Examination of Witnesses (Questions 240
THURSDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2002
240. Are there any other measures not in the
Bill that you would like to see included?
(Mrs Berry) I think that there are certainly changes
to the Bill that we would like to have seen included. I say "included",
we would like to see made. At this moment in time I do not think
we have given full consideration to what we thought should have
been in the Reform Bill. I think I answered a question from yourself
earlier that a lot of the changes as far as police reform are
concerned do not necessarily need legal changes. I think that
what we are disappointed about in general with the police reform
debate is that there is a raft of policing that is not referred
to either in this Bill or in that debate and that is things like
how we manage traffic, how we manage public order and disorder,
those do not get any mention in any of the policy papers or, indeed,
in this Reform Bill. I think those are omissions from the general
discussion on the subject.
241. Do you feel that is a matter for legislation
or internal management?
(Mrs Berry) I think it is probably a matter for structure
and administration of police forces and at this moment in time
that does not have a part in this Police Bill.
242. My next question relates to the development
of specialist detectives. How do you foresee the right balance
being struck between that development and ensuring their accountability?
(Mr Elliott) This is a very good question. There are
two main drives to the police reform and I think Jan has talked
about the missing drives. The two main drives are reassurance
policing, which is basically about uniformed policing and this
idea of tackling criminality. When the proposals for a cadre of
detectives was put to us we had some concerns. First, we think
that perhaps some detective skills have been lost by a poorly
administrated tenure policy which simply says that when somebody
has been in a job for a period of time, say five or seven years,
they are discarded and put somewhere else, which seems a rather
foolish way of doing things, it should be much better managed
in personnel terms. Equally, some of us were concerned that there
should be an interchange of skills between the uniform branch
and the CID branch so they did not become separate entities within
a single service. In the past there has been the accusation that
that has happened in some big forces. That might have been the
case in some forces where a CID officer would not give any weight
to a uniform officer's opinion. Whilst we support the idea of
a well trained detective group, we would want to see everybody
go through the same probation period, have similar promotion exams
and prospects and an interchange of skills between all the branches
in the service so that the best people with the widest experience
and ability get to the top, so it would be difficult for us to
see how somebody could get all the way to the top just by simply
being a detective. We do see that there needs to be a re-skilling
of detectives because criminals are much smarter nowadays than
they were in the past.
243. Would you see that re-skilling as including
prosecution skills, as CID officers used to take their own cases
to court, and that would have obvious implications for the CPS?
(Mr Elliott) I think that works against much of the
drive nowadays in independent CPS and in actually having people
with the particular skill doing a particular job. If we are talking
about investigative skills, I do not know that you would naturally
have prosecution skills as well.
244. You used to.
(Mr Elliott) We used to but sometimes things move
forward. I think the idea of the Crown Prosecution Service was
to input a certain degree of independence into prosecution decisions
and I think a degree of professionalism.
245. Before we know the outcome of the ballot
on new pay and conditions, how critical is that going to be to
the rest of the proposals for police reform?
(Mr Elliott) We do not know the result of the ballot
because we have still got votes to count, there are some postal
votes and we do not want to count the ballots until we have got
the postal votes in which will not be until next week some time.
The one thing I will say about the ballot is I think we have had
a fairly high turn out. I think that shows police officers are
very concerned about the service now and the service in the future.
Jan and I and colleagues have been going around the country, we
have probably been to in excess of 50 per cent of every force
in the country to talk to our members about the proposals within
the Police Negotiating Board and the proposals within the reform
in general. We have had some very interesting meetings, some lively
meetings and some not so lively.
246. Very lively I would have thought.
(Mr Elliott) We have had some very lively meetings,
yes, Mr Winnick, very, very lively meetings. I think that shows
that people are very concerned about the way the policing is perceived
nowadays. One of the continual things which comes through from
police officers is that by and large there are less of them doing
it than there were in the past, although the numbers are going
back up again, and doing a bloody good job. The way they are painted
in the press frequently does not reflect that.
247. I am afraid that is something we all suffer
from, Mr Elliott.
(Mr Elliott) No.
