Yvette Cooper – 2013 Speech to the Police Federation

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Below is the text of the speech made by Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary, to the Police Federation Conference in Bournemouth on 14th May 2013.

Thank you for that welcome John.

It’s a pleasure to be at the Police Federation conference – and to have been following it so far on Twitter.

It’s impressive the way police have embraced twitter as a public forum for debate and also to get out the message on missing persons or public order.

My experience on Twitter has not been quite so successful. I was once excited to find I was trending. Not so excited to find I had managed to tweet from my handbag:

“Hgggg“.

Retweeted many times. Sometimes with a sympathetic comment. Mostly with something along the lines of “what a change to hear a politician talking sense”.

That I suspect is your concern at the Police Federation whenever you have politicians addressing you too.

Your theme this year, 20/20 Vision, Policing the Future Together, is the right one.

Because I don’t believe there is a vision for policing right now

And I think one is needed.

But let me first pay tribute to those police officers lost in service this year

In September the whole of Manchester, and indeed the whole country paid tribute to the bravery of PC Fiona Bone and PC Nicola Hughes

Murdered answering a routine 999 call.

Murdered because they were police officers.

We remember too 

Inspector Preston Gurr, DC Adele Cashman, PC Andrew Bramma, PC Bruce Stevenson, PC Steve Rawson, Sgt Ian Harman.

And we should pay special tribute to the remarkable bravery of PC Ian Dibell.

Off duty. And yes, he ran towards danger not away from it. Fatally shot because he went to help others. Proof that a determined police officer is never off duty. Someone the whole country should honour for the bravery he showed to protect us all.

And we’ve seen how the policing family also stand together in tough times. The support I know the Police Federation has shown to the families of those who lost their lives.

And the determination to keep their memories alive.

And a particular thanks to Fed Rep Steve Philips, who has done a charity run from Manchester to Bournemouth, over six days, to raise money for the North West Police Benevolent Fund and the Care of Police Survivors charity in honour of PC Bone and PC Hughes.

I also want to pay tribute to someone I know will be missed here in this hall, who spent his life fighting for British policing and British police officers.

A good man who always had a serious and thoughtful contribution to make to any policing debate. Someone who loved life – which makes it so tragic he has lost it. Many of us know we miss a friend as well as a colleague. I would like to pay tribute and say thank you to a great champion of British policing, Paul McKeever.

And he is also best remembered through his own words, in his last interview with the Fed magazine. They sum up both Paul and Paul’s vision of policing.

When asked what stood out for him in 35 years as a police officer, Paul describes very poignantly taking the father of a young man killed in a motorcycle accident to identify his son in St Thomas’s, and he describes with great sympathy the pain and devastation for a man who has lost a son, then he says “that to me encapsulated the rawness of humanity and the rawness of some of the situations we have to deal with. It’s not just the physicality of dealing with the crime scene, it’s dealing with people”.

And Paul is right.

Policing is a unique public service.

Yes the bravery and the unknown risk – as PC Dibbell, PC Bone and PC Hughes showed us.

Yes fighting crime, catching criminals.

But so much more than that.

Picking up the pieces of people’s broken lives.

And we should thank every officer out there on duty today, who is doing exactly that.

When I first addressed your Conference, two years ago, I said we supported your calls for a Royal Commission or proper review of policing in this country, on how we could work together to prepare a police service truly fit for the 21st century.

When the Government did not agree, we set up the Independent Review into the Future of Policing, chaired by Lord John Stevens. That review is now in its final stages, and it will report in the coming months.

The Review has reached out to over 30,000 officers and staff.

With surveys of staff, evidence from officers, partners, local communities, businesses, members of the public and academia.

I can’t pre-empt the conclusions that they reach. But I want to say a bit about why it matters given the challenges policing faces:

– plummeting morale

– scale of cuts

– chaotic reforms and fragmentation

– policies which risk making it harder not easier to do the job

– and that crucial lack of vision to tackle the challenges of the future

For a start I think it is serious that policing morale has plummeted in the last few years.

You will have seen some of the review research.

Over half of officers and 40 per cent of police staff say they are considering leaving policing.

Officers feeling they could not influence decisions or unhappy about the structure of career progression, or under pressure over pay or pension changes.

Over 90 per cent responding, feeling they were not valued by the Government.

That matters.

