There is no denying that officers from across the country have shown the strength of their feeling today about the future of the police service. This is undoubtedly one of the most challenging periods for policing since its creation in 1829. Many police officers are worried, but I also sense that they remain determined to deliver the very best service to the public that they can.
The financial challenges facing forces are immense; the service has not shied away from that fact. Over time, we have delivered falling crime but all the while, the demands on policing have increased exponentially. Forces have had to make difficult decisions to produce the required savings, including major reductions to number of staff. The two-part Winsor report on pay and conditions has made some radical proposals but much of this is still subject to negotiation.
Chief officers sympathise with the demands placed on the officers and staff in our charge. We recognise the financial uncertainty created by the current economic situation and changes to job security and pensions. We firmly believe that proposals for change have to be viewed for their cumulative impact and recognise the unique demands policing makes of police officers and staff.
The challenges are not purely financial or local to force areas. There are national threats that the service must continue to confront in a joined up and co-ordinated way. My recent attendance at COBR, representing police chiefs in discussion about a potential fuel strike, again demonstrated with absolute clarity the requirement for a national contact point. As the National Policing Improvement Agency winds down and preparations for a new Police Professional Body continue, the Government announced in this Queen’s Speech the pending formation of a National Crime Agency. Combining the powers of the police, SOCA and the HMRC with the ability to task and coordinate at a national level will introduce a unique and untested dynamic to British policing.
The increased role of the private sector in our day to day business may also play a part in freeing up officers to deploy to the frontline and visible policing roles that the public value so much. We are seeing forces take many different paths towards this goal, but the great unknown is Police and Crime Commissioners and the new form of accountability they bring. My sense is there are still a great many changes on the horizon.
But whatever the future brings what we do have is a flexible and dedicated workforce that serves the public in often the most dangerous circumstances and with an enormous spirit of self-sacrifice and fortitude. The service demonstrates that commitment daily and will continue to do so.