Witch hunts for honest officers a disgrace

05 June 2015

“Witch hunts to discipline officers who seek to speak out against the impact cuts are having on policing numbers are a disgrace.”

So says Steve White, chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, who says he is becoming increasingly alarmed at the number of cases where officers are being hauled over the coals simply for telling the truth.

His words come following comments made by Humberside Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Grove, who said that police officers were “becoming criminals” after they told their local newspaper about staffing cuts and that officers who spoke to the press could face action. But this is not an isolated incident.

“It’s a disgrace that officers are worried about speaking out and a disgrace that those who do face reprimand,” said Mr White. “I am not advocating state secrets being given, nor divulging information which would make officers vulnerable or indeed any improper leaks but there is a clear difference between being honest about how many officers are on duty and giving information that could threaten the security of the UK.

“The public does have a right to know how many officers are on duty in their towns and quite frankly I would urge you all to ask that of your local force. I don’t buy that this is confidential information and the public should expect to know how many officers are on duty and how far away they are.”

Earlier in the year the Federation held a national policing #truepicture day on Twitter in order for officers to highlight the range of incidents they are called to deal with – mostly not crime-related - in order to illustrate the true picture of policing.

Some officers who wanted to take part were told they would be disciplined if they did so, while others forwarded their tweets to third parties in order to tweet on their behalf and get their stories heard in a protected way, so worried where they at telling the truth.

More recently Mr White said he had been given numerous examples where officers were being giving dressing downs for telling their communities about the number of officers on duty at any one time.

“Stopping public servants from disclosing staffing details is hardly in the same league revealing details of an operational matter and it is insulting to officers to suggest they would deliberately do such a thing and a disgrace that they are disciplined - informally or otherwise – for doing so,” continued Mr White.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t condone any improper leaks and of course there have been high-profile cases which have highlighted this issue, but it is a crying shame that officers are being gagged through fear when all they are doing is giving a truthful account of the current state of policing and telling it like it is.

“In my opinion any police officer who speaks out should be applauded, not reprimanded. The public need to be fully aware that the loss of 17,000 officers nationally, with further numbers being cut, means there are simply fewer to go around. It’s not rocket science is it?”