Blog: The uncomfortable reality of policing on the frontline

Police on Parade 2007 - by Chris Eason via Flickr

Blog: The uncomfortable reality of policing on the frontline

12 July 2018

On the day the Police Federation celebrates the bravery of our heroic cops, vice chair Ché Donald queries why hard-working officers are being forced to slum it during the Presidential visit.

Three hundred to a room, sweltering temperatures, five toilets and five showers but no hot water for women officers – those are the uncomfortable conditions some officers have had to endure while they cover President Trump’s visit.

Some officers have been sleeping on the floor on gym mattresses, others have dragged their ‘cots’ outside to sleep in the open because it’s too hot and uncomfortable inside. No lighting, so those on late shifts have to get dressed in the dark.

And that’s before they start their 12-hour shift.

Thousands of officers are being deployed away from their home forces in what is being called the biggest police mobilisation since the 2011 riots.

The vast majority have been put up in suitable accommodation, but in one location in Essex the conditions are doing nothing for the morale of hard-pressed officers.

As the Federation’s welfare lead, I am very concerned about what we are asking our troops to do.

Yes, the police service is a ‘can-do’ organisation – we pride ourselves in rising to the challenge.

But going to work shouldn’t be an endurance test, and I have to wonder about the physical and mental state of someone who has had two or three hours sleep at best, in awful conditions.

We are expecting them to exercise their usual judgement in what threatens to be a very high-profile and incendiary visit.

But lack of sleep – and in one example, no food for breakfast – is a dangerous scenario, the perfect breeding ground for a lapse in concentration.

As a staff association, our members’ welfare is paramount and I would hate to witness an officer further down the line facing an investigation by the Independent Office for Police Complaints because they had been billeted in challenging conditions…

We need to ask how the majority of forces got it spot on, but a small number did not. There needs to be a level playing field.

Having fought for an overnight allowance to be paid to eligible officers for the Trump trip, the Federation has serious questions about the lack of consistency across the 43 forces of England and Wales. This is what we have raised with Chief Constables and MPs.

I also took the opportunity of raising the matter with Policing Minister Nick Hurd at the Downing Street reception for our Bravery Awards. Mr Hurd is acutely aware of the living conditions and had seen photos of the accommodation. As the Minister driving change in relation to police welfare, he sympathised with the officers’ plight.

We have had some success – Essex Police have just announced that they have found alternative accommodation. But as the mercury rises again, other issues are being reported, such as a shortage of drinking water for officers involved in the huge operation.

Our members are already facing several days away from their homes and their loved ones. The least they deserve is a good night’s sleep, decent meals, water and a hot shower.