Damian Green speech to the Police Federation

Speech given by Damian Green to the Police Federation on 14 May 2013

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Damian Green

I would like to pay tribute to Paul McKeever. I only knew Paul for a few months after taking on the job last September but I recognise the strength of his principles and lifelong dedication to the police service. It was a privilege to work with him for those few short months and he will be very sorely missed.

When I became Police Minister I promised to be a candid friend to the police.

So let me begin my first speech to you with a statement of candour – we are reforming the police because reform is needed.

And this is as much about public perceptions as it is about the public purse.

Yes, the state of the country’s finances demands that all public services play their part in saving money.

But these reforms are about something much deeper and more long-lasting than just cutting costs. They are about creating a more modern police service, more in touch with the people it serves, more transparent in its work, more flexible in its approach, and more suited to the demands of the 21st Century.

I know change is painful. But it is not the job of a true friend to gloss over uncomfortable truths or shy away from difficult advice.

I know also that change can be tough. But police officers across the country are rising to the challenge. Crime has fallen by more than 10% since this government came to power and that is a tremendous testament to the skill and dedication of our police officers.

I want to thank you for that and to remind you that change can also improve policing both for those whose job it is, and for the general public.

And it is my job as Police Minister to help make your job more straightforward and more fulfilling – to help transform it into something more like the one you originally signed up for.

Making the case

In the period since you all became officers, it is obvious that society has changed dramatically.

The internet and access to technology have transformed the way we live our lives.

It has changed the way we do business, how we go on holiday, the way we shop, how we are entertained. And much of it can be done with access to the portable devices we all carry around with us, which, for some reason, we still call telephones.

The information age has empowered people to hold what we used to call the pillars of society to account and given them a limitless scope to express their opinions when standards are not met.

Professions that once enjoyed public respect as of right now face the challenge of winning respect by deed and not position. As a politician, I know this all too well. My profession is more challenged than ever before, and so is yours.

The challenge is much the same for police officers, who are now no longer respected, unquestioningly, by the majority of the public. We all have to earn respect, everyday.

It is clear public professions must change and adapt to meet the challenges of the modern age, to engage with the people we serve in different and more creative ways, to listen as well as lead.

But it is not in reputation alone that this new reality presents a significant challenge to policing. For just as the internet has changed the way the law abiding live their lives, so it has for the criminals. The online world has presented new opportunities for crime and it does not respect national boundaries.

This then is the need for reform – to adapt policing work to meet the sophisticated technological challenges of the 21st Century while still being available to break up a Friday night fight and all while facing unparalleled public scrutiny and expectations. It’s not easy I recognise that.

The importance of reform

Our reforms are designed to meet this unique set of challenges, to deliver a more professional police force with the skills to meet the challenges of the modern age, but also one in which the unwritten contract between public and police is constantly renewed and strengthened.

Police and Crime Commissioners are in place to build a direct link between officers and the people they serve. Of course we would have liked a bigger turnout in the first elections.

But PCCs are here to stay. And they will get stronger as the electorate grows used to voting for them.

The College of Policing will ensure officers receive the best training and allow all officers the best opportunity to maximise their potential.

The National Crime Agency will strengthen the fight against serious and organised crime and give a truly joined up approach to policing at all levels.

And introducing direct entry to policing will bring in new blood and new expertise and help to deliver a police force more representative of the communities it serves. That aim will be supported by every sensible police officer.

The call to action

So change will – and must – happen. And the choice to the federation is a clear one. You can either stand on the sidelines. Or you can use your considerable skills and experience to help shape the police of the future.

For the first time, the College of Policing has given the federation a direct say in the leadership of the force. It is something you have long campaigned for and I urge you to make the most of it. We have listened to your views and put you on the Board of this centrally important body.

You, and the officers you represent, will all have views on how policing can be improved. Please share them. Use your seat on the College Board to ensure they are listened to.

Reforming the Criminal Justice System

This government listened in opposition to police complaints about central targets and we acted by scrapping them all as soon as we came into power. We are still listening to your complaints about bureaucracy and red tape. Some of it has already been swept away, but I am determined to do more and I know the Home Secretary will talk more about this tomorrow.

I am also determined to ensure old bureaucracies are not replaced by new ones. Officers have spoken to me about using mobile phones to take pictures of suspects, then returning to the station to download them and print three separate pictures on hard copy.

This is not making use of modern technology, it is using new technology to perform the same outdated job of the old.

It may only be anecdotal, but this example shows how your world has got slower and more complicated while basic tasks in the rest of the world have become faster and easier.

Police officers still spend far too much time at the photocopier and not enough time stopping crime. I want to make sure you have the tools you need to carry out your work as efficiently as possible.

This means a number of things. It means mobile devices to capture evidence digitally and real-time access to intelligence and information. It means giving victims more methods to report crime and more choice in how they wish to interact with the police. And it means implementing digital working across the criminal justice system.

We know that we will get the most out of digital working if our processes are streamlined too. So we’re reviewing these to ensure that unnecessary and bureaucratic steps in the process are simplified or cut out altogether. For example, we are cutting down the CJS process around high volume traffic cases. Similar work for shoplifting offences is getting underway.

I know what a headache it is for you to be making repeated trips to court for a case which doesn’t go ahead. I want to make sure that cases go ahead on the day that they are first listed. We want to persuade offenders of the benefits of pleading guilty earlier, so that you don’t waste time going along to court only for the offender to take a plea on the day.

And I want to make it easier for you to give evidence - for example via video link from your base, and easier for you to plan your time so that when you do have to come to court, you don’t spend hours waiting outside to give evidence.

We need to get the most out of the technology we already have too. I want to encourage more forces to take advantage of the video technology currently available, to make your jobs easier. You will be able to use video links to make search warrant applications by the end of the year, as well as for reviews of detention before charge.

I will be setting out my plans for making the Criminal Justice System more efficient and effective at the end of May. These have been agreed with all the senior criminal justice leaders and I have set up the new Criminal Justice Board to make sure they are delivered.

One of the first tasks for this Board was to agree the shared ambition for the Criminal Justice System so we are all clear what we are working together to achieve. All of us in the Criminal Justice System are here to reduce crime. But there are other outcomes too: reducing re-offending, punishing offenders, protecting the public, providing victims with reparation, increasing public confidence, and ensuring the system is fair and just. You have a vital role to play in achieving all of them.

At a time of change there are always strains and stresses. We all know that. But I know that good policing is an essential part of a good society, and as the Police Minister, I am determined that the British public will continue to receive policing they deserve, and are proud of.

Published 14 May 2013