I want to start in a slightly unconventional way, not with greetings, but by saying thank you.
Thank you, to the Association members in the room and your colleagues for your commitment, professionalism and passion in serving the public.
For ensuring our country remains a safe place to live.
And is one where intolerance to difference is not as prevalent as some with extreme ideals would want it to be.
Every now and then I am privy to a conversation that I am sure many of you hear too.
This conversation will go along the lines that the job is not what it used to be; that it is not working; that it is broken.
I could not disagree more.
Policing has continued to change and professionalise itself throughout my service.
But, fundamentally, we lead remarkable men and women, who joined for the same reasons we did.
To serve and protect the public.
They will run towards danger when others are running away from it.
They will put themselves in harm’s way to keep others safe.
They will display the same courage and commitment that has been true and strong in this great service since 1829.
As long as there are people who want to keep the public safe, look after the most vulnerable people in society, and stop others from doing people harm, this service cannot be considered broken.
Each year I have the privilege to sit down with others and undertake the impossible role of judging the Police Bravery Awards.
We hear remarkable stories of incredible acts of bravery in saving lives.
From the actions of PC Wayne Marques just two years into the job who tackled three terrorists at London’s Borough Market with only his baton…
…to Sergeants David Wilson and Iain McIvor who just ‘heard a noise’ and found themselves interrupting an armed robbery at a jewellers.
This is the routine of operational policing.
The common thread in all the nominations is the mindset of the officers involved: I was just doing my job.
I could not be prouder to be part of this service.
And I know the public acknowledge and appreciate what you and your teams do as well.
I would now like to welcome our members and guests and of course you, Minister to conference.
It seems like only yesterday that I was addressing you all in my first year as President.
As I said last year, my Association has always had a constructive and positive relationship with the Home Office, its Ministers, and its officials.
I do not anticipate this changing. We share a common motivation: to serve the public and ensure our country is a safe place to live.
In my time as President and also as Vice President, I have been impressed by the commitment and talent of the people that work in the Home Office.
It is always easy to suggest we are working against each other or that one of us does not understand the other.
My experience has been the opposite. For me and my Association, by working together with Home Office colleagues, we can collectively achieve so much for the public good.
However there will always be occasions or subjects on which we disagree. I want everyone to be in no doubt that I, and my Association, will always speak truth to power when we deem it necessary.
And as I stated in my speech last year we do this not to be contrary or unhelpful, but due to genuinely-held beliefs that come from our professional knowledge and years of experience gained as senior operational leaders.
This time last year, I said we had a new venue, a new President, a new Home Secretary and a new Policing Minister.
Well – some things have not changed, but that doesn’t mean nothing has happened in that time! In fact, far from it.
A General Election, and a new political environment, one I suggest we have not seen anything similar to since the 1970’s.
The start of us exiting the European Union.
The tragedy of Grenfell Tower, and the appalling and senseless terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, which I will come back to in a few moments.
This year has been truly momentous and has challenged everyone in this country – including policing.
And the service has responded magnificently to its challenges, as it always endeavours to.
This response includes extraordinary acts of bravery: we will always remember the actions of PC Keith Palmer in protecting Westminster and giving his life to do so.
Some may say these are extraordinary times.
Yet we have been operating at a severe threat level for three years, and at heightened state of alert for many more.
And throughout this time policing has continued to try and meet the extraordinary demand of calls for service from across the spectrum of need.
Paul in his address tomorrow will demonstrate the vulnerability equation – the weight of demand from vulnerability against the capability of the police to deal with it.
This on its own is wide and complex; and that’s before we consider the many other areas of demand on the service, such as terrorism, serious organised crime, traffic collisions, cyber crime, or anti-social behaviour.
I pause here because I suggest we have a perfect storm developing: comprised of fewer resources, reduced public services, new threats, and a worrying increase in some types of traditional crime.
What has become evident to me from speaking to my members over the last few months is that we have reached a tipping point.
The police will always be there for the public. And as I said at the beginning, the service is not broken.
