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President's 2019 conference speech

Home Secretary, guests and colleagues

A warm welcome to you all today and particular thanks to you, Home Secretary, for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us today. I know our members will appreciate the opportunity to hear you speak on what is your first speech.

Taking up any great State of Office is a challenge in itself, but, to do so at this point in time will test your resilience, health and wellbeing. I hope you have the support you need to undertake the role as you face the challenges of a country that is not at one with itself; divided and fractured in a way not previously seen.

I stand here as President, beaming with pride. It is nothing but a privilege to lead and represent the Senior Operational Leaders of the Service. From commanding Counter Terrorism Operations, policing large geographical areas, carrying the risk of covert policing or firearms operations to carrying the heavy pressure of managing vulnerability, the list of endeavours and challenges is endless. We do so with pride, passion and determination to do our best for the public and policing. We encourage, energise and lead our teams to save lives, prevent harm and solve some of society’s problems. We all recognise our responsibility – not only to the public, but to all members of the service and the hardworking officers and staff who make this country safe and secure, every single day of the year. Something most recently seen in Derbyshire with the combined efforts of Police and partners to prevent the breach of the Dam and to save Whaley Bridge.

These acts to support and protect the public are being shown on TVs and smartphones across the country and the world, reminding people at home of the police service available to them at the touch of a button, here to provide help when it is needed.   We are the most accountable police service in the world and that level of accountability has grown, as we have become more and more visible through the imagery portrayed across traditional and social media.

Sometimes the police are heroes – sometimes villains – and this can change on a daily basis according to the story and picture. The police service operates under the public spotlight more than any other profession – Well, perhaps, except politicians – navigating a dichotomy between public respect and public condemnation.

We are a service that is judged upon public confidence in what we do, yet we find ourselves managing a balancing act between public ‘perception’, entirely dependent upon the images they see and the stories they hear, and public reality, based entirely upon the treatment or experience they receive at our hands.

There is no answer to this conundrum.  Without free speech and information we would not have the society of which we are proud. We do, however, have a combined responsibility as police officers, politicians, public figures and media commentators, to contribute towards a public perception of reality based on truth. A reality on which new generations can make grounded, informed life decisions, as proud and confident members of society.

Communicating the truth of policing is becoming ever harder as the picture becomes even more complex.  Explaining why we have fewer officers, why we need new specialists, why we have less community officers, why there is more knife crime.  It’s a long and complex answer.  My hope is that together, we can begin to make these answers clearer – by building them together.  Home Secretary, the challenge ahead of you is huge, this cannot be underestimated.  And we want to help.  Our plea is that you bring the workforce with you on this journey towards reform so that together we can start to tell the public the story around how we are re-building our service.

So when did the story really start to change and what impact has it had on our rank?

Since 2010, the funding reductions have steadily had greater impact. Initially, the Police Service was challenged to become more efficient without a significant loss of officers and staff. However, the budgetary pressure has become more and more restrictive, making it harder for forces to operate in an effective and impactive way. As other public services suffered the same pain, we started to shrink apart. This was the start of a deeper loss to society as the true cost of public service withdrawal became evident and new societal issues went unaddressed.

For my members – we took the greatest reduction – with a loss of 25% over the forthcoming years.

Losing a quarter of Superintendents and Chief Superintendents across England and Wales is not without a cost.

The cost has been carried by our members, who are facing daily personal challenges at work, that are not seen by the public. Our latest resilience survey, which had a response rate of 64%, gave some stark facts:

Three quarters stated their workload had increased over the previous 12 months

Three quarters stated their workload was too high

Three quarters are not satisfied with their working hours

To cope with the intensity of the pressure, we can evidence our members:

  • Not taking their allocation of annual leave
  • Not taking back the Rest Days they had worked
When they do take their leave and rest days – shockingly, a third stated that they used it because of the state of their health!

So, the build of pressure is having its consequences on the health and wellbeing of our members

63% felt stress, low mood, anxiety or other difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing in the last 12 months.

We cannot under-estimate the cumulative effect of this pressure that builds over years and years.

Tomorrow, Ian Wylie, our Vice President, will describe how the responsibilities historically taken by Chief Officers, have started to also be delegated down to our ranks.

Indeed 85% of members said they are expected to take on additional responsibilities such as public order, Senior Investigation roles and Firearms responsibilities.

So, It should not surprise anyone that for the third year running the satisfaction levels in pay continue to fall, when the full scale of the responsibility stacks up.

The face of our members is one of strength, determination and leadership as we work to turn strategy into success. They remain proud of their role, rank and the organisation they serve. 91% are proud to be in the police. However, our surveys betray the human cost of the funding cuts and the cumulative impact on individuals – the cost of running the service has been shifting from the organisation to the individual…. and this is not acceptable or fair.


Like going from famine to feast…. we get the announcement of 20,000 new officers to protect our public.

I would publicly like to thank this new administration for re-investing in policing and breathing life back into our Service.

In terms of officer numbers, an additional 20,000 will return us to where we were in 2010.

We now share a sense of nervous optimism as we see an opportunity to ensure that those leading the service, and who have been under significant pressure, are appropriately and properly resourced. This, we hope, can take us to a position where spans of command and expectations can be adequately and effectively delivered, without causing the unsustainable impacts that I have described.

To give some context – to return to the position of 2010 for the Superintendent ranks, an additional 300 Supers across England and Wales is required – which is equivalent to only 1.5% of the 20,000 uplift.

Our plea to you Home Secretary, and your officials, is to ensure the Treasury bid incorporates the totality of need for the service to deliver the huge uplift, and we say on behalf of our members – a 300 uplift is a fair and reasonable request

The recognition of the necessity to include our rank in this major resourcing plan is crucial. We must come together as a service, with realistic, tangible solutions for making the absolute most of this generational opportunity. 

