Since the release of Winsor 2 all I seem to have been doing is work, work, work or sleep, sleep, sleep. I’ve done more overtime (not through choice I might add) in the last week than I think I’ve done for the last three months in total, due to the ever decreasing numbers of us both out there on the scary streets and in the back office carrying out essential tasks we are now having to fit in as well. Forget any thoughts about my work-life balance; the fact that my wife and I have become ‘ships in the night’ and the last time I saw my youngest awake was almost a week ago now when she was supervising the construction of her new bedroom furniture (actually I think scrutinising would be a better word !!). The only words of condolence I’ve had from the Inspector for my additional 14 hours of effort this week are “I hope you’re going to put some of that down as TOIL, we can’t afford to pay you know”. How about ‘Go away’ very unpolitely !!
And so, it’s taken me a little longer to even so much as glance over the summary of the report, but already it’s quite obvious the man has not got a scooby what he’s talking about. There are some points which in fairness, do need addressing one way or another, but most of what Tom Winsor says just about sums up the politically motivated attack on the police that this Government has instigated. I’d just like to remind you over there in Westminster, it’s not our fault you nicked the taxpayers money to build a duck house and then got found out !
Back to Winsor 2 though, one the day of release, the main headline in the papers and on the TV News was that police officers would face annual fitness test. This certainly wasn’t the main issue at stake by a long way, but why let fact get in the way of sensation. Still, as it’s the headline grabber, we’ll go there first.
Winsor quotes figures that 52% of male Metropolitan Police officers are overweight and 22% are clinically obese, with 1% morbidly so. How these figures are measured it not so clear though; what is known is that if they are based on BMI, there is an awful lot of documented statistics to show this is not a reliable indicator. That said, I was most surprised when I joined that there weren’t already annual fitness tests – I sort of assumed it would be the norm. Then again, I assumed an awful lot about policing, law and order which have been proven not to be true.
I do have to agree that police officers should maintain a level of fitness; we do a physically demanding job and it’s also a matter of self pride and personal worthiness. Whether, as some argue, the job should make provision by way of time or gym/training accessibility for officers to maintain or improve their fitness I’m not so sure. We spend a lot of time trying to suggest to out clientele that it’s about time they should take responsibility for themselves rather than expect us to do it – is it therefore right and proper the same rules should apply to us ??
On the flipside, our working practices are not contusive to a healthy lifestyle. Irregular and unsocial hours, irregular eating habits (for that read snatched and gulped down as you run out the door reheated 3 times microwave meals) and sleeping patterns all take a toll on even the fittest person. Ask any doctor and they will tell you that what we do, and how we do it, WILL have major detrimental effects on your health. This was made ever-so-clear to myself when I just completed a three month attachment to a ‘department that doesn’t work in the dark’. Having not been well for a while I’d been to my doctors and was being monitored for identified thyroid and diabetes risks (which had been put down to the job I do) and I was surprised to find that after just the first month off shift, a test showed my count levels had already fallen – by the third test they were half way back down to where they should be !
I am however, back working shifts, because that’s where I want to be – out there trying to fight crime and help people, but finding in reality all I’m doing is fighting the system.
The short and curlies are though, if you don’t look after yourself, no one else will !
Winsor 2 also looks at how to treat officers on Restricted Duties, with the threat that they could be effectively sacked after two years if they can’t go back on the streets.
We all know of officers in our stations who pull a fast one – who manage to stay on ‘restricted duties’ by any way or means to prevent them having to go outside the confines of a nice warm nick. It happens, and we can’t say it doesn’t. There are officers at Bigtown Police Station who can’t work response because of ‘back problems’ yet they play for the force football team ! We have an Officer Safety Trainer who can’t go outside because of a bad hip – yet spends every working day in a gym ! We have one chap who was on the sick on our squad when I came to Bigtown eight years ago. He’s still on the sick and still showing as our shift strength to this day – but in those eight years, I’ve never seen him on the streets once ! I do have to ask; why do these people get paid more than me; why are they still here ?
On the other side, we have officers who have been beaten, kicked, punched and stabbed; one of the guys still wears a brace on his lower arm four years after having it crushed by a drug crazed lunatic repeatedly jumping up and down on it after he’d run up behind the officer dealing with a simple traffic stop that was nothing to do with him, and striking the officer across the back of the head with a spade, knocking him to the ground. The offender got eight months, was out in half that. He had been out of prison for less than two weeks, having launched a totally random attack on another police officer, also placing him in hospital (for which he was sentenced to eight weeks). That officer is an absolute gem; one of the finest investigators I know, with a wealth of experience and knowledge that he’s only too happy to share with anyone if it helps them solve a case. Should he suffer an 8% pay cut and possibly loss of his job for being a victim of serious crime ? Are we seriously suggesting people like these officers should be discarded, disadvantaged or cast on the scrap heap, purely because they’ve put themselves in the front line and suffered due to the failings of other sectors of the system.
The answer is, this is a management issue – or rather lack of management. Senior people are not making relevant decisions or taking responsibility where it matters – they are simply too afraid of being complained about or sued themselves and so they go for the easy ‘ignore and hope no-one will notice’ approach. Don’t want to rock the boat some might say.
