Posts Tagged 'Police Federation'

Bend me, shape me…

Republished via BBC News

Police to abandon traditional helmets after research shows they alter officers’ head shapes

"It's stuck!"

The Custodian helmet is to be replaced.

Police forces across England & Wales are to replace the traditional Custodian helmet after researchers published data showing that over time, the helmets caused the shapes of their wearers’ heads to change.

Academics at the College of Policing demonstrated that over the course of several years, some officers’ heads were up to five inches longer than they had been when they had been measured as new recruits.

The Custodian, first adopted by the London Metropolitan Police in 1863, will be replaced by flat caps.

Long running research

The study into head shapes took place over twenty years with researchers gathering data from over 10,000 beat officers working in forces around England & Wales.

The data, published in the International Journal of Police Science, demonstrated a trend for officers’ heads to gradually assume the same shape as their helmets and to become noticeably more cone-shaped.

Changes in air pressure to blame

Report publisher Justin Lofter has said that the effect can be explained by “small changes in air pressure” within the helmet.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, he said: “The air pressure inside the helmet is slightly lower than outside causing a small suction effect on the top of the head which after several years, begins to pull the head into the shape of the helmet”

Tradition important

But Police Federation leader Dixon Green has argued that the ‘cone head’ effect has long been known about and that many officers are proud that their heads get reshaped by the traditional headgear.

“It’s a sign of experience”, he said.

Police forces are set to phase out the helmets by the end of the year.


Changes are taking the pace I’m going through…

Senior officers have always started on the beat before working their way up, direct entry proposals may end this tradition but should proposals for reform really cause so much controversy?

As things stand, every Chief Constable in England and Wales was once a ‘sprog’. They walked the beat, made the teas, did their time as student officers and made a stop at every police rank before settling upon their perches at the very top.

Under proposals made by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor, suitable candidates would be able to bypass the existing route to the senior ranks. Those with considerable experience at equivalent levels of local government or the military, as examples, could become superintendents in fifteen months rather than the twenty five year average it currently takes.

This hasn’t gone down particularly well with some officers though, particularly those representing the Police Federation who have expressed concerns that the uniqueness, the ‘X Factor’, of policing is under threat.

That the police service can be at times conservative in its outlook isn’t something that will surprise many people familiar with how the service works.

An article in today’s Independent referred to as ‘well known’ the ‘closed nature of the institution and its resistance to new people and new ideas’, going as far as to refer to individual forces as being ‘parochial’.

It’s worth remembering that with 130,000 officers, policing is a broad church under which a wide range of different opinions and positions are represented.

References to policing as being ‘closed’ to outside views is true to an extent I think. That we have powers over others which naturally set us aside from the public at large helps explain this. We refer to our occupation simply as ‘The Job’ to reflect the extent to which it does sit apart from other occupations.

With us being set aside by virtue of the powers conferred upon us, a strong internal culture exists perhaps not easily understood by those looking from the outside in. This culture has merits and disadvantages in equal measure.

From what I’ve seen, part of our culture is that as a default position, change can be seen as a negative influence. First impressions of change is that it will be a change for the worse, arguments in favour of the status quo are the ones that gain the most attention.

Our ‘resistance to new people and new ideas’ was well illustrated by the general discontent at Tom Winsor’s appointment as the first HMIC not to be a police officer, with thousands of officers protesting in London against the reform proposals in the Winsor Report.

As for why this is, why change can be viewed with such suspicion, it’s hard to say although I’ve often thought it may link back to the pride that officers have in the job that they have the privilege of doing.

Officers want to do the very best they can – when a proposal is made for change it is assessed from a cynical position. Potential pitfalls threaten officers’ ability to serve the public and as this is what they value over all else, the default position is preferred.

Coming as a part of this internal ethic is a deep respect for ‘service’, the longer serving officers having earned influence on the basis of their having experienced many changes over the course of their careers.

With many current officers having twenty or more years in the job, reform is looked at through past experience and when it is, the ‘old ways’ of doing things often appear preferable.

That the policing community is tight-knit I don’t see as something to be seen as negative, I would say though that the resistance to change arising from our internal culture isn’t always in our best interests and that without a willingness to adapt, the job that we value so much will likely suffer.

New policies, structures and approaches are sometimes seen as ‘reinventing the wheel’ yet with the world around us constantly evolving, us not moving with it will mean we quickly get left behind, unsuited to new challenges and ill-positioned to take advantages of fresh opportunities.

That you’re reading this blog is a good example of how police forces can benefit from embracing change.

Allowing individual officers to build links with the public rather than leaving the responsibility solely with press offices has been hugely beneficial and yet there are forces still hesitant to let their officers do the same, even with social media now the best part of ten years old.

