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It's party conference time

Friday, 23 September 2016

PFEW Vice-Chair Calum Macleod explains why we bother engaging with Government, why we ask the Home Secretary to our annual conference and why we spend time speaking with MPs...

The simple answer is we must.

As we find ourselves in Party conference season again, it is our opportunity to drive home your messages to politicians and to try to influence action on your behalf. Officers from your local and national federation will be there, ensuring your voice is heard.

This year our messaging is clear and consistent:

  • Assaulting a police officer is unacceptable. It is an assault on society and this needs to be reflected when charging and sentencing those who have assaulted officers. It should never be accepted that being assaulted is part of the job. 
  • Taser is a vital piece of equipment, to not only protect the public but to protect officers who are carrying out their duty. In over 80% of cases, Taser acts as a deterrent and offenders stop what they are doing. Taser is an option, not a cure all; it's a tactical option to real situations of danger that occur and that is why we are calling for its wider roll out to all officers who wish to be trained and held accountable for its use.
  • We will also be calling for a change in legislation, as it is currently illegal for emergency response drivers to drive in a way that the public expects in order to fight crime or attend serious incidents. We will be campaigning to introduce into legislation an exemption for police officers that will recognise the training and expertise they have. If a situation arises where an officer - during the execution of their duty - does have to engage in a vehicle response or vehicle pursuit, they should not be unfairly processed through the courts.
  • Collectively we will also be calling for mental health professionals to be used as the first response to mental health emergencies. We are still seeing police stations being used as places of safety under Sections 135/136 of the Mental Health Act and this has to stop. The appropriate care has to be provided for those who are vulnerable in order to safeguard them. Our resources continue to be stretched by providing a service that we are not best placed to fulfil.
  • We will also be focusing on the impact that the changing face of crime has on our service delivery. There are over 20,000 less police officers than there were six years ago, with ever increasing demands on our members and without the specialist support we were able to call on in the past. We need to meet the demands placed on us by the public and to achieve that we need to have a well-funded, trained and motivated workforce. Public safety is being called into question.

Any changes proposed that impact upon both England and Wales will of course require the consent of both the Welsh Government and The National Assembly for Wales.

So if these are not issues that are important to you then yes, you could argue that spending time in Westminster is not a good use of time.

But if we are to make changes and make a difference to you and the communities we police, then this is exactly where we should be – informing MPs so that they can fight for our cause. But it is not just us. We can all do our bit to highlight these issues to local members of parliament, to local councillors, or to police and crime commissioners. Real examples resonate with those who have accountability to the public at a local level and I would encourage you all to take time out (where possible) from your demanding schedules and drive home the messages. Because together we can make a difference.

Update from Labour Party Conference 25-28 September

We had constructive discussions throughout the conference with a number MPs and PPCs who were in attendance and highlighted to them the issues that you our members are facing.

We renewed our calls that an assault on a police officer is an assault on society and that sentencing should reflect this, we called for the wider roll out of Taser as a piece of equipment necessary to protect both officers and the public and for legislation to protect response drivers attending incidents during the course of their duties, we highlighted the impact on service delivery by the reduction in officer numbers and the impact this has had on the health and wellbeing of officers.

We feel that our discussions were constructive and as a result of these and other discussions a planned day of action in Parliament is being organised by Holly Lynch MP, around officer assaults.

This will culminate in Holly addressing Parliament on an Adjournment Debate, entitled ‘Police Officer Safety’ and is due to take place on Tuesday 11 October. This will be followed by a session in Westminster where MPs and others will be invited to discuss first hand with officers their concerns and the dangers that they face on a daily basis.

We will be consistent in delivering our same messages to the conservative conference this week where we have pre arranged meetings again with a number of MPs and Police and Crime Commissioners.

We are laying the foundations to make significant changes on your behalf and we will all strive to achieve them for you, our members.

Update from Conservative Party Conference 1-4 October

We held an event for a number of Conservative MPs including the Policing Minister Brandon Lewis MP (Great Yarmouth), Victoria Atkins MP (Louth & Horncastle), James Cleverly MP (Braintree), Seema Kennedy MP (South Ribble) and Caroline Nokes MP (Romsey and Southampton North) as well as PCCs John Campion (West Mercia), Alison Hernandez (Devon and Cornwall), Kathryn Holloway (Bedfordshire) and Anthony Standfield (Thames Valley).  

A number of topics were discussed including spit guards, collaboration between forces and services, Taser, officer numbers and the growing strain on our colleagues, and the IPCC and timeliness of investigations, but most emphasis was given to assaults on police and the issue of protection for police drivers while responding and/or pursuing.  

Brandon Lewis stated that he felt more needs to be done to ensure that officers feel valued as members of what he described as the greatest police service in the world.  He accepted the need for sentences for those who assault police to reflect the gravity of such an assault.

The issue of protection for police drivers was discussed at length. The PFEW position, that legislative change is needed, seemed to be rejected by the politicians present in favour of further work around changing guidelines to address the issue.  Kathryn Holloway (Beds PCC) was a very vocal supporter of police and offered further assistance in our work. Like others in the room, she also found it ludicrous that driver training counted for nothing where an officer faces prosecution post-pursuit or response drive.

James Cleverly MP (Braintree) was keen to stress that the power of arrest would never move to other services in the same way that putting out fires and administering drugs would always remain with firefighters and paramedics respectively. However, he saw much crossover in what we all do and seemed very keen to explore this further.

We will continue to work with all MPs and PCCs to highlight the issues affecting members and do all we can to lobby them to make the changes needed.

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