Questions were raised about the police service’s role in supporting people with mental health issues and particularly the ongoing use of police cells as a place of safety during the first key debate of this year’s Police Federation conference.
The conference began with an opening address from the national chairman Steve White who said the Federation would be sending a clear message to Government – enough is enough.
“Cuts have consequences and, quite simply, we can do no more,” he said.
The mental health debate was followed by an at times lively discussion on the political challenge facing the police service with the panel split on whether forces could really do more with less. There seemed to be no such split in the conference hall, however, with delegates highlighting the realities of protecting the public and ensuring officer safety with limited ‘boots on the ground’ due to cuts in officer numbers.
Assaults on officers ‘never part of the job’
Shocking body worn video camera footage capturing a vicious assault on Hampshire Sergeant Kelly Lawrence opened a conference session looking at officer assaults.
In Tuesday’s final session, led by John Apter of Hampshire Police Federation, delegates were told about work within the Force to ensure that officer assaults are never considered just part of the job and that officers are properly supported.
It’s overall message, however, was that the number of officer assaults needed to be properly recorded and that a reduction in officer numbers had put them even more at risk.
The first session of Tuesday afternoon featured a presentation by Inspector Kam Bria of the College of Policing and its theme was ‘The myth of being a diverse police service’. He talked about the lack of career progression for black and minority ethnic police officers and said the police service needed to be more reflective and representative of the communities it serves.
But the headline grabbing conference debate of the day was the second session – ‘Women and alcohol – the drink drive challenge’ – during which delegates were told that while drink driving among men was falling, the number of women being convicted was increasing.
The Federation is calling for the drink drive limit to be reduced in line with changes made in Scotland last year.
Full coverage of the national Police Federation conference will appear in the June edition of our magazine.