It’s right that new proposals should be critiqued and tested before they are implemented but the position that change is to be feared appears only to restrict us from making the most of developments benefiting other sectors willing to try something new.

It’s thanks to a willingness to change female officers are no longer issued with handbags for their truncheons, that steps to address ‘institutional’ racism have been made and thanks to change in practices and approach that public confidence in the police has increased year on year.

Change can be for the better too.

No one dared to ask his business, no one dared to make a slip for the stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip…

Should we be given guns? I’m not so sure…

The below article was written early last year but never published. With the tragic shooting of two police officers in Manchester and the subsequent debate on arming police officers now seems an appropriate time to look at the issue and so I’ve edited it to bring it up to date. As for the incident itself I don’t think I can add anything to the words of DCC Thompson over on his blog, take a look if you’ve not done so already.

Should I be given a gun? My immediate answers would be no, I probably shouldn’t be (I’d quickly run out of toes) but should British police officers in general be routinely armed?

In this post, inspired by some of the interest in the subject shown during our Tweet & Greet, I consider whether arming us officers would be beneficial.

The tradition in Britain is that we police by consent. Robert Peel, founder of the Met, stated how important this is to the effectiveness of the police when he included it as part of his ‘Peelian Principles‘.

We are able to police the population because the majority of the public readily support what we are doing and are willing to help us.

The opposite to consent would be coercion. Routinely carrying a firearm I think suggests that there’s no confidence we are able to police by consent alone, something we’ve done successfully for nearly two centuries.

Further to this, having a handgun strapped to the hip represents a huge barrier between the officer and a member of the public. The presence of a firearm is unnerving and it’s not part of our tradition that the option exists at all to readily deploy lethal force.

As Peel thought, ‘the police are the public and the public are the police‘ – issuing us firearms would be a step away from this very important principle.

Speaking to an armed officer is a different interaction to that with a regular bobby and I would argue people would feel less at ease when doing so.

I don’t think I’ve ever been to a job when I’ve thought I might want to be carrying a firearm, nor one that I thought the use of a gun might help things. There are situations when the threat is such that we’ll need access to a higher level of force but this is what our armed response units are there to provide.

The majority of the jobs that we deal with, certainly in Walsall, do not necessitate us carrying guns and incidents in which we encounter guns on the streets are very, very rare.

Guns simply aren’t relevant to our role the majority of the time and across the hundreds of thousands of daily interactions between police and public have no part to play.

I think it’s not only that guns don’t seem relevant to my day to day role, it’s also that I joined the police under conditions such that a lethal option was not put at my immediate disposal.

I’m hesitant to use force at the best of times – I’ve not used my CS Spray and have never even drawn my baton. I’d have real reservations about being given a gun.

Currently officers have the option of putting themselves in a position in which one day they might have to take a life, a huge responsibility in itself. Arming every officer takes this choice away – I’d be carrying something that might end someone else’s life and change mine forever.

Debate about arming police officers will always be present, brought to the fore periodically by incidents such as the shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005, Derrick Bird’s rampage in Cumbria the year before last and now the horrific incident in Manchester.

In a 2006 Police Federation survey, over 80% of the 47,000 members asked stated that they did not wish to see officers routinely armed on duty.

Until I see something to address the above concerns about giving us guns, I’ll remain in this 80%.

Step into my office baby…

Tom Winsor has become the first person to be appointed as Chief Inspector of Constabulary not to have served previously as a senior police officer – why the controversy though?

Yesterday it was announced that there’s a fresh face due to oversee the office of the Police Constable.

His name is Tom Winsor, he’s been appointed as the new Chief Inspector of Constabulary for England and Wales and contrary to this blog’s title, I probably couldn’t get away with calling him ‘babe’.

The news has been greeted with a mixed reaction by police with some thinking that he’s not an appropriate person for the role.

What does Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) actually do though and why might Mr Winsor be seen as a controversial choice?

It is the role of HMIC to independently oversee on behalf of the Home Office the work of English and Welsh police forces. The HMIC is perhaps a little like what Ofsted is to schools – it measures and assesses how forces are performing and then produces reports aimed at improving said performance.

Up until now the head of HMIC has always been a high ranking police officer.

Since 2009 it has been Sir Denis O’Connor, a former Chief Constable of Surrey Police who has also held senior positions in Kent Police and the Met.

Mr Winsor’s appointment breaks with this tradition – his background is in the legal profession, he is a lawyer and spent several years working as the Rail Regulator.

This is perhaps not the primary source of the controversy though – Mr Winsor is also the author of the Winsor Report which was a large scale review into the working rights and pay of police officers.

Some in the police force, particularly those representing the Police Federation, felt that the recommendations of Mr Winsor’s report were unfair and so objected to them publicly with several thousand officers traveling to London to register their concerns at a demonstration march.

