17 May 2017
Officers threw down the gauntlet to Home Secretary Amber Rudd during the question and answer session at conference today, and challenged her to witness the ‘crisis conditions’ they are working in.
With demand rising through the roof, they spoke of an epidemic of filling in the gaps left by other agencies, endless overtime and officers being driven to ill health.
Nick Smart, Chair of West Yorkshire Police Federation told her: “You cannot ignore the fact that demand has exploded. We’ve got custody suites that look like an A & E ward because of mental health issues. We’ve got officers sent to hospital with people who are suicidal. It’s a crisis across the country – officers are going without meal breaks, working extended hours, that’s the reality. We do not have the money or the cops to do the job.
“There aren’t enough cops to deal with the demand, so I’m going to ask you, Home Secretary, are you going to invest in the police service? We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul – will you give us more money? Until you resolve that we are always going to be on the back foot.”
Ms Rudd promised to visit West Yorkshire if re-elected in the general election but a sceptical Andy Symonds, Chair of Norfolk Police Federation urged her to make an unannounced visit to his own patch ‘to see it how it really is.’ To cheers from the audience he told the Home Secretary: “I bet when you normally turn up there are quite a few officers on overtime – I implore you to make a surprise unannounced visit.”
Scott Davies, from West Midlands, asked her: “As a service we are picking up everything that is reported to us. In the light of huge budget cuts in recent years, what are the chances to alleviate the burdens placed on us to direct non-police matters away from the police?”
Ms Rudd promised to make Norfolk her first surprise visit, but claimed the allocation of resources was a matter for chief constables. She said she was ‘sorry to hear’ about the terrible conditions that officers were working under but said the Government had taken significant steps to address some of the issues, for example spending significant sums in bolstering mental health and other services to provide alternative places of safety.
She also committed to supporting PFEW Chair Steve White’s funding bid to the Police Transformation Fund if she was re-elected in June. Asked by Paul Bennett from Northumbria whether she accepted the link between officers’ workload and their mental health and morale, she replied simply “yes”. But later said: “With reference to the recent HMIC Peel Inspection reports, some forces have very strong results – what they have got is excellent leadership. It’s not all about the numbers and the money. It’s about great leadership and being able to deliver.”