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
"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
"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
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
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 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
5th June 2008