Home Secretary at Police Superintendents' Association
Home Secretary Priti Patel spoke at the Police Superintendents' Association annual conference 2019
Let me start by really thanking Paul [Griffiths, President of Police Superintendents’ Association] and the Police Superintendents’ Association for inviting me today.
This is my first speech to a policing audience and I have to say it’s a real honour to be here.
As your Home Secretary, I’m proud to say that my job is to help all of you to do your jobs.
And that hugely important job is of course to protect the public from the scourge of crime.
We’re all on the same side – we want to keep families, communities and our country safe.
We want a better deal for the police and a worse deal for criminals.
We want to cut crime and lawlessness.
To keep evil drug gangs and vicious stabbings off our streets.
To protect our country, our freedom and our way of life.
I could not be more proud to stand side by side with you, the best police service in the world.
A police service that you all know, better than I do actually, shows extraordinary bravery, day in and day out.
A police service that continues to inspire us all, through everything that you do.
So I want to open my own remarks by thanking you all for everything that you do and the challenges you confront on a daily basis.
And as your Home Secretary, I think it’s quite important, in light of Paul’s remarks earlier on, to start by saying that you have our support.
Now Paul asked me in his speech to point to a couple of factors to show that I care and value our police, and I certainly do that. I will elaborate on this much more through my remarks.
It’s important to show that the wounds of the past are brought to some closure and effectively that the police come first and from my perspective, you are my top priority.
And it’s more than that as well, because as your Home Secretary, I am your public champion. I am your public voice and advocate.
I am making it my mission to ensure the people that you serve get behind you.
And I don’t intend to stop until the whole country shares my pride in our incredible police.
Because we owe you that much, because it’s pretty self-evident that what you all do is far from easy.
And we’ve seen that of late with the senseless, brutal and mindless killing of PC Andrew Harper that demonstrated that beyond doubt.
His life cruelly snatched away just weeks after his wedding as he responded to a call for help.
He was struck down for simply doing his job.
A hero, sacrificing himself to help others.
Putting his life on the line and paying the ultimate price.
I commend his bravery and send my love and condolences to his family.
No parent should ever have to bury a child, no bride should ever have to spend what would have been her honeymoon mourning the husband she planned to share her life with.
No family should ever have to watch and wave a loved one off to work, worrying if they will ever come home.
But of course, in the policing world, this is the norm.
This happens far too much.
In the last year alone, there were over 30,000 assaults on police officers in England and Wales - up 18%.
As many as one in four serving officers were attacked.
And, as crime becomes more violent, the assaults are increasingly brutal – with a 27% rise in the number of officers injured.
Many of you will have been hurt.
Many of you will have seen friends and colleagues beaten and abused - all in the line of duty.
It takes extraordinary courage to keep running to the front line to face that threat, day in day out.
But, for you, your sense of duty comes first.
You refuse to be cowed, and I refuse to leave you exposed.
We simply must do more to help those on the frontline, and the friends and family behind you.
The time has come to empower you with the support and protection you so desperately deserve. Lives are on the line here.
Your experience and expertise is vital to informing me what is needed on the ground and what will also make a difference.
I want to hear from you.
So far, I have had the privilege of meeting with the most incredible, inspiring, highly motivated, dedicated and energic police officers.
Their professionalism in adversity is quite remarkable.
It has also been truly moving and humbling to meet so many of them.
At Thames Valley Police I saw the devastating impact of the loss of a colleague – and the professionalism of the officers who despite their own grief, continued in their pursuit for justice.
Across the country, I have been struck by the dedication and sheer sense of duty of every officer I have met.
Good people with enormous pride in serving their communities, who want to strike back against wrong-doing and see justice served.
You want to be able to do more.
But on every patrol, in every control room – and here today - I’ve heard how frustrated you feel, over-stretched, and how you are unable to use the right tools to keep our streets safe.
This is a new Government and I’m prepared to be frank.
I’m ashamed to say you haven’t always had enough support.
You have been over worked and under-valued. Unable to do the job you love as well as you’d like.
That stops now.
I’m with Paul, and all of you, on this. I too have seen the human cost of policing first-hand.
That’s why I am taking this once-in-a-generation opportunity to effectively reset the relationship between us and bring the changes that you want to see in policing.
The Prime Minister is 100% with us and he has personally pledged to give you the officers you need to cut crime.
And as your Home Secretary I will do everything to ensure that you have the resources, the power and authority you need.
To empower you, to do your jobs.
To support you, with the challenges you face.
And also, to stand by you and address the personal and human impact of the incredible work that you all do.
Backing the policing profession and restoring pride in the police is long overdue and that is exactly what I will do.
And so far, we have made a start on this journey.
You told us you needed more bobbies on the beat, so one of our very first acts was to pledge 20,000 more officers.