But it is reaching the limit of what it is reasonably able to do given the enforced constraints on our structures.
And even more worryingly, our people, on whom we are utterly dependent, are also reaching their limits.
Three-quarters of our membership took part in our latest personal resilience survey. Minister, this is a solid, credible and highly responsible evidence base.
The messages you gave us came through loud and clear.
You said that the current situation means many of you have trouble taking even a single day off work, working on holidays and rest days.
More than 80 per cent of you said the roles you are performing, and the increase in work demand, are now too big and too much for just one person without working excessive hours.
More than 70 per cent of you are not taking all your rest days or annual leave.
Only 27 per cent of you stated you had sufficient resources to do your jobs properly.
So what does all this mean?
Well it means that you are not getting time off to rest and recover.
It means that 50 per cent of you have indicated signs of anxiety, and over a quarter of you signs of depression.
Any yet despite these constant pressures you are saying that policing is your vocation and you still get a buzz out of it!
My message to you Minister, and to the Government, is that if that doesn’t tell you everything you need to know about the sheer commitment and dedication of the police service, I don’t know what will.
It is frankly unacceptable that the senior operational leaders in policing are under so much pressure that a quarter of them have signs of depression.
These are people leading huge commands – some of them bigger than entire forces. These are people carrying responsibility for public safety, protecting the most vulnerable, for countering terrorism, for running firearms operations.
It is not a healthy position for the service to be in.
And, Minister, it is definitely not in the interests of the public.
Yes we will always respond to public need in major incidents such as the events we have witnessed this year.
And yes, because of our roles and because of who we are, we will work that bit extra and give that bit more of ourselves.
But I believe we have reached that tipping point.
The relentless pressure, the ever-increasing demand, and the reduced resources are taking their toll.
What we need
So my Association is calling for a number of specific measures.
Firstly, annual health screening for all members.
We talk about the benefits of early intervention in preventing crime.
We should practice what we preach with our staff and help make sure they can look after their health and potentially avoid becoming ill in the first place.
We also need a nationally consistent welfare service for everyone in policing.
This Association, along with the Police Federation, have been pushing for this for some time, and, Minister, I was delighted to hear the announcement by the Home Office for a 7.5 million pound pilot.
I sincerely hope this provides the evidence base to support a national welfare service to give more support to over-stretched and under pressure officers, and their families.
We also need everyone at the superintending rank to have the equipment, skills and support to perform their ever-more demanding roles.
If the service cannot give them this then it is setting its people up to fail.
You may recall at last year’s conference I spoke about the unprecedented demand on colleagues leading public protection.
We are now working with the College of Policing to introduce a Licence to Practice for everyone working in this field, which recognizes that specialist skills and knowledge are needed for these roles.
This is a great first step, but the same support needs to be given in every area of command which requires specialized skills or knowledge.
I do not want to hear of another member being moved into a role that he or she has no experience of or training in, and carrying all the risk and responsibility for the force’s performance and the service to the public in that area.
It is just not acceptable.
I am also asking for all forces to have in place an accurate means of recording all the hours being worked by their people.
This is not just a legal requirement, but a fundamental tool for all leaders as the most basic indicator of how their workforce is working and where problems might be building.
One theme that has come up time and time again is one of consistency across the service.
We need senior leadership responsibilities to be fairly and evenly distributed across both individual organisations and the service as whole, and for people to be fairly rewarded for this.
Yes, I am going to mention pay now – a topic that has been the subject of much discussion over the summer.
Police officers have families to support and mortgages to pay.
These are some of the fundamentals of life and we are not a special case in this respect.
But where policing is different is that we want to feel that our remuneration reflects the complexity and breadth of commands we are in charge of.
Reflects the risk we take on behalf of the public.
Reflects the amount of hours, days, weeks we give extra of ourselves every year.
Reflects your roles that are accountable to a host of bodies and functions and of course, rightly, the public.
And perhaps most importantly reflects the levels of responsibility that society asks us to carry on its behalf every single day.
