The North Yorkshire Police Federation held its yearly Joint Branch Board (JBB) yesterday evening in the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate (19 Sept 13)
The Police Federation represents the rank and file police officer within each police force and also lobbies government.
The meeting saw officers come together along with the Police and Crime Commissioner, Julia Muligan, the Chief Constable, Dave Jones, the National Chairman of the Police Federation, Steve Williams and JBB Secretary, Mike Stubbs.
It consisted of a number of presentations and then a question and answer session without the press.
The Police Federation said that morale had fallen. In a survey in 1995, 40% of officers said their morale was either high or very high, when the survey was repeated in 2013 that had reduced to less than 20%.
They also talked about crime reverting to levels of 10 years ago, with an increase in mindless vandalism to public buildings and the more serious assault.
Mike Stubbs also spoke of an insidious media campaign against the Police Federation with little support.
Mike Stubbs, JBB Secretary said:
The media focuses on the actions of a tiny minority rather than the bravery and work of the honest, committed and professional officer. It is very true that bad-news sells papers.
But members tell us that they want to feel valued and are not always treated in the way they feel they should be.
Mike Stubbs said that currently the police are not being treated with the respect that they deserved, both from the Senior Offices and the general public and that there was a culture of being told and chastised rather than being supported.
Moving on to crime rates, a show of hands was directed to the room of Officers. Asking those that felt crime in their patch was increasing to raise a hand, saw the majority of officers do so, only around 2 officers then raised to a hand to crime being stable, or reducing in their area. Mike Stubbs believes that, based on his own policing experience, we are on the slippery slope of increases in crime.
Steve William, the National Chairman for the Federation talked about the image of the Federation.
Steve Williams said:
The image of the Federation had been tarnished since the Downing Street ‘plebgate’ incident and to a degree the government disengaged from working with us.
We took the decision to undertake an internal review and have worked hard and are making real progress.
We don’t currently have a central database of all members and are looking to change that within the next year, so we can more easily keep members informed.
Our media strategy is very important and we are actively looking to gain external voices of support. The media strategy will only be one strand in a broader response. It’s not just about engaging with the media but engaging with the general public.
In response, both the Crime Commissioner, Julia Mulligan and the Police Chief, Dave Jones acknowledged the need for change.
Julia Mulligan said:
The public don’t want it to be just about crime numbers.
We have ended up with a process rather than people-led organisation. It is something that many organisations are suffering with and it needs to change.
We need a root and branch culture change and to be the most responsive service in Britain.
Barriers that we can do without need to be removed and there needs to be a focus on the front line
I am looking forward to the next year and working with the Chief Constable.
This was the first Police Federation meeting that the recently appointed Chief Constable, Dave Jones has attended.
The Chief Constable spoke honestly and openly about his view of the force and where it needed to go.
Dave Jones said:
We need to draw a line in the sand and move forward.
Investment in technology is needed and we need to maximise the resources that we have.
We are a risk-adverse and process driven organisation and that needs to change.
At times we have become an uncaring organisation, for instance some of our letters to the community lack humanity.
Dave Jones talked about the problem they have with “one chance to make a first impression” and that at times they have not always got it right. As an organisation they need to be right first time and that each of the 300,000 calls received a year are a “moment of truth” in how the public perceive them.
Dave Jones continued:
I want the public to love us and the criminals to fear us.
But, we need to earn some of the respect back.
The truth is that many officers don’t like bringing the Chief bad news, but I can promise that you will be listened to and heard.
North Yorkshire Police still faces challenges around budgets, with £10M savings to be found. Commitment has been made from both the PCC and Chief that staff numbers will remain at 1392 with the Chief publicly saying that there won’t be compulsory severance on his watch.
Dave Jones concluded:
We will challenge processes and procedures and remove bad bureaucracy.
I want Officers to enjoy coming to work and to tell the staff what we want and let them get on with it.
We are also looking at the people journey and why good officers are being driven out of force.
Officers should feel that they are part of a family and will be looked after.
The overall mood of the meeting was one of honesty and pragmatism. There was an acceptance that things were changing and that there was work to do, both locally and on a national level.
Between North Yorkshire Police and the Police Federation there is clearly common thinking. The Federation has emphasised that it wants to work with and in co-operation, to be part of a solution and not part of a problem. There is a mutual acceptance of the budget issues and challenges that are being faced.
The Chief acknowledged concerns and believes that although there are pressures that come from a national level, changes need to happen on the front line with many small, rather than sweeping changes.
From the general public’s point of view though, there should be a high degree of confidence that there is a team, between the PCC, Police Service and Federation that is all pulling together and in the same direction.