It’s not just a problem for the Police Federation, Chief Constables or the Home Secretary.

It’s a problem for all of us.

When policing is under such strain from resource cuts, we need more than ever to have determined, motivated, valued police officers, able to go the extra mile.

British policing relies on the strength and dedication of officers and staff.

That’s why we need better training, support, career development.

But the Government’s reforms are confused. They talk about talents and experience, but they cut starting salaries and make it harder for people with mortgages, experience or families to join the workplace.

We support the College of Policing and think there is much more that it could do.

But that’s not enough.

The police are the public and the public are the police.

Far more women now join the police. But too few make it up through the ranks.

Parents and carers are finding their family friendly working has been ditched as shifts are restructured to meet the cuts.

And too few black and minority ethnic officers being recruited.

And too few black and minority ethnic officers stay on.

We need a police force that is properly rooted in and representative of the communities it serves.

And we need officers who feel valued, well managed and well motivated, with the discretion to get on a do a good job.

We need Government to recognise the value of the job they do.

The second problem has been the scale of cuts.

As you know, we said from the start that 20 per cent cuts went too far and too fast – and we supported 12 per cent cuts instead.

And we are seeing the consequences.

11,500 officers cut already.

At least 15,000 to go in total.

These huge cuts are starting to hollow out policing.

Having to do less with less.

Crime falling more slowly.

But justice falling too.

For ten years while crime came down, we saw a higher proportion of crimes solved, and more offenders brought to justice.

Yet now we are seeing the opposite.

200,000 fewer arrests.

30,000 fewer cases solved

Officers I’ve spoken to know they can’t make arrests because too few officers on the streets and it will take them off the streets for too long when other problems might kick off.

Officers who have told me they’ve had to use Community Resolutions to write cases off – even when they know the crime is serious because they haven’t the time and resources to follow it up.

A quote from an officer who had to write to local businesses and residents to raise the money for a car, “at present we have to rely on lifts from our colleagues in marked vehicles, a pool car, public transport and regularly walking two miles to the nearest point or 10 miles to the farthest point.”

Doesn’t look much like the 21st century does it? Officers thumbing a lift down the dual carriage way to get to the scene of the crime.

Theresa May’s failure to fight for policing in the first spending review hit policing and justice hard.

And with the second spending review looming – they need to do a better job.

It is clear that all those promises the Government made that these cuts would get the deficit down have fallen through because they couldn’t get growth.

Now it looks as though policing and communities will pay the price for the Government’s economic failure again.

But the problem is not just about resources it is about the chaotic nature of reforms and fragmentation that are making it harder not easier for the police to do more with less.

Policing needs to keep reforming to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

But too often the Government’s reforms have been chaotic, piecemeal and confused, creating greater fragmentation and rearranging the deckchairs rather than creating a strong sense of direction and purpose.

Consider Theresa May’s flagship reform, the Police and Crime Commissioners she said would secure “a strong democratic mandate from the ballot box”.

Instead, she spent £100 million on shambolic elections and only one in eight people turned out to vote.

Reforms are needed, but they shouldn’t waste money or create confusion.

They need to be rooted in a positive vision of policing for the future.

That is why the Stevens Review is looking at the different responses needed at local, regional, national and international level to deal with changing patterns of crime and disorder.

And making sure that the great achievements of neighbourhood policing introduced over the last fifteen years are not lost – embedding police properly in local communities, working in partnership to prevent crime and keep order not just flying in to the 999 emergency call.

Many police officers have told me that the Crime and Disorder Act in the late 90s was the most important and powerful reforming legislation on crime in decades. Because it forced not just the police but local councils, probation, the NHS, community organisations to work in partnership to tackle crime.

Yet too many organisations are pulling back and pulling in – retreating to their core business, just when we need partnership more than ever. We need a new push for partnership in leaner times if we are to keep communities safe.

For example we do need a clearer framework for raising standards and taking action when things go wrong.

When things go wrong – as they did so terribly at Hillsborough – we need proper transparent investigations that can get swiftly to the truth, rather than denying victims justice for years, and also casting a shadow over policing too.

That’s why we’ve asked the Stevens review to look at a better framework for standards, inspection and complaints to make sure mistakes are learnt from and not repeated too. How we set up a new Police Standards Authority to replace the IPCC.

