Review calls for major reform of the Police Federation

Steve Williams, Chair of the Police Federation.

Steve Williams, Chair of the Police Federation.

The Royal Society of Arts (RSA) published its final report on its Independent Review of the Police Federation of England and Wales this week. Based on the evidence it received, the Review Panel sets out the case for fundamental reform of the Federation’s culture, behaviours, structures and organisation, with the aim of making the Police Federation once again ‘the trusted voice of frontline officers’.

In a survey undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Independent Review, 91 percent of members surveyed called for the Police Federation to change. The report responds to this strong expression of support for change. The Review Panel calls on both local and national leaders of the Federation to embrace the reform package and implement it without delay.

The RSA review was commissioned in December 2012 by incoming Chair of the Police Federation, Steve Williams, because of concerns that had been raised about the organisation and some its working practices.

The report raises concerns about the Police Federation’s: lack of openness and transparency about its affairs and finances; weak accountability to members and the public; its inability to promote good behaviour and professional standards; and internal divisions that have hampered its effectiveness and reputation. Members, it says, have lost confidence in it and it is losing its influence in representing its members.

The report explains how the Police Federation must regain the trust of its members and the public. It must provide better value for money for members’ subscriptions and for public resources it receives. It has to increase its professionalism particularly in its standards of behaviour and conduct. It has to become more unified and speak with a single voice.

There are 36 recommendations in the report designed to bring this about. They include: a new ethics, standards and performance process for Police Federation representatives; the publication of all Police Federation accounts and the expenses and hospitality received by individual officers; a new independent reference group to evaluate how the Police Federation is meeting its public interest obligations; streamlining and professionalisation of Federation representative structures; the abolition of separate committees for each rank, which have become divisive and create unnecessary cost; and more accountability to members including the direct election of the National Chair. It also recommends an initial 25 percent reduction in member subscriptions for at least one year. This would be financed by the abolition of rank committees.

Sir David Normington, Chairman of the Review Panel, said, “We have no doubt that front line police officers need an effective voice to represent their interests. But we are equally clear from the evidence we heard that the Federation is not fulfilling that function well enough at the moment and needs major reform. There is an urgent need for it regain the trust of its members, to be much more open and accountable and to adopt the kind of standards of behaviour and conduct which the public expects of police officers. If it is to regain its influence, it must put behind it the internal distrust and divisions, which are such a feature of its present operations.

“We were encouraged that the Federation set up the review in the first place and gave us a free hand to report exactly what we found. That gives us encouragement that there is willingness among the current leadership to seize this moment and get on and implement our report.

“If it does, there is a real opportunity to recreate the professional, trusted, and unified Police Federation which its members so much want, and once again, to become the trusted voice of frontline officers.”

The Review Panel undertook a large-scale consultation exercise involving well in excess of 10,000 members, Police Federation staff and representatives, and stakeholders from across the policing world and beyond. The Independent Review Panel reviewed the full range of evidence in concluding its analysis and making a series of recommendations for reform.

Commenting on the review and the published findings, Chair of the PFEW, Steve Williams, said, “This is an historic day for our organisation. The report makes uncomfortable reading and identifies that deep cultural change is needed. It shows that the organisation is currently failing to perform its role effectively and efficiently is ineffective and uninfluential, has lost the confidence of its members, and is in need of urgent reform.

“Its recommendations are far reaching and set out a roadmap of reform. There is no doubt that root and branch change is required. The Federation needs to embrace this challenge however difficult that may be.  Its findings will be seen by some as controversial and that they undermine the fabric of our organisation.  However, I have no doubt that if the Federation fails to deliver the change required, other will do it to us.

“The Police Federation plays a vital role and it is essential that we are an effective voice representing front line police officers. But we need to do that with the highest standards and the greatest of integrity.  The Independent Review gives us the opportunity to build the Federation of the future. An organisation that we can be justly proud of, that has clear purpose and direction, is accountable and transparent. Only by achieving this can we once again become the trusted voice for front line officers.”

For further information please visit the Police Federation website.