I used to work with a Sergeant who had a teenage daughter who appeared to have an issue with deciding who she really wanted to date……he decided that he would no longer ask the name of the next young man to call for his daughter but would simply refer to them as `next`…. the post of Home secretary is starting to resemble this analogy.
The inevitable finally came to pass when Amber Rudd succumbed to the pressure on her around immigration targets and the Windrush scandal by resigning late on Sunday night. The next holder of arguably the most toxic government ministerial post is Sajid Javid who appears to have the knack of being in the right place at the right time looking at his progress through parliament & government. I hope he is equally as adept in managing his in tray as he seems to be with his timing and hopefully this home secretary will know what the Home Office are doing and saying under his leadership.
What does this mean for Policing and other public-sector workers though?
There always seemed to be a clear initiative by the former home secretary, no, not the most recent one but the architect and driving force behind the decimation of Policing, Theresa May, to drive through reform and tacit acceptance to her own ideals of Policing. We have seen drastic reductions in Police resources both in operational officers and equally as important, support staff which has arguably led to serious crimes increasing to dangerous levels. Amber Rudd did little to address these issues whilst she held the post but in truth she inherited the problems and budget reductions from her predecessor and appeared unwilling to challenge those policies that were doing so much damage to the Policing model. What of the new Home Secretary then? Is he going to be yet another non-confrontational devotee of the prime minister? It would appear from what I have seen and heard so far that may not be the case and there is a possibility of bringing policing back from the precipice. There could be a small chink of light in the tunnel of Policing and a ray of hope that we may have someone willing to stand up to Mrs May.
I doubt that my thoughts and views would ever reach the in tray of a home secretary and if they did, they would likely be forgotten quicker than a policy paper on immigration targets.
There are a few things I would ask and request of any serving Home secretary:
Protect the protectors – ensure serving officers receive suitable and adequate protection from the justice system when assaulted. Society loses respect for law and order when the very figures that represent that authority can be assaulted and abused with little effective deterrent. Courts should be given clear instructions that assaults on law enforcement officers should attract deterrent sentences which must include terms of imprisonment in many such cases.
Review the pay and pension regulations – Police pay has reduced gradually during the tenure of Mrs May and is no longer representative of the role they play in society or the special situations they find themselves in. Basic pay needs to increase to attract the best people into Policing and just as importantly, to retain them in a policing career. Policing has become a short-term job as opposed to a vocation and the professionalism of the Policing model has suffered as a direct result of Mrs Mays policies. Police pay should reflect the fact that Police officers are legally prohibited from taking industrial action to fight for fair pay and conditions. They can only negotiate & trust that government engage in any negotiations in a fair, honest and honourable way which has not always been the case.
Support your Police service – There has clearly been a well organised and practised negative approach towards Policing by certain sections of the media and most definitely certain sections of recent governments. Those actions impact on a daily basis on the confidence of Police officers and more importantly the confidence and trust in Policing by large sections of the public who believe much of what they read and are told. This undermining of law and order must stop, and it is a prime objective of any government to protect and safeguard their citizens which includes promoting trust and confidence in their police service.
Engage in effective dialogue – Mrs May did not listen to Police professionals and even accused them of crying wolf in 2015 when they warned her against further reductions and the likely impact on levels of crime. Strong and stable leaders do not do so by dictating but by effective communication which includes actively listening to those experienced and practised in Policing. The home secretary should be open to suggestions and proposals from those around them, but greater importance should be attached to those with personal knowledge of policing. I would urge him to visit operational officers and not just limit himself to stage managed photo opportunities with various senior officers and specially selected audiences. He will find the majority of police officers hugely dedicated, committed and thoroughly professional and quite capable of engaging in honest and open debate with him. They may even explain and demonstrate the benefits of effective use of stop and search if he is in any doubt.
Finally, I truly hope Mr Javid will find time to visit the Police Federation conference in a few weeks and listen to what he is told and start to build a strong and balanced relationship with those trusted to keep society safe. Policing should not be judged by spread sheets, balance sheets and selective crime statistics and it is not an income generation industry. It is much more important than that – it is about making society and the public safe and he was elected to serve the public not just the current party leader and prime minister.