Friday, 1 June 2007

John Reid gets both barrels from Jan Berry, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales

The following is taken from the Police Federation Annual Conference keynote speech by Jan Berry, Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, to the Home Secretary. And Jan is not happy:

Home Secretary, may I thank you once again for coming to what is your second and final conference, and for agreeing to answer questions. We always encourage politicians to answer police officers’ questions. I should point out, any mention of cash or honours here today will be strictly about our cash, and our honour.

They tell me the view is better from the backbenches, so I’m sure you will have plenty of time to reflect on decisions you have – and critically haven’t – made over the course of what’s been a very busy year. Despite all the challenges we have faced, police officers have done what they always do. They’ve given it 110 percent. The reaction to the terrible murders in Ipswich was a first class example of forces sharing skills, knowledge, equipment and experience.

For years we’ve policed using common-sense. This is now under serious threat. As a result of Government diktats the service has been reduced to a bureaucratic, target-chasing, points-obsessed arm of Whitehall; debasing what was once a sensible police service. There is no better example of the control-freakery that is eroding common-sense: than Penalty Notices for Disorder. When PNDs were first mooted, we acknowledged that used properly, they could bring some benefits. But we were also absolutely adamant that PNDs, could never and would never, deliver a faster, more effective justice system on their own.
A child who threw buns at a bus?
A man who threw water over his girlfriend?
And a man caught in possession of an egg … ‘with intent to throw.’
These are hardly weapons of mass destruction! All these cases should have been dealt with by a quiet word and good old-fashioned common sense.

As we heard yesterday from Sergeant Sam Roberts, it is madness that an officer gets 30 points if he or she issues a penalty notice but only 20 for charging, and pursuing the case through the courts. Sam told us about an officer who arrested someone for shoplifting. But rather than chase points and rather than follow what officers are pressured to do, the officer investigated further. It turned out that the offender had over two and a half thousand TICs; his home an Aladdin’s cave of stolen property, not to mention a lucrative business selling it online. How can we have a system that discourages police officers from investigating crimes properly; from doing what they know and believe is right, and encourages them to take short-cuts and issue PNDs like confetti?

Discretion has been at the heart of British policing since the days of Sir Robert Peel. It is the very essence of policing by consent; of OUR relationship with the public and their relationship with US. The most astonishing thing is that these principles of policing by consent were born in Britain. Right now, as I speak, there are literally hundreds of British police officers serving overseas – in Romania, Jordan, Jamaica – training forces to replicate our ethos and our values. But at the very same time, government ministers and Chief Officers are collaborating in their destruction.

Last year I described how the police reform programme was like a juggernaut careering downhill, out of control. We appealed for you to take the wheel and apply the brakes. You must have misheard our instructions. Not only did you fail to apply the brakes, you are jumping out of the cab, handing the wheel over to a new driver – and probably one with a dodgy licence. But there’s actually nothing funny about that. We will have to live with the consequences. The Police service is being dismantled, piece by piece, eroding the Office of Constable in the process. My greatest fear is that when the failed experiment is over, and you’re busy writing your memoirs, it’ll be impossible to put the service back together again.

So there you have it from the horses mouth, rather than the snakes. The above shows how the Police themselves feel the force is being run. The Police don't want to be chasing points, they want to be chasing criminals. The greatest factor ruining the effectiveness of today's Police Force is the continual trend to strip away Police discretion. Any fool can hand out PND's (penalty notice for disorder) to achieve their required number of points to meet government targets, but it takes real policing to reduce crime. It's not the criminals who are handcuffed today, it's the police.

You can read Jan's full speech HERE. (It's worth reading in full, she makes many cutting remarks).

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