A policeman’s lot

May 21, 2008

police.jpgA policeman’s lot is not a happy one, sing the officers in Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance”.

Judging from views expressed by many delegates who gathered in Bournemouth for the Police Federation’s annual conference, it is a refrain that is appropriate for Britain’s bobbies today.

From anger over pay and talk of possible strikes, to underlying resentment about the growth in the number of community support officers, rank and file police are far from content.

“The sergeants of England and Wales are not happy,” said Paul McKeever, chairman of the Federation’s sergeant committee, as he began his speech before delivering a damning verdict of Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government.

Brown was a “Mr Bean” figure he said, borrowing the scathing reference from Lib Dem MP Vince Cable, a “bean counter” who had broken the trust between government and police officers over the decision not to backdate a pay rise recommended by an independent panel as expected.

“How feckless, how incompetent and how very imprudent Gordon Brown must have been to get us into this dreadful state, McKeever went on, before reminding his colleagues that Brown has registered the fastest fall in popularity of any British Prime Minister.

It was hardly surprising that Home Secretary Jacqui Smith bore the brunt of the resentment over pay when she faced the delegates. A brave decision, said Jan Berry, the Federation’s chairman, but not one that spared her from ridicule or mockery.

But it wasn’t just pay that had got the delegates’ heckles up. The growth in the number of community support officers (PCSOs) — officers who have less training and fewer powers than full police officers — was another issue arousing strong feeling.

Smith was greeted with jeering and laughter when she suggested that the public would be as happy to have a PCSO as a proper bobby on the beat. Berry said her members feared that it could mean proper officers only dealt with confrontational issues, “a paramilitary force and one fundamentally different from the concept of policing by consent”.

Berry continued: “The inept management of modernisation is nothing short of a scandal.”

Despite the anger directed at the government, perhaps the recipient of the greatest derision was Richard Bobbett, the Chief Executive Officer for Airwave, the police’s radio communications system.

It often didn’t work properly in London, didn’t work at all in the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff — just making a “beep, beep” noise, and radios needed to be put in plastic bags if it was raining, delegates told him.

Alan Gordon, Police Federation vice chairman, said he suspected it would struggle to even cope with “a well-attended village egg and spoon race”.


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Well done to the police federation for making a strong stand. – morale in the force is at an all time low and no amount of government spin or gloss can chnge it.
This government has taxed us through the nose and spent the proceeds terribly. – the rank and file of such key areas as the police, the army and the nhs are all struggling with a goverment that uses words of praise freely but will not back it up with real measures.
We are all sick of it.

Posted by Alex | Report as abusive

Typical hypocrisy of the home secretary and the government.

They cannot give the full rise because of financial restraint, yet PCSO’S were given a 2.5% pay rise backdated until September 2007. They are paid from the same police budgets.

The government purposely picked on the police because they cannot strike. The previous paydeal (which the government unilaterally reneged on) took into account that officers cannot strike, work to rule, have restrictions placed on their private lives.

Police Officers are far more important, They are officers of the law, whereas PCSO’S can only assist the officers. Unfortunately in a lot of cases not very well.

If you work in any public service, (Police/Fire/NHS) the attitude of this government is we have to have it but lets do it as cheap as possible and damn the consequences, we can always blame the staff for it going wrong, as opposed to standing up and admitting “We got it wrong”.

For a government that is supposed to support working people I find it rather strange that over the last 30 years industrial action has been on a larger scale when labour are in power as opposed to conservatives.

Posted by Ian | Report as abusive

Jackie Smith is quite right in not giving the police their full pay rise – they don’t deserve it. Take into account in the Menezes shooting, several other recent high profile failures, cock-ups (and atempted cover-ups) and the fact that a lot of people are very dissatisfied with the response they get from the police, and it’s quite clear that they’re not delivering the service they are paid to or providing value for money. It’s also clear that a lot of them are just not up to the job. When they start delivering a proper service to the taxpaying public, then we can start thinking about giving them a pay rise.

Posted by clive helm | Report as abusive

Police officers are tax payers..thats right Clive – tarnish them all with your bland statements

Posted by Amy Barnes | Report as abusive

[…] something that has still not been addressed and who was met with laughter and uproar when she suggested that the public would be as happy to have a PCSO (a community support officer or trumped up traffic warden) as a proper bobby on the […]

Posted by UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, on drugs | Report as abusive