Comment: May treats us police officers with contempt

The police are being disrespected and the public are being put at risk. It's time for the government to do one of its U-turns.

By Julie Nesbit

When Theresa May first addressed our conference in 2010, she said: "I will never under estimate the importance of the job you do". But two short years later, under-estimation and contempt are the words that spring to the minds of most police officers.

Later today, the home secretary will stand in the same hall, telling many of those same officers that we're not a special case, and should be treated like any other public sector worker. That is – of course – in every way that benefits the state and in none of the ways which benefit police officers or the public.

We don't have the right to strike and frankly we've never wanted it – but part of our historic acceptance of the restriction to remove our labour has been the knowledge that public safety and confidence will never be undermined. We now feel a line has been crossed, and worst of all, there are no significant signs that the government are prepared to listen to the very real concerns our members have about our ability to deliver the service we, as members of the public, expect and deserve.

So why are we continuing to complain?

It's quite simple. Commentators will tell you the government’s not for turning but I can't remember any government making as many U-turns as this one. We hope and believe we may be able to persuade them to re-evaluate their policies on policing.

What are we asking for?

For starters, we'd like to think our voices were actually being heard, rather than stonewalled with prepared spin lines on essential reforms. Only through constructive dialogue will the public get the service they deserve.

We're not adverse to change or reform… indeed the police service has constantly been under reform since 1829 – but we do believe any reforms should be motivated by a genuine desire to improve service delivery for the public and not simply a cost cutting measure.

So today home secretary, we'd like you to say something different, something new, something meaningful.

Julie Nesbit is Chairman of the Constables Committee of the Police Federation of England and Wales.

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