Redundancy by another name
It has always been that police officers are not employees; each and every one of us is technically an independent agent of the crown, sworn to uphold the law of the land, and protect people and property. You simply cannot make police officer redundant. In any case, look up the laws relating to redundancy; the first and most blatantly obvious thing you will note, is that for a redundancy to be lawful, the position or post to which it relates must no longer exist. That’s hardly the case with police officers is it ?
And so, the phrase that has been created to leapfrog the redundancy laws is ‘a power akin to compulsory severance’ which means something that is the same as redundancy but isn’t called that because we can’t. The proposal is to allow Chief Officers to ‘manage’ their workforce effectively in times of financial pressure. Is there anyone on this planet that does not understand that to mean chop out the long serving therefore higher paid officers and replace them with new starters with no experience on almost half the wage.
If you read the actual text of the report, it makes even more worrying reading for members of the federated ranks:
Recommendation 46 – The Police Regulations 2003 should be amended to create a system of compulsory severance for police officers with less than full pensionable service from April 2013
Recommendation 47 – The Police Regulations 2003 should be amended to provide for the payment of financial compensation to police officers with less than full pensionable service who leave the police service by reason of compulsory severance. Forces should be empowered to offer financial compensation on the same terms as are available under the Civil Service Compensation Scheme 2010.
Recommendation 50 – Compensation payments for Chief Constables and Deputy Chief Constables whose fixed term appointments are not renewed should be fair and more generous than the compensation available to officers who leave the police service by reason of compulsory severance, taking into account any pension entitlements. The current scheme should therefore remain.
So, as far as ACPO ranks are concerned, we’re all right Jack ! Nice to know we’re all in this together isn’t it.
It’s always going to make the blood boil, but Winsor 2 has turned the temperature up in so many different ways, it’s hard to know where to start. So we’ll start at the bottom.
Winsor suggests that the starting salary for a Probationary Police Constable should be cut from @£23,000 to @£19,000 a year – a saving of £4,000 for each new recruit. Given that elsewhere in the report, Winsor states that prospective recruits should be educated to a much higher standard (degree preferably) and Police Federation stats show the average joining age is 27, how many Uni Grads that old do you know that would want to put up with what we do for that amount of money ?? I’m not suggesting for one minute that the police is only worthy of employing ‘knuckle-draggers’ and of course a good education is a great help to anybody, but policing is all about people skills and life knowledge. Doing a thesis on the causes of mid-pacific sub-terrainian volcanic eruptions will mean diddly squat when you are trying to talk a hysterically depressed girl down from jumping off a motorway bridge.
I shouldn’t even mention the comparison that was instantly realised in our nick when the report was released – that £19k is less than a CSO earns !!! but then I don’t expect their role to be here at all very soon – they will all have been transferred to minimum wage G4S security guards.
Special Priority Payments (SPP) are scrapped, as is CRTP and in their place a new ‘Expertise and Professional Accreditation Allowance (EPAA). Never been a great fan of SPP – each force has been allowed to construct their own eligibility criteria and the results have been very, very divisory. Two people, doing the same job and nearby stations which fall in different force catchments can find one is eligible, the other not. Some forces pay response officers, some don’t, some pay LPT/Neighbourhood officers, some don’t. Some forces pay dependent on time served which is even more contentious, as people working alongside eligible colleagues on the same shift at the same station can miss out by a considerable amount of money. Again, this has been allowed to happen as a result of poor and ineffective management, and the inability to take responsibility at the top level.
The replacement, EPAA is a recommended £600 (gross) payment per annum for additional skills. Is £50 a month enough compensation for the endless additional cancelled rest days and last minute changes of duties we are having to put up with for PSU requirements; never mind the joy of having paint, bricks, excrement and god knows what else thrown at us by members of the various other disenfranchised groups. In fairness, I was hoping this year, they might come over and empathise with us, maybe offer to hold our shields for a bit while we do some rock throwing ourselves to relieve some of the stress ??
What I can say, categorically, and without being an Authorised Firearms Officer, is that £600 a year is not enough, by a long way, for the additional responsibility of carrying guns; in the full knowledge that when it goes really, really wrong, you’re going to be the one at the front, pointing an MP5 at someone, with the realistic prospect of having to pull that trigger, knowing that as soon as you do, the entire command structure of your force will be running away as quickly as it can and trying to rub your name off every record they have got so they can distance themselves form you. History shows that the (very) brave guys and girls who take on this extra special responsibility, and of course do so voluntarily, get next to no support from the people who matter, when it matters. So no, £600 is nowhere near enough. By a long way.
Along with the increases in pension contributions, most people I have talked to at work and who’ve used the online calculator on the Winsor Review website have found themselves worse off, by hundreds of pounds a year, for the next couple of years. Given the increased stoppages we will face, I personally will now earn less pro rata than my wife who works in an office for an insurance company !
Have a go at the online calculator yourself by clicking this link: http://review.police.uk/publications/online-calculator/online-calculator-federated?view=Binary
Right, that’s enough ranting for now. I haven’t read through the whole of the Review yet but from what I have seen, it’s most clearly a case of take, take, take, with very little giving.
Of course, these are just recommendations and they will have to proceed through the necessary channels, but I think we can expect, similarly to Winsor 1, to see many of the highlighted areas being implemented in one way or another. Still, keep smiling, we can only do one job at a time …..