Examination of Witnesses (Questions 608
TUESDAY 10 JUNE 2008
Q608 Chairman: Mr McKeever and Mr
Rennie, thank you very much for coming to give evidence today.
We did not have an opportunity, first of all, of congratulating
you on your election as Chairman of the Federation, but, also,
saying goodbye to Jan Berry, who has given evidence to the Committee
on many, many occasions. Would you pass on our best wishes to
her in her retirement, following her holding the office? I gather
she is planning a long holiday with the Home Secretary. Is that
Mr McKeever: That is the first
I have heard of that, Chairman, but, yes, it will be my pleasure
to pass on those sentiments to her.
Q609 Chairman: Thank you. I wonder
if you could, first of all, react to the news we have just received
from the High Court that the Federation has lost its bid to get
the Government to accept the arbitration award of last year, a
bid that was supported on the High Court action but the Federation's
case was, of course, unanimously supported by the Federation.
What are you going to do next on this issue?
Mr McKeever: We are, clearly,
very disappointed with the decision from the High Court. We are
actually meeting with the other members of staff side on Thursday
and, also, with our legal team as well, and we will decide where
we go from there. We have been granted leave to appeal if we want
to follow that route, and we have to take that up within 14 days.
Clearly, there are other issues we have to address as well. Just
to reiterate: we are disappointed with the decision. We understand
the judgment and why it has been brought in, but it clearly was
not the judgment that 140,000 of our members were looking to receive.
Q610 Chairman: As you know, the Select
Committee did write to the Home Secretary asking her to accept
the award last year.
Mr McKeever: Chairman, we are
most grateful for that as well.
Q611 Chairman: Have you started your
negotiations over the current year's pay award?
Mr McKeever: Yes, we have. The
pay round started sometime ago and we are in negotiations at the
moment within the Police Negotiating Board with the Official Side,
and that has started already.
Q612 Chairman: The subject of today's
inquiry is new technology. Of course, your members are at the
very forefront of the use of new technology. We have had a lot
of Chief Constables and we have actually had your members herewe
had a custody sergeant from Ealing who came to give evidence to
usbut it is your members who will be operating new technology.
In your written submissions to this Committee you talked about
the need for an integrated system across all the various authorities,
and a system that was integrated to the criminal justice system.
What exactly did you mean by that?
Mr McKeever: At the moment we
have a fragmented system, not just through the criminal justice
system but across the UK Police Service as well. We would like
to see a single system throughout the United Kingdom. Criminals
do not stay in one force area, they move from force area to force
area, and we would like the facility to be able to put in one
single name at any point in that system and find out what is happening
with that individual with their case or cases. We do not have
that at the moment and we would like to see it in the future.
From point of arrest through to the custody system through to
the administration system prior to being sent to the CPS, and
then from the CPS on to the courts and, hopefully, to the Prison
Service as well. That is the line we would like to see at the
Q613 Chairman: Are there particular
areas that you think should be prioritised? We have taken evidence
from people from BlackBerry and Airwave today; it is obviously
an expensive process and it is a big process, as you have outlined.
Is there a particular area that you would like to see prioritised?
Mr McKeever: We would like to
see more central control over the actual contracting of some of
the systems that are being introduced. There is fragmentation
around the country and I think people have already alluded to
the fact that some forces, perhaps, do not have the resilience
or resources to contract as they should, and perhaps that should
be done centrallyfor best value, for a start, and, also,
to get that standardisation across the piece.
Q614 Gwyn Prosser: Mr McKeever, you
might have heard the previous witnesses when they were asked about
ways of speeding up the implementation and adoption of new technology.
The Chief Constable of British Transport Police talked about earlier
planning connected with funding, and our colleague from Bedfordshire
Police said it is all to do with individuals and more engagement
with individuals. What is your view? What is the view of the Federation?
Mr McKeever: I think that both,
in part, are correct in what they say. We feel on occasions that
the practitioner's voice is not heard enough in the implementation
of some of the systems. They are the people that are going to
be using the devices, or the kit, that is actually out there,
and the police officers should be asked what is actually workable
and what is not. One of the interesting features of the Police
Federation conference recently was we had Mr Bobbett come along
and he appeared to be a little surprised by some of the failings
within the Airwave system that were pointed out to him by practitioners
on the ground, particularly from the Metropolitan force.
Q615 Gwyn Prosser: Do those voices
get heard? Does that go back up the line?
Mr McKeever: They are being heard
now. They were not heard, I think, certainly up till conference,
but I know that Mr Bobbett has made efforts to speak to the particular
officers individually and to address their concerns. That is encouraging.
One of the problems is that those implementing the systems on
the ground, or within forces, are not themselves practitioners
and they do not fully understand the operational necessities and
needs of the police officer on the ground, and perhaps on occasions
they make assumptions. To involve the practitioner at the basic
level and right way through the system would be beneficial because
there are solutions out there, and that is something that one
or two of my colleagues, again in the Metropolitan service, have
found out once they have probed Mr Bobbett and some of his colleagues.
That was not something that was apparent when they tried to address
it in-house within the Metropolitan Police Service.
Q616 Mr Winnick: In your written
submission you state that while the number of individuals applying
to be police officers appeared to outweigh the number of vacancies
available, "there is" (and I quote from your brief)
"still a gap in our understanding about the quality and consistency
of applicants to the force". So, does that mean that those
who are applying in many instances are not suitable for the police?
Mr McKeever: I think we do not
know. We do not know. It appears that there are not records kept
of those who do not make it into the force. We have the records
of those who do join the forcethey are there and they are
on recordbut we do not know what standard of recruit is
failing to get into the Police Service. That is the point that
we are trying to make in relation to that sentence. I had to read
it twice myself when I read through the evidence before coming
here today, so I can understand, Mr Winnick, why you are picking
us up on that. However, it does appear that there is not good
record keeping in relation to those who fail to get in the service,
so we are not sure how deep the quality is of those applicants
who are applying.
Q617 Mr Winnick: What about those
who are actually approved and become police officers? Do you feel
the quality has gone up or down or is consistent?
Mr McKeever: That would have to
be a subjective opinion, I think. If you ask any police officer
who has served for 30 years, like myself, it was always better
30 years ago. Clearly, the high point was when I joined the Police
Q618 Mr Winnick: Everything was always
better beforewe know that!
Mr McKeever: I am unwilling to
make a subjective judgment on whether recruits are better. I am
certainly very impressed by some of the young officers and new
recruits to the service, and they have my complete support in
what they are trying to do.
Q619 Mr Winnick: The Chairman has
already made reference to police pay, but clearlywhatever
the rights and wrongs of what has happened very recently (and
you know what the Select Committee decided to do)it does
appear that police pay is not a disincentive to those wishing
to join the police force.
Mr McKeever: It appears to be
on the surface, but unless we have that further evidence to say
who is not getting into the service we do not know how wide that
band is of people who are trying to join, and how suitable they
are. It may be that there are very few suitable candidates applying
and they are the ones who are getting in; it might be it is much
broader and there are many good candidates coming forward. Until
we actually get that evidence it will be hard to say.