We are expecting the outcome of the pay review process to be announced soon, now Parliament has returned after the summer recess.
Together with the Police Federation we submitted an evidence-based request for a pay increase of 2.8 per cent.
The public sector pay cap of one per cent and the two-year pay freeze has created a real-terms reduction in of 18 per cent.
18 per cent.
So we await the outcome of the process this year very keenly.
And if the answer is one per cent again, I do not think I will be alone in calling into question the independence of the Police Remuneration and Review Body.
This is the mechanism that decides your pay.
There is a legitimate question over whether this and other mechanisms are working for the hard-working, dedicated people who serve as police officers.
As police officers, we do not have the same employee rights as almost every other profession.
We accept this when we join, but in return we expect that the mechanisms put in place that govern our pay, terms and conditions, and rules and regulations are fair: to the public we serve, to the taxpayer, but also to us.
One aspect of working as a national officer representing you all in England and Wales is that I get to see the lexicon of different operating models, collaborations and strategic alliances.
So my final ask is that all forces comprehensively scope the level of demand and resource at Superintendent level before enacting these types of changes.
In the last seven years 399 superintendents and chief superintendents have been taken out of overall police numbers.
This is 25 per cent of our membership.
It is the biggest reduction at any rank level.
It is simply not sustainable to rely on a reduced number of senior leaders to work harder and longer, with wider, more complex commands – without really understanding if these responsibilities are achievable in the mid to long term.
If you will indulge me a little here. It feels a bit like the legendary Greek God Atlas who was eventually singled out by Zeus and forced to hold up the heavens as a special punishment.
Now I am not presuming to compare you to Greek Gods, but my point is that within the policing hourglass it appears to me to be you – the superintending ranks – in the very squeezed middle.
Of course I recognize those you lead are under pressure too, which highlights a major future problem.
If the model for delivering policing services in the future is fewer people, working longer, each doing ever more, then I would suggest that model is fundamentally flawed.
We must not forget that the ‘extra officers’ brought in to boost the policing presence after the terrorist attacks earlier this year were not in fact extra officers.
There is no pool of extra officers to call on when demand surges.
They were the same officers who police all the time, sacrificing rest days and holidays to keep the public safe.
Putting the safety and the welfare of others above their own.
It simply has to be a core tenet of leadership that you look after your people.
That means we in this room have a responsibility as leaders, to look after our staff as well as looking after ourselves.
Just as those who lead us have that same responsibility.
I will say it again: we must look after our people.
Because without them, there is no police service.
Policing has had to take its fair share of contributing to austerity.
In total we have taken 34,000 people and 2.2 billion pounds out of policing since 2010.
I am already on record as saying I think we have now contributed more than our fair share.
And policing has had to reform, and must continue to reform. I support this principle, because the organization that stands still gets left behind.
But I need to address what you have been telling me over the last year within the context of reform.
We operate within a model of 43 forces devised in the last century using what was very likely a questionable evidence base even at that time.
Now, it has become a significant inhibitor to how the service can address some of the 21st century challenges I have spoken about already.
The types of challenges that do not respect force boundaries, like internet-enabled fraud. Organised crime. Online child sexual exploitation. International terrorism.
I would like to quote you something:
“The analysis points to a future policing environment characterised by:
“This implies a major development in capability and to achieve this, changes must be made not only to the structure, but the whole configuration of policing…”
The answer currently is greater collaboration.
“However, the modest scale of collaboration to date, and the significant problems associated with it, such as governance and performance and accountability suggests that, at best, progress will be complex, slow and of limited impact.”
Sounds fairly recent, doesn’t it?
But actually I am quoting from “Closing The Gap: A Review of the Fitness For Purpose of the Current Structure of Policing in England and Wales” in 2005.
This was five years before the service had to start meeting the challenges of cuts and austerity.
