West Yorkshire Police Federation’s new Chairman Brian Booth talks about his plans for the future and making a difference.
Q Why did you decide to stand as Chairman of West Yorkshire Police Federation?
A I’ve been helping officers as a full-time Fed Rep for the last four years and have really enjoyed the dialogue I have with them – I can make a difference.
I help by negotiating effectively and I have a strategic vision of where I see the Federation going. We’ve been looking at ourselves far too much. We’ve taken our eye off the ball at a national level although we’ve been stronger locally. We’ve maintained welfare, but we’ve lacked that grass roots level view.
I want to see us pushing forward, developing the strategies that are in place to look at the things that affect the working lives of cops.
Q What areas are you going to look at in your role as West Yorkshire Federation Chairman?
A The overnight allowance. I’m not satisfied we’ve reached a conclusion. When cops are away, far from home, away from their families, they’re almost held at ransom. They don’t get paid any allowance and that’s unsatisfactory.
Meal breaks too. We seem to have accepted that officers will work 9-10 hours straight through, even extended shifts beyond that, with no effective meal break. This leads to making mistakes and virtually drives them into the ground. The mistakes are picked up by the IOPC who then criticise them for decisions made whilst they’re tired. It affects them as an individual, their mental wellbeing.
We need to ensure they get their meal breaks. I want to see Superintendents make the Chief Inspector have a meal break with them. All ranks need adequate rest – I think we’ve been missing that for too long.
Q What is your opinion about the current promotion process for police officers?
A We’ve got concerns about the new national police promotion framework and we’re not certain that frontline Sergeants and Inspectors are getting the proper support they need.
They should have an experienced and able Sergeant or Inspector looking after them, making sure they’re doing their job right and giving them the support they need.
Demand means individuals are out there doing it on their own, which isn’t giving them the correct support nor what the service needs.
It means they don’t have enough time to complete portfolios and then they have the threat of not fully being made fully substantive and going back to the rank below. We need an urgent review of that.
Q PCs and sergeants get paid for overtime. Inspectors don’t. What are your concerns there?
A A long time ago Inspectors were bought out of their casual overtime. It was put into Police Regulations. But austerity has kicked in and we’re being driven harder and harder, meaning the Inspectors are working extended shifts without recompense.
The raising of their pay scale has gone, management ride roughshod over them and it’s unfair.
At night, an Inspector will be running super divisions which are often the size of a small force, making critical decisions, with no breaks, and put on mandatory 12-hour shifts and not paid any overtime for that.
It’s not ad hoc overtime, it’s pre-planned and that’s been built into planned duties. It’s wrong and not in the spirit of the Regulations.
Q What are the dangers for the Inspectors around that expectation of working overtime?
A It’s a mental health cost – we’re driving our workforce into the ground. I understand the budget constraints to our senior officers, but the lower ranks are suffering and if we don’t do something or get proper funding, we’re just going to run the staff into the ground. Then who ultimately suffers?
Q What can be done about the hours Inspectors are currently working in West Yorkshire?
A We’re canvassing Inspectors to see how many hours they’re doing, so we can present hard facts to the force. We’re also looking at engaging with our fellow boards around the region, around the country, to see if it’s an issue elsewhere which I strongly suspect it is.
Q What’s your view on police pay and the settlement that officers were given by the Government?
A It’s appalling. We have the least rights of any service, we don’t have industrial action. We’ve got to have a mechanism where our members are confident that they will be listened to and it’s fair, but it’s grossly unfair.
If you look at all the other public services they have industrial rights, they have very similar mechanisms, but they’ve been adhered to. I really don’t understand why this Government has such a downer on policing.
Q Do you think the police service should policing withdraw from the PRRB process?
A No. We have got to continue to negotiate and influence. It might be uncomfortable, it might be slow, but we’ve got to continue.
It’s a bit like football, eventually we might get a goal and win, but if we go up into the stand we won’t have a chance.
Q But hasn’t the power to negotiate over pay been taken away from policing?
A We can put a convincing case forward. But it has got to be backed up by statistics, with a knowledge of the job, and be engaging to the key decision makers as well.
Q Are you keen on ensuring communication lines with local MPs are kept open too?
A Yes, I’ve already met some MPs. They carry our vote in Parliament so if we need changes to our Regulations, we’ve got to go through them and try and get their support. If we have that it makes it a lot easier because they will go and fight the fight with us.
Q What are the key messages you want MPs to hear about policing more generally?
A Funding is the big one. We’ve cut back on buildings, we’ve cut back on police stations, and now we’ve really got to the boots on the streets. If you cut funding you lose police officers. Have our MPs constituencies got issues with crime? Most of them have.
So, we can say ‘well you only have so many police officers available’. When you put it in stark figures then you start opening their eyes. They are then open to taking my questions to Parliament. There will be times when they follow the party line – and with Conservative MPs we may feel we are not getting through the door, except for one or two like Philip Davies, MP for Shipley. But we’ve got to keep trying.
Q What is your first message as Chairman to West Yorkshire Police Federation members?
A We will get there, and we are working hard for you. With the National Federation (PFEW) there’s been a lot of infighting, a lot of frankly navel gazing.
We really need to align together for maximum effect. The NHS successfully barters with the Government because they all stick together, yet we’re all separated.
We’ve got the National Police Chiefs’ Council doing its own thing. The Superintendents’ Association are coming online with the Federation, but we haven’t all been heading in the same direction. The challenge is to unite us. We need to always be thinking “is it in the members’ interests and why is it in the members’ interests?” They are the key questions I’ll ask.
Q How are you going to look after the Federation’s Reps?
A It’s about supporting Reps so they can support members. I’ve been out there and have worked silly hours as a Rep with little support.
I have seen others suffering from mental ill health because of how much work they’re taking on. So, our job as the executive or the full-timers here is to support our Fed Reps on the frontline. We will go out and support them, making sure that the work is distributed evenly. Because who looks after those who look after members? That’s the key here.
Date posted: October 11, 2018