Home Secretary Amber Rudd hailed the “courage, dedication and compassion” of police officers as she addressed the Federation’s annual conference for the first time today.
Ms Rudd, whose first event in her role after being appointed in July last year was the National Police Bravery Awards, spoke to the crowd on the second morning of the conference at the ICC in Birmingham.
The Conservative candidate for the seat of Hastings and Rye has seen first-hand the challenges facing officers, no more so than when PC Keith Palmer was murdered outside the Houses of Parliament in March.
She said: “We owe you, the police, an incredible debt, for the courage and bravery you exhibit in the line of duty. For your willingness to put yourself in harm’s way, day after day, in order to protect the rest of us.
“Never have I felt that more keenly than on March 22. Keith had devoted his life to public service, and tragically lost his life serving the public. He was a solider in the Royal Artillery and then a member of the Parliamentary and Diplomatic Protection Command.
“His sacrifice in the line of duty was a sacrifice to protect the values that unite us as a country. Liberty, human rights, the rule of law and free speech.”
She admitted that the forthcoming general election had changed the tone of her address to the Federation – and acknowledged that changes need to be made, especially in the aftermath of last week’s cyber attack. “It is clear the job of reforming the police must not finish. Because as crime is changing, you will need to keep changing too.
“You must keep changing so that you do more to protect victims from the new criminals who use the internet and technology to prey on vulnerable victims. And we’ve seen over the past week just how crucial it is that we adapt to the emerging threats from cyber security. These attacks will continue to grow – in frequency, in sophistication, in volume.
“Keep changing so that you continue to confront the uncomfortable truths that have emerged about the extent of child abuse in our society over recent years. Keep changing so that you treat the threat of modern slavery like the heinous crime that it is.
“And there has to be far more effective coordination and information sharing between all the agencies, so that we are neither failing victims, nor letting the criminals who prey upon the vulnerable slip through the cracks and away into the shadows.”
Ms Rudd laid out her plans for what the Conservatives would offer if they are elected next month, hinting at the introduction of direct-entry chief constables. She also insisted that her party have made moves to improve the role of policing – and that she is happy not to interfere. “Before 2010 it had become too hard for you to get on with your jobs. There was too much paperwork and too many targets.
“The public don’t pay their taxes so that the police sit in their office filling out meaningless forms. And you didn’t come into policing to waste your time on paperwork when you could be out serving the communities you swore to protect.
“We have cut pointless red tape. With 4.5 million hours of police time saved – that’s the equivalent of 2,100 police officers no longer sitting in a back office and instead fighting crime in their community.
“It’s not for me to tell the police how to do their jobs. And as long as I’m Home Secretary there will be no return to the constant interfering from Westminster.” She did admit that tough decisions have had to be made in the past – but insisted they were for the good of the public.
“I’m not going to stand here and pretend you’ve agreed with everything we have done over the past seven years. Or that you’re going to agree with everything we will want to do if we’re elected for another five years.
“You haven’t agreed with the changes we’ve made to pay and pensions, but they were right for the country and the public to tackle the huge deficit we inherited.
“You haven’t agreed with the drive for greater efficiency in policy budgets, but it’s been right for the country and the public – and the police are more efficient and better equipped to deal with modern crime as a result.
“And you haven’t always agreed with the steps Steve, and many other representatives in this room, have taken to reform the Federation. But it’s been right for the country and the public – beginning to rebuild trust in the police after a series of damaging revelations. And I’m glad to say today that 28 out of 36 recommendations from the Normington Review have been implemented and look forward to working with you to deliver on the remaining recommendations.”