248. Surely not.
(Mr Elliott) Some of us do. It just seems to have
been incessant recently, in the last year or so. It is difficult
for the public to have respect for the service if the service
is going through that particular problem. I think there has been
a great frustration amongst police officers in that respect. They
are very concerned about the reform in general. I think the two
things are to a degree separate, although it might be more difficult
for people to accept some reforms.
249. What do you think is needed to restore
(Mr Elliott) I just think occasionally people should
tell officers they are doing a bloody good job, and that should
come from the very top of the organisation including politicians
who are responsible for policing. I think a good deal of support
for police officers, verbal support and physical support, picking
out the good bits of work they do or good ideas they come up with
would be a real boom to the service. I know the Home Office spent
a lot of money on attracting some personalities to say how difficult
the job was and advertising it, it would have been far better,
possibly, if they had got real police officers with some politicians'
support to actually say how difficult the job was and how fulfilling
the job was with some support from senior officers and politicians.
(Mrs Berry) Can I just add to that. Police reform
has to take place, we have to move on, we have to develop, we
have to modernise. It is important that reform is the right reform.
It is also terribly important that the police service is able
to recruit police officers in the future and for that we need
to be able to attract the right calibre of person. Certainly the
difficult meetings that we have attended over the last six weeks,
a lot of police officers feel very under valued and they need
that to be built up. The comments that Clint makes with regard
to saying the right things on occasions, they feel very hurt by
some of the ways in which they have been reported. Whilst any
organisation the size of the British police service is bound to
have people who do not do us any favours, there are an awful lot
of police officers out there who do a superb job day in and day
out and they feel terribly under valued by what has been taking
place recently. That was the message which came through loud and
clear at every single meeting we went to. The ballot is important
but police reform is also important and the valuing of our police
service is important also.
250. Do you think the Bill is an appropriate
vehicle for amending the police pension arrangements?
(Mr Elliott) I am not exactly sure what the proposals
are in amending the police pension arrangements because first
of all we have been talking about some police pension arrangements
at the Police Negotiating Board. In particular we have been talking
about ill health proposals and I think we have been very helpful
in trying to get the message across that ill health retirement
should be a last resort rather than a first resort. We think that
during the 1980s and the early 1990s some chief officers used
it as a first resort rather than a last resort for a variety of
reasons and that might be partly to do with the way we civilianised
in the 1980s and 1990s. I am not quite sure what changes to the
police pensions' regulations you are considering. One of the things
that I think was mentioned in passing was partner pensions. The
police pensions are out of date in terms of partner pensions,
there is no doubt but I think it is one of many in the public
sector that does not allow for proper partner pensions. We made
a claim for partner pensions at the Police Negotiating Board in
January of this year to see if we could get some minor amendment
to reflect that partners should have the same rights as widows
or widowers under the police pension scheme. Apart from that,
I do not know exactly what proposals you think might be appropriate
to amend the police pensions because at the end of the day we
think that is about the extent that we would want at this moment
251. The percentage of pay that forms the pension
contribution for police is very high.
(Mr Elliott) Eleven per cent contribution.
252. For the fire service, it is much higher
than average, probably twice the contribution from the public
(Mr Elliott) We recognise that but the scheme pays
earlier than some schemes because of the early retirement age
of police officers, 55. We recognise that but it is a scheme that
is suited to the service and tailored to the service.
253. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner said
to us the other day in relation to ill health retirement that
he would like a certificate of ill health to be something he took
into account when deciding whether to retire an officer and not
binding on him.
(Mr Elliott) It is not. A certificate of ill health
is not binding on the chief officer. In actual fact, the way the
regulations are written, it is the police authority that makes
the decision. The police authority has a good deal of discretion
in making that decision. The exact words in the regulation I think
are "the police authority may retire on ill health".
It goes on to talk about the certificate of disability. It is
absolutely down to the chief officer through the police authority
to decide to keep somebody on despite the fact that there is a
certificate of ill health, and many chief officers do. In fact,
ill health retirement under the same sets of regulations were
very rare in the 1970s and early 1980s.