The reality of the impact on superintendents is too well evidenced and corrosive to ignore.

The shrinking number of Supers are carrying a huge weight of responsibility within forces. 

Adding to the ranks below them, which they must lead and manage, whilst piling on responsibility from above, means that increasing our numbers is essential.

Whilst the public would be forgiven for believing that all the additional officers will be ‘walking their local beats’, we should be honest and strategic about how we rebuild our fine Service.

Effective organisations need good staff, supervisors, managers and senior leaders too. Our membership of senior leaders represents a group of people who will proudly lead the uplift across the service, delivering the improvements that you and our public should rightly expect.

We are all acutely aware of the scale of the challenge ahead to recruit. The Service loses about 6,500 officers a year as they retire or resign. Over three years, the recruitment rate will actually need to be nearer 40,000 to reach the 20,000 being quoted … unless we become incentivised and proactive over retention.

That is a big ask for any organisation.

A journalist asked me ‘Can you actually achieve it?’

My reply was simple – ‘We can’t afford not to’

We would welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns and provide evidence and input based on our years of experience but for some reason we were not invited to be part of the newly formed Policing Board.  The Police Federation is also missing from this forum, meaning the police workforce is not represented at all. Home Secretary – we welcome the introduction of a Policing Board and urge you to invite workforce representatives – something that is well within your gift.

If we aim to boost our numbers on the scale suggested, there will be significant challenges of course – Recruitment, procurement of kit and equipment, estates, training….

But, there will also be massive opportunities – we must seize these – we have been waiting and hoping for the workforce boost for years.

We can build a Service for today and the future, if we get this right and do it together.

We can build a Service which has sufficient resource:

  • To focus in the short term on those crimes really impacting on our communities like knife crime and vulnerability crimes
  • To develop all officers to improve their capability of dealing with cyber and technology crimes
  • To effectively deal with the high volume crimes of fraud and deception 
  • To build systems and processes across the public sector to have generational impact – with Intervention and prevention at the forefront
  • To look into the future to ensure we continue to move with changing times, become more sophisticated in future proofing and consider the recommendations from National Reviews to help improve our valuable Service.
With all this, there is one final area that remains fundamentally important for our wonderful Police Service – we must ensure that we understand our communities better. We want a Service that reflects the rich and diverse places that we police. Let’s take positive action to its limits, and make a generational impact to become a Service that all our communities can feel a part of.

It is vital that we do our best to become diverse and bring all that benefit to every rank in the Service. As an Association we have really pushed for greater Diversity – driving forward with the Mentoring and Coaching of colleagues to help with their progression and retention. Today, I am delighted to announce that we will be moving another step forward as we received unanimous support for a Disability Representative to sit on our National Executive Committee and be a part of our policy making body for the first time. We will as a national team and association, do everything we can to support those under-represented groups.

We continue to ask the Government to define our hours so that those members of our Association with a real need, are allowed to go part time or work more flexibly, without getting penalised by their pension. All key stakeholders agree – but time continues to pass without progress, which disproportionately penalises our female members and those with caring responsibilities.

Home Secretary – they deserve better.

Our Police Service has withheld some significant strain over a long period of time. That is solely down to the huge efforts of everyone within the Service to do their very best to help and support the Public.

That value of public service and the willingness to do whatever is necessary to make the public safe is truly remarkable. I see it at all levels of the Service – that Golden thread which makes our Police Service the best in the World.

I stand here delivering this speech in Warwickshire. An idyllic, beautiful and safe part of the world. It was here that PC Andrew Dear (or Bear as he is affectionately known) was called to attend a Road Traffic Collision. A daily occurrence in every force area. He carried the ‘scars’ of previous collisions, but scrambled under an overturned car, which was leaking fuel, in a life- threatening situation, to keep the airway of the injured driver open until paramedics and Fire Officers arrived to help. For me, it wasn’t just the heroic physical act, it was the courage to overcome tragedies of the past and put a member of the public before himself that makes Bear so outstanding, and representative of the ethos that runs through our service. A worthy winner of the Police Bravery Awards.

We see these values daily – as officers face their own demons, see sights that they would have preferred not to, face danger that people run from and at times pay a high price. These ‘hero’ officers are constantly abused, harassed, assaulted and attacked in increasing numbers and facing dangers which are constantly shown on our screens, suffering as victims of their own dedication. These are the people we need to support, and we owe them the promise of a commitment to change, support and value. Our Association will be working with the Federation and Chief Officers to see what can be done to reduce the harmful impact of policing in today’s society.

We know the mental health of officers is a serious concern for us all. I welcome the announcement of a Police Covenant – not only for the potential to do more to help officers – but as a signal from the Government that we are valued. The association will play a role in the development of that and other aspects which have emerged from the Front-Line Review, but we hope the Covenant can be meaningful and supportive.

Finally, the importance of the value of policing for our society is never more raw than following the loss of an officer acting in the line of their duty. We all felt the pain of the death of PC Andrew Harper from Thames Valley Police. It illustrates the risks of the job and the sacrifice made by an officer serving his community and responding to a burglary call.

Home Secretary – this new administration is starting to show more value and gratitude to officers. Where an officer dies in the execution of his or her duty, there is another symbol of value. I ask for you to seek an extension to the Award of the Elizabeth Cross to those police families whose loved ones have died in the execution of their duty. It will send another message of support that I know families will truly value.

As a Police Service and as an Association, we do our very best to care for our people, our police and our public.

I ask the Government to care and value us and accelerate the healing process.

Thank you.