funding.
"Mr Speaker, the police protect us and we are going to protect the
"I am today announcing that there will be no cuts in the police budget at all, there will be real terms protection for police funding.
"Mr Speaker, the police protect us and we are going to protect the police."
That was George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer 25th November 2015.
Nobody saw that coming! BUT
Like so many "good news announcements" at budgets the devil has proved to be firmly rooted in the detail. We now know that our protected budget is actually a £33m budget cut.
Well, if that's Mr Osborne's understanding of protection, let's hope he doesn't open a family planning clinic.
What does £33m look like? Over the next 4 years we've got to cut around £8m a year from the budget.
Yes cut £8m a year at a time when the public thirst for visible policing shows no sign of abating. Ask the public what they want and top of the list is always more Bobbies on the beat.
However, we know the crime profile is changing. Acquisitive crime is moving away from the more traditional areas of motor vehicle and domestic burglary.
Despite the Home Secretary's Dalek-style mantra of reform is working - crime is falling, we know different; we know the reality.
Violence up! On line fraud up! Sexual offences up! And of course we cannot overlook the real and ever-present terrorist threat from those who seek to bomb us back to the Stone Age.
In 2016, those seeking to steal our possessions are more likely to enter our homes through the phone line or Wi-Fi connection, than by forcing a window or walking in through an unlocked door.
This exponential increase in cybercrime requires a new approach to policing, an approach that due to the very nature of the crime will require specialist investigative skills. Frankly, it will require those investigative resources to be in a building in front of a computer and available at time that is conducive to contacting financial institutions - the very opposite of what the public always tells us they want.
Chief Constable, you have undertaken to maintain police officer numbers at the level on 1st April 2015 - 3,260. You have also undertaken to keep PCSO levels at 300. Now, in the past you may have picked up the occasional vibe indicating a slight lack of enthusiasm for the role of PCSO. The world has changed and I recognise that PCSOs have gone from being an extra to being an integral part of policing teams, performing tasks and roles it was never envisaged they would. I also accept the public loves them as they see them as their uniform presence, less likely to be taken away for other duties.
Mr Scott, this is where you will have a significant role to play with managing the public's expectations of an organisation that has already seen £50m cut from its budget; an organisation that has seen 1,200 people disappear off the books; an organisation that now has to find a further £33m in cuts from its protected budget.
However, you can and must go further than merely managing the public's wants. The Home Secretary has given you the ability, as we are one of the lowest preceptors, to raise the policing precept above the national cap.
If we are to have the necessary specialist personnel to deal with cyber-crime, sexual offences and terrorism then we will need the revenue for extra investigators and extra firearms officers. These cannot be paid for from capital reserves for that is the road to ruin. There must be increases in revenue income.
In fairness there is another way. But that involves robbing Peter to pay Paul. In the absence of increasing income then resources will be drained from one portfolio to another. The visible frontline will shrink as the invisible frontline grows. There is an inherent danger with this. Police officers become increasingly remote from the public. We need to ensure we remain part of the community and not some remote investigation and enforcement agency. We need to ensure we don't lose one of the fundamental pillars of policing by consent. The hard truth is we need the resources for both the visible and invisible front lines.
No matter what the politicians say - the number of police officers matters.
- > When it's taking longer to attend 999 emergencies - numbers matter.
- > When you need to increase the number of firearms officers to counter the terrorist threat - numbers matter.
- > When the public wants to see you on every street corner whilst dealing with their online fraud or protecting their children from online paedophiles - numbers matter.
- > When you're on your own dealing with a violent offender - numbers matter.
- > In 2011 when rioting erupted in London and major cities - numbers mattered and they will matter again.
Let me be clear where the answer doesn't lie - in doing things differently or doing more with less. We've done that for the last 6 years and it has brought officers to the brink of exhaustion and beyond.
An already over-worked, over-stretched workforce will not be able to cope. We've talked about demand reduction and Chief Constable you have made some changes particularly around crime investigation with the introduction of the IMU. Tens of thousands of officer hours freed up. I know Chief Constable, you become frustrated when we tell you - yes, but officers aren't noticing that reduction. You ask, why? The answer is simple. We're playing catch-up. We lost 1,200 people and then we looked at demand. I know that demand continues to be looked at. Well, I'm sure the officers here tonight will say the time for looking has long passed. They need to see demand reduction as a reality making a real difference to their daily working lives.