Mr Winsor’s appointment has been described as ‘very difficult’ news by Paul McKeever, Chairman of the Police Federation, who also said he could understand officers’ ‘anger and frustration’ at the move.

Speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee before his appointment though, Mr Winsor had sought to reassure that it was “not essential” that the Chief Inspector’s role be filled by a police officer and that he’d work hard in the best interests of the public.

It’s fair to say that Mr Winsor’s appointment is a bold move and one that was always likely to raise a few eyebrows inside the police service.

At the same time this is a period of significant change for policing and fresh ideas may be beneficial to adapting to lower budgets and reduced staffing numbers.

Mr Winsor’s report advocated direct entry to encourage new experience into policing and his own appointment appears to continue along the same line.

Consider the time Adam Crozier spent as The Football Association’s Chief Executive – Crozier too had little direct experience of football having come from a business background but despite this apparent disadvantage, was able to implement a series of changes that boosted The FA’s profitability and governance.

It’s too early to say whether Mr Winsor’s appointment as Chief Inspector of Constabulary will be a success, what does seem clear though is that the move is a sign that the times are changing and the police service needs to move with them.

March in the morning sun…

The Police Federation is encouraging officers to come to London today and take part in a protest march against the Winsor Report – why are they doing this though and what’s in the report itself?

If you keep your peepers on the news today, you’re probably going to see something about a rather orderly demonstration making its way through the streets of Westminster. You’ll notice that it’s a little over-policed (pretty much every marcher is a police officer) and that the participants are opposing something called the Winsor Report.

What’s going on though? What’s the reason for this mass foot patrol and why are some members of the police force not happy about the changes to their pay and conditions as proposed by Winsor?

First of all, this is a pretty difficult one to write about for a range of reasons.

The Winsor Report itself is spread over a few hundred fact-filled pages and doesn’t make the easiest bedtime reading so summing it up is far from easy.

There are also a range of opinions about what the proposals really mean and how they’re likely to affect the police – representing all sides fairly is far from straightforward.

This said, I’ll try my best – who is Tom Winsor and what’s he got to say about policing?

Mr. Winsor is a lawyer and Great Britain’s former Rail Regulator. In 2010 the Home Secretary, Theresa May, asked him to sit down and take a look at how police pay and conditions could be reviewed with the objective of improving the efficiency of how the police manage their manpower and to ensure that remuneration and working conditions are fair.

This is set within the context of the harsh economic climate – a national debt of around £18 billion and an estimated cost to the taxpayer for public sector pensions of £32 billion, out of which £1.9 billion is accounted for by police pensions.

Review he did and in March last year the first part of his report was published looking at recommendations aimed at making short term improvements. It predicted that if the changes suggested were adopted, savings from the police pay bill of £1.1 billion were possible over a three year period.

Before Part One could be brought into force, negotiations took place with the Police Federation (who represent rank and file officers) as to which of the recommendations would be accepted. At the conclusion of this process, the Home Secretary announced that she would support the implementation of Part One’s recommendations.

After a pregnant pause lasting a year, the second part of the Winsor Report was published. Part Two looks at longer term changes to the police force with some of the key suggestions being as follows -

  • A new direct entry scheme to Inspector level
  • Pension age to be raised from 55 to 60
  • Compulsory severance for police officers
  • A reduction in pay for officers not in a position requiring the use of their warranted powers and for those on medical restrictions
  • Introduction of an annual fitness test
  • Changes to how officers progress through the pay scales including shorter intervals and payment linked to skills

In favour of these recommendations, Winsor argues that they will reward the hardest working officers and in his words ‘create a more skilled and effective workforce fit to face the challenges of the next thirty years’.

Raising the retirement age should help address the funding gap in public sector pensions and by opening up direct entry to senior ranks, it is proposed that policing will appear a more attractive career path and so attract the best candidates.

Winsor believes the ability to make police officers redundant will help Chief Constables better manage their resources in times of financial hardship and that the skills base of forces will be improved by introducing a stronger financial incentive to gain valued training and experience.

Opposing the report, the Police Federation has expressed concern that the review could ‘dismantle’ the British police service.

It is said that the first part of the review, alongside the Hutton report on public sector pensions, have already dented morale and that officers feel betrayed that the conditions for which they signed up for are apparently being weakened with the perception being that they will have to work longer and contribute more but end up with less on retirement. Job security could be threatened by compulsory redundancies and the report’s focus on front line duties may undervalue important backroom functions.

In addition to these concerns, the Federation say their members are expressing wider frustrations with the series of financial cuts expected of the service (20% across four years) as well as staff reductions and perceived moves towards ‘privatisation’ of the police.

As I said at the start of this blog, this isn’t an easy one to sum up in under a thousand words and as such I think the best I can do, having given a brief overview, is to point you in the right direction to find out a little more about the issues raised by the march. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin -

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