And yet when we examine post-2010, the HMIC some ten years later in 2014 said it had
“growing concerns, in particular, that neighbourhood policing risks being eroded”
and stated that
“Collaboration between forces, public and private sector organisations remains patchy, fragmented, overly complex and too slow”.
There are of course great examples of leadership and collaboration across the country, and this is not meant to be critical of Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners who have and continue to face significant challenges for their individual forces.
Efforts at collaboration are well-meant and driven by the necessity to keep providing services the public need or expect, with reduced resources.
But there are many examples of collaboration which are just sub-optimal, with duplication, held together by over worked Superintendents, and the failure to realise efficiencies because of this.
Where within the collaborative arrangement there are for example different allowances for staff from different forces doing the same job.
Where ICT, funding and budgets are cross-charged like mutual aid for the use of the same resources.
This is not collaboration.
It is, at best, a compromise to the current structures we are trying to deliver service within.
Collaboration was not seen in the early days as the panacea.
It was not the silver bullet, not an end in itself.
But in the absence of any other ability to address the significant structural challenges facing the service, it has become exactly this.
Which means that the end results can only ever be as good as the arrangements themselves: sub-optimal.
Events and the demands on this service have now, I believe, demonstrated a clear case for an open, honest and transparent debate and review with government, local authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners, and of course the public.
This review should be about what the service should be expected to do; what it should not do, and then what is required in terms of structure, funding and resources to support this.
Because we must and need to listen to what the public are telling us.
In the latest Ipsos Mori polling for HMIC, around one in four people feel unsafe to walk alone at night.
Deprived neighbourhoods were twice as likely to feel unsafe as people from affluent areas. 83 per cent of people want a regular police presence in the local area, but only 18 per cent felt they got that.
Also worrying was that HMIC and IPSOS Mori found fewer than three in ten people felt well informed about policing in their local area.
Let us not forget that the reason for the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners in 2012 was because the Government felt police had become disconnected from the public they serve.
It promised PCCs would represent their communities, understand their crime and anti-social behaviour priorities, and hold the Chief Constable to account for achieving them.
Police would be more accountable, accessible and transparent and therefore make our communities safer.
This research suggests this policy outcome is still a work in progress.
And this is important.
Because if, as HMIC have identified, neighbourhood policing has been eroded across the country…
….and that in the past seven years 40 per cent of all police stations have closed…
….and the public are indicating they do not feel informed of their local policing services…
…then history tells us that the consequences are the service becomes too distant and too reactive.
This was identified over 35 years ago in the Scarman Report.
We must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
As recently as last month the National Police Chiefs Council spoke of an unprecedented increase in 999 calls.
July’s crime figures showed an 18 per cent increase in violent crime.
Officers are extracted from neighbourhood policing to respond to these demands and more.
The terrible events and senseless loss in Manchester and London reminded us of how important policing is, and in particular local policing and the connection to our communities.
We must not lose this on the altar of endless savings.
I need to make one important point. I am more than supportive of the local delivery of local policing services, by identifiable police leaders who are accountable to the community.
This is not new and anyone who has been around policing as long as I have will recognise the value of this.
But allowing change to evolve in this current, inconsistent, way of collaboration across England and Wales will not enable policing to reform at the pace required to meet the current and future challenges.
And it will not meet the demands and expectations of the public that increasingly uses the police as the service of first resort, last resort and almost everything in between.
If the funding constraints that have been applied to policing for the past seven years are to continue, then Minister we need that conversation, we need that debate and we need that review.
Otherwise we are being driven by not by the need to provide the best possible policing service that meets the needs of the public, but by the need to save money.
The amount of change, the cost of change, and the pace of change has unintended consequences.
Moving to something different rather than better is not necessarily the answer.
For us in this room and the thousands of colleagues across this service that sense of duty – providing the best possible service to protect the public – is why we do our jobs.
I said earlier – in our Personal Resilience Survey 90 per cent of you stated that you still get a buzz out of policing, and regard it as a vocation.
I could not agree more.
It is what we do and will always do, and something I feel as passionate about today as I did when I joined.