While the political landscape is dominated by Brexit, please support our British bobbies
The Vice-Chair of the Police federation of England and Wales Calum Macleod urges MPs to stand up and show their support for police officers and other emergency service workers.
Police officers work tirelessly to protect the public from harm, and that has never been more evident than in recent months as we continue to fight terrorism, as well as an increase in the vast majority of crimes. But who protects the protectors? The answer is of course the Federation as our duty as a staff association but the answer also lies with Parliament.
Under the campaign ‘Protect The Protectors’ we are working hard to do exactly that. The campaign was initiated to raise awareness of the staggering number of assaults that are committed against police officers – it is estimated that one takes place every four minutes – but has evolved to encompass much more.
Primarily, we want to achieve a change in legislation for assaults against emergency service workers – including a police officer, firefighter, paramedic or nurse – to become a specific offence and harsher sentences for those who do assault emergency service workers, to act as a real deterrent. We are also calling for better training and access to equipment such as Taser, spit guards and body-worn video, and would like to see a change in legislation to grant greater protection for trained police drivers who respond as part of their job to pursue criminals or attend serious incidents.
In addition we are working towards improving welfare support and provision for our members whose morale is at an all-time low due to rising demand, overstretched resources and a four-year pay cap preceded by a two-year pay freeze (in real terms pay has dropped by around 15% since 2010). And with regard to the recent 2% pay award – of which 1% is a pensionable pay rise and 1% is an additional amount of money just for this year – our officers deserve more realistic pay for the immensely demanding role they perform.
Our recent study into police pay and morale found more than one in 10 officers can’t afford everyday essentials like food and petrol, and we know some are having to use food vouchers. Nearly two thirds of respondents said their morale was low due to their pay and conditions, excessive workload and their health and wellbeing.
The British police service is the best in the world but we can’t take that for granted; the level of resilience is dropping. The Government’s primary responsibility is the safety and security of its citizens and we must ensure we have a police service which is able to do the job.
Our members are trying their best to do more with less, and have gone far above and beyond, but it’s getting impossible. To put this in context there are 20,000 fewer cops now than in 2010 with a fall of 1,000 in the last year. Yet ONS figures show violent crime is up 18% with gun crime and knife crime up 23% and 20% respectively – and these figures do not include the recent terror attacks.
While we understand there is sympathy in Westminster, and from the public, for rank and file officers, we urge politicians to stand up and show they support their police officers. Following The Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Private Members’ Bill in July – which won cross-party support – a second reading of the Bill is due to take place on 20 October and we need at least 100 MPs to be there. With support from the British Transport Police Federation and Prison Officers’ Association, if progressed this will be a well-deserved boost for police officers and other emergency and public sector workers.
So while the political landscape might be dominated by Brexit and negotiations with the rest of Europe, please support your British bobbies; they need you.
Show your support for tougher sentences to deter assaults on emergency service workers at www.polfed.org/ptp
This article appears in the Conservative conference edition of the House Magazine. The Police Federation of England and Wales has responded to an article from Stephen Crabb MP which can be found here.
(This article also appeared in the Labour conference edition of the House Magazine. The Police Federation of England and Wales has responded to an article from Holly Lynch MP which can be found here.)