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The Government's on a crash course with North Yorkshire police officers

North Yorkshire Police Federation

9:46am 27th June 2012

Speaking ahead of the appearance of  the Home Secretary’s preferred candidate to be Her Majesty’s Chief inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor at the Home Affairs Select Committee (1145am Tuesday 26th June 2012)

 Mark Botham, Chairman of the North Yorkshire Police Federation, says:
" We believe it is fundamentally important that the HMCIC must have extensive knowledge and experience of policing.
We were happy when the press advertisement for the post of HMCIC clearly stated  the next HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary will be an inspirational leader with extensive understanding of operational policing.”
Because this role has traditionally been that of chief adviser to the Home Secretary on policing matters and has, for the last 156 years, been an individual with extensive experience of operational policing.
In our view, we struggle to comprehend how anyone who has not worked extensively within the police service – whether as an officer or a civilian – could demonstrate such an ‘extensive understanding’.
Last week Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary published a report on anti social behaviour (click here) which showed quite clearly that policing is about much more than crime. Anti-social behaviour blights many peoples’ lives and we must ensure that it remains a priority for policing
We note the HMIC have made the comment on page 5 of their report (click here) HMIC found that staff of all ranks are regularly taken off their local duties and put in other areas: but the force does not monitor this, or work to limit it. There is due to be a review of the current shift patterns which may resolve this issue.
For sometime now we have been raising the legitimate concerns of our members about an unsuitable shift pattern and reducing staffing levels. In 2007 there were 1654 police officers in North Yorkshire. Today that number stands at just 1429. That is already a reduction of 225 officers - almost 15% of our force.  And figures approved at yesterdays meeting of North Yorkshire Police Authority will see that fall further to 1330.
We are therefore concerned that our ability to address the areas identified in the HMIC report will be hampered by a lack of resources as a result of budget cuts. We wonder what expertise Mr Winsor will bring to this.
We believe the HMCIC must be someone with a thorough knowledge and understanding of operational policing. They are the government’s key independent advisor on policing and it’s important that they have the operational knowledge to offer that advice.
We are concerned that the independence will be lost due to the prospective change to legislation under section 85 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 which states that the ‘Secretary of State may by order specify matters to which the chief inspector of constabulary must have regard in preparing an inspection’. It is our view that this provision undermines the independence of the HMIC.
During the August riots last year Sir Denis O’Connor advised the Home Secretary about the use of water cannons to quell the disorder. He drew upon his operational knowledge to offer that expert advice.
Interesting too, that the Home Secretary is retaining Sir Denis until the conclusion of the Olympic Games; the biggest policing and security event this country has managed.
We note that Tom Winsor himself had an ex-Chief Constable as his adviser for his Winsor Part 1 & Part 2 reports.
We are not anti-Winsor as an individual BUT we have serious concerns and worries about Mr Winsor’s reviews and their consequences for policing and the future safety and security of the public if they are implemented.
And it is a matter of record that the savings he said would accrue from his first report have not materialized. In fact it was acknowledged at yesterdays meeting of North Yorkshire Police Authority they have actually cost more to implement.
The national media last week reported that G4S believe there will be mass privatisation of policing. It is clear from polls of the public they do not want privatised policing. And Neville Lawrence the father of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence has also spoken out against privatised policing.
Leaving aside issues of Mr Winsor’s suitability for the role, one must ask , with the PCCs coming on line soon , exactly what the role of HMCIC will now entail and from where in the future an insight and assessment of the performance of the police service will come that is independent of government.
Of equal importance is the question of where senior officers in the Service will be able to turn to get advice and assistance with significant matters of policing and where the government will get advice on matters of national security.
The cut to the police budget will mean that the Police and Crime Commissioner working with the Chief Constable will have very difficult decisions to make about priorities and deployment of resources as police numbers continue to fall.
They will need the support and guidance of the HMCIC. And for all the reasons above we do not believe Tom Winsor is the right person for the job."
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