Review highly critical of UK’s police body

Independent panel say federation has lost the trust of the public and its members

A review of Britain’s Police Federation, which represents 130,000 police officers in England and Wales, says there is a “worrying loss of confidence and competence inside the organisation and a serious loss of influence outside”. Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images

A review of Britain’s Police Federation, which represents 130,000 police officers in England and Wales, says there is a “worrying loss of confidence and competence inside the organisation and a serious loss of influence outside”. Photograph: Andrew Cowie/AFP/Getty Images

Tue, Jan 21, 2014, 01:00

Britain’s Police Federation, the body which represents 130,000 police officers in England and Wales, is badly run, riven with distrust, division and narrow self-interest, according to a new review.

The external review panel, led by the former civil service head of the Home Office, Sir David Normington, was organised after the federation made highly-personal calls for Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell to be ejected from the cabinet in late 2012 after a clash with Downing Street police.

The panel found the federation had “personally targeted” successive home secretaries and other leading figures, bringing it “into disrepute and risking the police reputation for impartiality and integrity”.

The Police Federation, which was set up in 1919, “should be a powerful voice for standards in British policing but at present it is badly placed to be that voice”, warned the review panel.

“There is a worrying loss of confidence and competence inside the organisation and a serious loss of influence outside,” said the panel, adding the federation “is not currently doing its job well enough” – a fact that should be “a matter of concern for us all”.

Police forces in England and Wales have already lost a fifth of their budget over the past three years because of spending cuts and will lose 15,000 front-line officers in the coming year. More staff cuts are likely to follow over the following two years.

The challenges would test any representative organisation, the panel of experts accepted “[but] the consensus is, however, that the federation has failed to make its voice sufficiently heard or to put its public case effectively. “It needed to marshal the evidence at national and local levels about the effects of cuts and to build public support for its case and then match this evidence to a credible strategy of influence. “It has conspicuously failed to do so,” it went on.

Too often, the federation has chosen opposition, rather than engagement: “When it has come forward with good ideas, it has done so too late to be influential, largely because of internal division at headquarters.

“It has also too often fallen back on its traditional tendency to attack and try to undermine those who are proposing the changes, rather than take on the issues,” they warned. “More of the same” will just make the situation worse, they added.

“Ordinary members are understandably angry that [it] has not been able to stop the changes or secure a better deal,” they went on, noting the federation had been unable to convince its members it had done well in pension negotiations, even when it had.

“As a whole [it] has spent too much time arguing amongst itself about its strategy and response and trying to resist some of what was inevitable given the wider economic and public context [of austerity],”.

Some of its officials are determined to enjoy “the fruits of elected positions” and prepared “to play political games while ignoring the interests of their members”, leaving a “tendency for the workload to fall on a few”, they said.