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Frontline dismiss PM's officer on-call 'gimmick'


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Frontline leaders and officers have dismissed plans by the Prime Minister to create an 'officer on call' service for crime victims.

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Get the message: PM's on call plans won't work, say rank and file officers

Date - 26th July 2021
By - Chris Smith

Proposals by the Prime Minister to change policing priorities have been condemned by rank and file officers.

A Downing Street briefing to a national newspaper set out how Boris Johnson wants every victim of crime to be given a named police officer ‘on call’, league tables for answering call times and more officers to deal with school truancy.

The plans will be formally launched tomorrow.

It comes just days after the 0% pay deal and a statement of no confidence in the Home Secretary issued by the Police Federation.

The announcement, made at the start of the summer recess, coincided with a new report from the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) that revealed more than three quarters of officers have experienced mental health or wellbeing difficulties in the past year.

The Fed’s survey of 12,471 rank and file police officers impact revealed 69 per cent of all respondents linked ‘work-related difficulties’ to their distress. Of these respondents, 58 per cent experienced work-related mental health and wellbeing difficulties and cited heavy workloads as a factor.

Frontline officers reacted to the PM’s plans with fury, making clear they were unworkable unless there was significant investment and that most officers had other priorities above offering a telephone service.

One officer shared on social media: “On call while on a night shift, on annual leave, seconded to police public order, out dealing with new victims, or simply on the phone to all the other victims. It's a gimmick crippled by austerity and fatigue.”

Fed leader John Apter, who had already issued a blistering statement in response to the pay fiasco, was equally dismissive.

“Accepting I don’t know the full details, but what I’ve read this is flawed in so many ways. When it fails, it will be the police who will be lambasted, rather than government. Let’s put aside the gimmicks and look at funding the whole Criminal Justice System properly,” he said.

Hampshire Fed Chair Zoe Wakefield said exhausted officers would be unwilling to take on any extra responsibilities: “The public aren’t happy that many crimes/incidents are not responded to or investigated.

"The reason they are is because there are not enough officers. Any new scheme will not work without adequate investment into policing. According to regs, on call is voluntary, relies on goodwill.”

The Met’s Fed Chair, Ken Marsh, said his members had washed their hands of the government: “The Prime Minister is treating us in a derisory way - he doesn’t back us. His words are hollow and my colleagues are fed up with it now.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded the ideas a “gimmick”.

He said: “Of course, have a system where victims get information, they’re consulted, they’re engaged. I’m absolutely in favour of that, I would actually put that in law.

"This is just a gimmick by the Prime Minister yet again, he loves soundbites, he loves slogans, he loves gimmicks. But every time you look beyond it, there’s nothing there.

“This one won’t work. It won’t improve … if anything will make things worse because individual officers work shifts, they’re doing investigations they’re off duty. It will actually slow things down. It’s an ill-thought-through gimmick,” Sir Keir said.

The story trailed at the same time as the NPCC laid bare the pressures the Service is under due to the high number of staff who are self-isolating because of COVID-19.

National Police Chiefs’ Council Chair Martin Hewitt, said: “The recent increase in Coronavirus cases and the knock on numbers of people having to self-isolate has caused challenges for police forces. Our control rooms and custody suites have been particularly affected and this risked our ability to respond promptly to calls from the public.” 

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It's curious that the government have suddenly decided to go on the offensive around crime. 

They have some nice shiny words that don't mean anything, but I would imagine the voters will be super excited to hear and vote for. It won't make any difference to anything but it sounds good. 

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