The Truth

Outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation Attacks Government's Betrayal .........

added 5/6/08

This article in the Daily Mail about Jan Berry, outgoing chairman of the Police Federation, gives us an insight into how the Government is re-engineering the police, for example, by using unqualified and inexperienced community support officers for regular duties and keeping qualified officers as a "paramilitary-type force."

The article starts with her forthright valedictory speech addressed to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith.

Mrs Berry accused Miss Smith of making a 'monumental mistake', by being the first Home Secretary ever to turn down the recommendations of the independent pay review body, saying:

"I do not say this lightly when I say you betrayed the police service."

After making a jibe about the Home Secretary admitting cannabis use in the past, she went on to say, "Your recent crimes have been more for the Serious Fraud Office than the drug squad."

Mrs Berry was saddened that it had come to this and said, "This Government has betrayed the police service - and not just on the pay issue. We are in a terrible position, with relations between the Government and the police at their worst ever, and that isn't something that makes me feel proud."

Believing the Home Secretary was not entirely to blame for the pay issue, Mrs Berry said, "I also question whether there was a much higher-level decision to take on the police."

She admitted that for much of the past six years she has felt more akin to a puppet on the end of Westminster strings. "I have really tried to work with the civil service and different government ministers - not just about pay and conditions, but about policing in general. But it is as if they don't want to involve you until they have made up their minds. You are there to legitimise the process."

"In the pay review, it just felt like the word "negotiation" was superfluous. There was no negotiation. They want to dictate the whole time. They don't want to work in partnership."

"It's the same when you try to address huge issues about the future of policing. There are certain elements that feel they know best."

She is scathing about how the police service is crippled by paperwork and spurious targets, leading to officers' ability to do their jobs being eroded.

Mrs Berry believes many problems - knife crime, anti- social behaviour, youth offending - can be tackled only by individual officers using their initiative and experience.

"We are policing to meet targets rather than really understanding what it is the public needs," she says.

"We have a generation of police officers who don't know any other way. Common sense is being eroded."

Her most serious concern is that the status of the police officer is being reduced to little more than a glorified box-ticker.

"One of the basic tenets of the job is that operational policing is undertaken by police officers who swear an oath of allegiance. They are "officers" rather than "employees"."

"That means, as a police officer, I have personal responsibility and am accountable only to the law for my decision. So, in theory, my Chief Constable cannot, for instance, order me to go and arrest someone - I have to go and make up my own mind about it. But in practice, the target culture is making this increasingly impossible. There are people within the civil service who seem to want to break the "office of constable" so that they can better dictate what it is that officers do."

Mrs Berry talks about the Sex Discrimination Act and how she reckons it manoeuvred her along the career path faster than her male colleagues, if only because some people wanted to see her fail.

Equally galling for her are the endless targets that are the bane of every chief constable's life and which have stifled common-sense policing.

"I'm not someone who views the past through rose-tinted glasses," she says. "There was no golden age of policing. Dixon Of Dock Green never existed. But the nature of how we do the job has changed irrevocably. I see it every day. Young officers go to deal with an incident involving three or four youths - the sort of incident that could, and I would say should, be dealt with by some strong words of advice, discussions with parents and lessons learned by everyone."

"But in this climate, they are encouraged by the system to deal with it by reporting it as a crime and prosecuting the offenders."

She reinforces the now noticeable agenda that the whole change in policing is to get as many people into the system as possible as part of the Big Brother surveillance state.

She continues, "It all spirals into a caution, a court appearance. . . as a police officer you formalise these things because you can then demonstrate you are doing your job."

"The things that can't be quantified - reassuring a member of the public, quelling a situation before trouble arises - things I would say are at the heart of good policing, can't be measured, so aren't seen as important."

As a result, she fears that many officers know no other form of policing. "They will not have done the sort of policing I did, where I learned to develop my instincts," she says. "All they know is "sanctioned detentions", "offenders brought to justice" and "targets". Their ability to use common sense and their discretion has been removed."

Worried about community support officers who are not trained to qualified officers' standards, she is concerned that proper police officers will be brought in only for confrontation issues. As for the community support officers, she says,

"Part of their experience bank will always be missing, and the police service becomes this kind of paramilitary-type force. I know the Home Secretary says this isn't what she wants - and it certainly isn't what the public wants - but that is what is going to happen. The softer side of policing is disappearing, and I don't think that can be a good thing."

Mrs Berry talks of job satisfaction and how little of it is around for the average officer, contrasting it with her own 'terribly rewarding' career.

She says that officers do one part of the job, then it gets passed on to a different department. "They never see the end result, and they end up demoralised, feeling like a tiny cog in a great unwieldy wheel."

Of course, being able to reflect on a job well done is a basic human need. She is candid about her frustration in leaving the force and the Police Federation at such a difficult time.

What does retirement hold for her? Is she, perhaps, considering a career in politics?

She shudders. "I can't think of anything worse."

The whole article can be read here:

By Jenny Johnston
Daily Mail
5th June 2008