The Police Federation is in the firing line this morning, and not before time. The federation sounds like something out of Rebus. The allegations of ‘endemic’ bullying and ‘cruel and gratuitous’ acts contained in Sir David Norrington’s report, and the subsequent parliamentary inquiries, date back over at least 8 years. With delicious irony, some of those allegations have been made against the federation’s equality and anti-bullying officers. The officers dispute the claims and say that the complaints were resolved on an informal basis some years ago; but you wouldn’t bet against further investigation in this atmosphere.
The central finding of these reports is that the rank and file of the police detests the “coppers’ union”. They blame the organisation for undermining public trust in the police (trust is the police’s greatest currency because they must maintain order by consent.) There is a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ at play. This is not the easiest time for the ordinary copper, whose pay and allowances have been trimmed. Meanwhile, as Mr Steerpike has noted previously, the federation’s headquarters in Leatherhead stand as a monument to the organisation’s hubris and the self-interest of many if its leaders. The plenty has continued to flow through Leatherhead despite ‘the age of austerity’. The federation is also sitting on more than £70m in cash reserves, which is the equivalent of £120 per member.
Enough, it seems, is enough. Sir David Norrington has called for extensive reform to ensure that transparency and professionalism are brought to the federation. The organisation must also offer value for money for its members, he says. In short the Police Federation exists to serve members, not the other way round.
The federation will convene for its annual conference next week to discuss these matters. The members will need to find a replacement for Steve Williams, the well intentioned Chair of the Police Federation who has been hounded from office by an internal cabal who resisted his attempts at reform. Keith Vaz, who runs the Home Affairs Select Committee, has called for the federation to adopt reform and return subscriptions to its members. It would be well advised to do so; Vaz rarely picks the unpopular side of the argument.
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