254. What led to the sudden change?
(Mr Elliott) Probably civilianisation during the mid
1980s meant that officers who might have been able to find a sedentary
job were not able to do that. I think forces have been more imaginative
about that now and they are finding some jobs for people who are
not fully fit for a full range of police duties. That is happening
now, some forces have reduced their percentage number of ill health
retirements as a total of all retirements using the legislation
which exists now.
255. What the Metropolitan Commissioner said
was that "No-one can actually leave the service without a
medical pension unless a doctor gives a medical opinion, that
is the right course of action. It is not a decision made by myself,
it is a medical decision."
(Mr Elliott) I do not believe that is true. The doctor
answers the medical questions to say whether the individual is
fit or not fit and what for. The doctor can actually say that
the individual is not fit for a full range of police duties and
the police authority effectively can still decide to retain that
individual in service.
256. It is a common misunderstanding, I think.
I am a bit surprised that chief officers appear to be under that
(Mr Elliott) I am not, thank you. All pensions legislation
is very complicated and they rely to a very great degree on other
people's advice. I am not surprised because one or two chief officers
have the same view as the Commissioner, which I believe is false.
257. I see an editorial in the Police
magazine on the ballot, which Mrs Watkinson was referring to a
few moments ago, said that the ballot will be "more of an
opportunity for police officers to answer back at the Government,
politicians and pundits, who have spent more time burying the
reputation of our service than praising it". Then it says
"They...have helped create a picture of a Police Service
that is riddled with incompetence, corruption...and sexism".
Are those your views?
(Mr Elliott) I think I made my views fairly clear,
that the press have been painting that view of police officers
in Britain. When we have been going around the country talking
to groups of our members that is the sort of feedback we have
been getting about the press coverage that has been incessantthat
would not be too strong a wordover the last couple of years
258. One would get the impression there, would
one not, that all of these allegations about corruption and incompetence
are totally without any foundation and yet it was not so long
ago that we had the previous Commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police telling us the numbers of officers he believed were utterly
corrupt, rotten apples who should be out of the serviceover
100 at the time, not now I should addand then we remember
the Serious Crime Squad in the West Midlands and a few other cases.
I am wondering if the Police Federation, or the magazine itself,
believes, therefore, that politicians and the media should not
make such accusations or report such matters?
(Mr Elliott) We have never supported corrupt officers.
We think it is perfectly reasonable for people to report cases
that are obviously of public interest. We feel that recently there
has been a drive in the press to pick up particularly ill-health
issues and similar issues and report them in an unfair way. There
is no mention, for instance, of the 11 per cent contribution we
make, no mention that chief officers can decide whether an individual
does or does not go. The officers do not choose to leave on medical,
for instance. That is one of the issues that concerns me greatly.
Officers go through a medical process and a doctor of the chief's
choosing sees the individual and the chief makes the final decision.
There have been regular, regular cases brought out in a sensational
way in the press to demonstrate that. It is almost as though they
are trying to attack the police pension through this particular
process. The vast majority of officers would not support the odd
malingerer there is in the service or the individual that beats
the system, they are as angry as anybody else about that.
259. Would the Police Federation's view be that
those who have criticised the police, indeed including people
like the previous Commissioner of Metropolitan Police, are anti-police?
(Mr Elliott) No. We have never argued about reasonable
and evidenced criticism. Obviously it is of public interest that
these things go on in the service in the relatively small way
that they do. It is difficult to get the balance right sometimes.
We think the balance has been rather against the service rather
than for the service.
(Mrs Berry) I think it is a matter of balance because
I think the perspective that has been put across is not a very
balanced view of policing. I think that is what has brought out
the anger and the frustration in police officers. When Sir Paul
Condon, I think it was, addressed this Committee on complaints
and discipline he referred to a number of corrupt officers and
I think the final number of corrupt officers was far less than
he quoted to the Committee. In no way do we support corrupt officers.
We have enough work to do without also supporting malingerers.
The vast majority of police officers do not fall into those categories
and I think it is important that message is got across sometimes
rather than some of the misinformation that tends to get through
to the press.