If we don't then I see long-term sickness (over 28 days) will continue to grow. In 2010/11, pre-cuts we had 198 officers on long-term sick leave. That figure now stands at 381, an increase of 92%. More worrying is the increase in officers suffering from long-term mental health conditions; up from 70 in 2010/11 to a current figure of 163, an increase of 133%. Let's not forget this increase is set in the context of maintaining our Occupational Health Department along with Welfare and Counselling Services, something that was most certainly the right thing to do.
Whilst I accept that police officers witness some terrible scenes and run toward danger when everyone else is running away, I do not believe we have seen an increase in such events to account for 133% increase.
I suspect, but accept I don't know, that increased workloads and pressures in large part account for this increase. It must be more than an unhappy coincidence that sickness levels have increased as resource levels have dropped.
I warned of increases in sickness levels in 2014 and the situation has just got worse.
!n 2014/15 12% of the officer establishment were on long-term sick leave. It stands to reason that such levels impact on the workload of the officers who are at work.
Whilst we can theorise about the causes, it seems clear to me Chief Constable that action is now required. I think we may have taken our eye of the ball a little in terms of managing absence. I think we may have focused a little too much on processes and not enough on the people. I am all in favour of trying to get people back to work but maybe we need to be a little more imaginative and flexible in our approach; an approach that reflects the very individual nature of illnesses, especially psychiatric illnesses. I am going to suggest a task force be established involving HR, Occupational Health, Staff Associations, UNISON, those charged with demand reduction with a Chief Officer lead to urgently investigate and formulate a supportive strategy to understand and deal with this increase in sickness.
Demand management is not just about what we'll stop doing; not just about getting partner agencies to deal with their own demand. However, NHS - if you're listening we'd really appreciate it if you sorted out your provision of mental health care. Bobbies aren't health professionals and their involvement with metal health patients should only be in extremis. When it all goes wrong and the IPCC turns up to play at detectives, who are the ones held to account? Who are the ones left answering the questions? It isn't the health professionals. No, it's the police officers trying to do their best in extremely difficult circumstances.
Mr Scott, the issue of police involvement in dealing with mental health played a large part in your election campaign. I credit you for recognising the problem. Now comes the difficult bit. What are you going to do? We will be watching carefully. We are willing to work with you. Be clear on this - police officers have had their fill of empty promises around mental health. They want to see action. They want to see action that delivers a real difference.
Technology has a part to play in demand reduction but only if we use it to reduce demand not just to change the location of demand. Giving officers a tablet without reducing the bureaucracy that sits behind it isn't a recipe for reducing demand. Too often in the past we have all witnessed the introduction of IT that has gobbled up resources. We cannot have the tail wagging the dog. Technology is not the panacea some believe it to be.
Then of course we have Athena.
Now, my wife describes me as the gift that keeps on giving. Athena is the gift that never arrives! We've been told Athena will land in October. Chief Constable, I'd be grateful if you could confirm which year. I will make a plea to you all. You are the practitioners and if you think you have an idea to reduce demand, to free up time, to make things better or simpler then let us know. Better still, let the Chief know. Even better - use Idea Drop! I am confident the Chief would be happy to consider any sensible proposals. There isn't a monopoly on good ideas.
When I sit down to write the open meeting speech, there can be a tendency just to focus on what's wrong. So I'm going to finish tonight by focusing on an enormous positive for Kent Police.
A little over 3 years ago we started on a journey to change the culture of Kent Police, a journey led by the Chief Constable but initiated by your Federation. The first manifestation of that change was the abonnement of numeric targets. It would be easy to see our culture change as just that.
Thankfully it has been much more.
It is about freeing officers to use their discretion and professional judgement.
It's about a culture where it is alright to challenge and people regularly do just that through the Ethics Committee.
It's about doing the right thing, not what's best to reach an arbitrary target.
It's about shifting the balance to put victims and witnesses at the heart of what we do.
It's about a performance culture that's mature in its approach to rising crime types.
All this and more has resulted in HMIC grading Kent Police as outstanding for the legitimacy strand of its PEEL inspection; the only police force to achieve that grade.
What does that mean? It's about treating people fairly. It goes to the heart of British policing dealing as it does with consent showing that officers and staff colleagues behave consistently in a way that is fair, ethical and within the law.
This grading hasn't been achieved by the Police Federation. It hasn't been achieved by the Chief Const
able. Ladies and gentlemen - you have achieved this. You've done exactly what I knew you'd do. You proved the sceptics wrong. You've gone out and done what you all joined to do. You are outstanding and I salute you.
Thank you for listening.