But let me say something two area of reforms I know many Federation members are concerned about at the moment.

First compulsory severance, and second private contracting.

I think everyone would agree that standards of policing need to be upheld, and officers need to maintain a proper level of training, skills and ethical standards to do the job. And of course they can’t stay if they don’t.

But I have three concerns about the major changes to the Office of Constable built into the Government’s approach.

First, I fear that this is just a cover for more cuts. You have to wonder why the Government are in such a rush to do this in time for the spending review.

Second, there are insufficient safeguards to prevent abuse or the appearance of abuse in the new climate. If Police and Crime Commissioners can sack Chiefs and Chiefs can sack everyone else with very few safeguards in place, the principle of the independent office of Constable is fundamentally changing.

And that is not something that should be done in such a reckless way.

My third concern is that there was a compact on policing which is being carelessly ripped up without consultation. Police officers can rightly be summoned on duty at any time, as the service of last resort, with few industrial rights. In return police officers had the unique responsibility of the Office of Constable, valued by government and with no compulsory severance.

I never supported the right to strike for police officers and I don’t now. But I do think the Government needs to show respect for the Office of Constable in return.

Did anything exemplify the Office of Constable more than going the extra mile to deliver a safe Olympics?

Officers came to London at short notice, had leave cancelled, holiday re-arranged, personal lives disrupted again, families putting up with it.

And that disruption was made worse when a private contract badly failed.

Yet Ministers are pushing for big private contracts to replace much of the work police do. Nothing ruled out. Not even detective work or neighbourhood patrols.

Massive contracts with single companies for complex work.

And many forces are looking at how to use it for the police.

Be clear, public private partnerships can be valuable – new contracts will be needed for example on information technology.

But contracts must pass tough tests:

– On value for money.

– On resilience and security.

– On transparency and accountability.

– And most of all on public trust.

For the Labour Party, and for people across the country, there are red lines – or perhaps we should say blue lines.

Policing by consent means the police need the confidence of the public.

And the public need to trust that policing is being done in the interests of the justice not the corporate balance sheet.

We should be blunt about this. We don’t want private companies patrolling the public streets of Britain, we want police officers and PCSOs doing the job.

The Government’s job is also to make it easier not harder for the police to do their job.

Too often the reverse is happening.

The DNA of 4,000 rape suspects being destroyed – even though we know rape is a hard crime to solve.

And under their new plans ASBOs will no longer include any criminal sanction if they are breached.

And worst of all, they want to ditch the European Arrest Warrant just because it has Europe in the title.

This is the real consequence of the Conservative party’s frenzy and infighting over Europe.

The European Arrest Warrant allowed us to swiftly deport 900 foreign citizens suspected of crimes in their own country.

And it helped us catch terrorists, kidnappers and serious criminals who fled abroad and bring them back to face justice.

This weekend Spanish police tracked down and arrested Andrew Moran – the Salford man who has been on the run for four years after a £25,000 armed robbery involving guns and a machete.

He was found sunbathing in a villa in Alicante.

Under the European Arrest Warrant he was rapidly arrested and should shortly be returned home.

But remember Ronnie Knight the East End armed robber.

He fled to the Spanish coast too – before the European arrest warrant came in.

He spent his time sunbathing in a luxury villa down the coast from Alicante in Fuengirola.

But unlike Andrew Moran he didn’t have to hide or change his appearance. He opened an Indian Restaurant and R Knights nightclub.

Because we could not get the Spanish police to arrest him and we could not get the Spanish courts to send him home.

The Home Secretary needs to listen to the police and to the evidence on the European Arrest Warrant, not to the hysteria of Tory backbenchers.

If they decide sound tough on everything with Europe in the title, the Government will end up being soft on crime.

Be it about policies on crime, chaotic reforms, resources or morale, in the end the real problem remains in your conference title – where is the 2020 vision?

And where is the plan for policing together for the future?

I don’t believe this Government has a vision for policing.

We want to build a vision for policing with you. Together.

That in the end was what we set up the Stevens commission for. We will look forward to its conclusions.

Building on the international reputation that British policing can be proud of.

From forensics to neighbourhood policing, from counter terror to the Olympics, decade after decade this country has led the way. We want to do so again.

Reforming together.

Protecting the public together.

Cutting crime and getting justice for victims together.

But only if we have the vision of policing together – 2020 policing.