Nearing the halfway point in the current financial year as we hurtle towards the surprise that will be Christmas (100 days to go!), I thought it was worth taking stock of where we are as a Federation, both in the day to day work with the force and other stakeholders and also with the changes to the Federation.
We now have three new full time Federation members in Kent, including myself as Chairman, Sgt Dan Pearce as the General Secretary and DC Les Bingham as the Treasurer and Deputy Secretary. Whilst the Federation is a 'rank less' organisation, it is worth noting that all three federated ranks are now represented within the full time roles and so this provides as wider perspective of the issues facing members that can be achieved. When this is added to the experience of the current workplace representatives it puts the Federation in a strong and credible position in Kent.
It has been interesting to see the reaction of all of us coming into the office full time to the sheer scale and variety of the work and the level of engagement we undertake. The 'bread and butter' work of representing officers in misconduct matters is a large chunk of the work we do but the reality is that there much more than this required.
A key work stream has been around New Horizon, the forces new model to address primarily how we deal with 'vulnerability'. As with any change on this scale, it is the workforce that is affected the most and this is where the Federation have been involved. We have, at a variety of meetings and consultations, fed back members concerns on VIT and custody which have been around staffing, training and postings generally. By raising these issues, clarity and improved communications have resulted helping staff understand the expectations of them, making it easier for them to move into new roles. I can't claim that every concern has been addressed but what we have achieved is keeping issues such as vacancies and refresher training for custody staff at the top of the agenda. Importantly, during the postings process for New Horizon, as a Federation we were able to push for those on restrictions and adjusted duties to be posted according to what they 'can do' into proper roles. This is absolutely the right thing to do, focusing on the individual, ensuring they have the support they need and ensuring their contribution is recognised.
We have also undertaken consultations on a number of force policies, including most recently a refresh on sharps injuries policy and more prominently the wearing of body armour. Support force wide from officers was for the wearing of body armour to be mandated and the new policy reflects this. During the consultation the Federation argued for a practical application of the policy, giving officers the choice of knowing when they don't need to wear it and having the flexibility to not do so. This has to be the right approach, we trust officers to make vital decisions daily that affect people's lives, they should be trusted to know when they need to wear PPE and when they don't.
In terms of external stakeholder engagement, we have as a Federation written to all Kent MP's, and met with some personally, to put forward the case for the ending of the pay cap, for recognition within legislation of police pursuit driving and how officers are treated and also for a review of assaults on police officers and whether the current legislation is fit for purpose. These issues remain central on the policing agenda and some movement has been achieved around the pay cap. We have raised the profile of a private members bill that is being proposed to address concerns around assaults on emergency services workers with MP's in Kent and will continue to do so to seek their support for it. In addition to this, regular meetings are now occurring with the PCC's office and the Federation to make sure our members voices are heard at the strategic levels of policing. In relation to the media, I have provided radio interviews on spit hoods, crime data integrity, Taser use, public space protection orders and assaults on police to name just a few. Similar written press interviews and comments have also been provided by me on these and other issues such as the demand facing the force. With regards to assault, I was able to arrange an interview between the BBC and officer who had been spat at. This provided the reality, from an officer's perspective, about the impact this has on officers and their families. A poll on the day conducted by the radio station of callers into the show revealed over 90% in favour of the introduction of spit hoods in Kent.
Regulation and rule changes for the Federation will now increase in pace up to and especially during 2018. In addition the aim is for your Federation officials to be more visible and this means you'll continue to see me completing OST and the fitness test, holding and attending meetings out on divisions and districts and 'lending a hand' during operations such as Op Capture. It remains a personal choice to 'stay in touch' on this way but for me it adds credibility and first-hand experience to what the force is asking you to do on a daily basis.
There is and will be room for officers to get involved with the Federation as reps so if you are thinking about it or are interested then please get in touch. To comment on the key issues affecting the police then check out the Kent Polfed Facebook page.
Kent Police Federation