And we’re wasting no time, and we now have the central funding secured from Government and the recruitment campaign as you all saw launched last week.
You told us that you need more officers as well as more leaders to lead you.
I can’t tell you yet exactly how many extra Superintendents there will be but have no doubt - we will provide the frontline leaders you need to make this work.
You told us that stop and search helps tackle violent crime, so we’re empowering you to do more.
You told us you needed more direction from us, so I’m chairing the new National Policing Board to drive change.
And you told us to take you with us on this journey of reform, so both the Superintendents’ Association and Police Federation will be invited to sit on special sessions of that Board focused on the front line.
In six weeks we have made a strong start, but I will not stop there.
To reverse years of damage the healing process is going to take more than a sticking plaster.
In my 6 weeks as your Home Secretary I have been humbled by those I have met, the experiences that have been shared with me and naturally the values that are very unique to the police family. .
That’s why I have personally accelerated work to establish the Police Covenant.
This is a pledge to do more as a nation to help those who serve our country.
And importantly to ensure our pride in the police pays off in practice.
To recognise the bravery, commitment, and sacrifices of serving and former officers.
Have no doubt, I am prepared to be bold to protect you – to care and value you.
And I will not flinch from enshrining this new protection for the police in law if that’s what it takes.
So I can reveal today I plan to focus work on the Covenant in three areas where you need it most:
• your health and wellbeing;
• your physical protection; and
• support for your families.
First, I want to ensure you, and your officers, are fit and well – in mind and in body.
I’ve seen the constant risk of injury you face and the emotional pressure you’re under.
The Frontline Review showed the dire need to boost both your physical and mental health.
We’ve already launched the National Police Wellbeing Service to improve support.
But it can be a postcode lottery, and the care provided remains patchy.
So I will work with the Service to accelerate the creation of new standards for occupational health provision across all forces.
This will ensure you receive the support you need when you need it - and not weeks or months later.
We also need to think big, so I’m working with the Health Secretary to urgently explore the best ways for you to access the support you need.
However much NHS staff want to help, they may not always understand just what you’ve been through and the type of help and support that you need.
We will learn from the Armed Forces Covenant to explore exactly how we can meet those needs.
Secondly, I’m making the physical protection of officers my top priority.
Of course, this means giving you the kit you need to stay safe.
But protecting officers is not just about equipment.
The utterly appalling rise in the attacks shows that.
We need a strong deterrent to make these thugs think twice.
The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act was a start, but in its first six weeks only one in four people convicted of the new offence were jailed - and the average sentence was just over two months.
I know the strength of these punishments is a matter of concern for you all, and I share these concerns.
The epidemic of attacks demands urgent action, so I’m working with the Lord Chancellor to ensure they are handled with appropriate severity by the whole criminal justice system.
Sentences must be sufficient. So together we are urging the Sentencing Council to put attacks on officers at the forefront of their review of sentencing guidelines.
To cut crime we need to strike fear into the hearts of criminals, and the courts have an important role to play in doing that.
We must work together to make sure anyone who assaults an officer gets a sentence that truly fits the crime.
Both you - and the hard-working, law abiding majority we all serve – deserve to see justice done.
And that means bringing the full force of the law down on these monsters who prey on our police.
And of course, when it comes to the people that matter to us the most – our families - we must do more to support those torn apart when officers are hurt or killed in the line of duty.
We cannot heal their heartbreak, but we can do everything in our power to support them, stand with them, and show the huge value we place on their fallen loved ones.
I am urgently exploring what more we can do to support and help families when they need it most.
We will consult with police staff associations to understand what we can do to improve the care and support provided to grieving widows, husbands, partners and parents, and for the children who will grow up without a parent.
I want to understand what it will take to make a difference – and then have a plan to deliver just that.
Paul’s suggestion of recognising their loss through the honours system is a respectful tribute to the service given.
I will look further into this suggestion.
Because we must give every fallen officer who has given their life for us the recognition and respect they deserve.
When an officer like PC Harper dies doing their duty, it is our duty to remember them.
Police memorials and honours pay fitting tribute.
So, I will investigate the existing landscape, including the UK Police Memorial and the new National Emergency services Memorial through the covenant.
If there is anything more we can do to mark the enormous sacrifices made by PC Harper and others like him, or to provide comfort to their grieving families, I will not hesitate to act.
So, as we do more to respect and value our police, I know that there is also one other area where we can work together and do more to improve – and that’s diversity.
It’s vital the police reflect the communities you serve.
I know this is a key priority for you and I thank the Association and Paul for all your work in this area.
As we recruit the next generation of police officers we can do more to broaden our appeal to see more talented people from every walk of life across our police forces.
Irrespective of gender, race, religion or even background – I want police officers up and down the country to know if they have the skills, determination, commitment and ability, they can get to the top.
And to make this a reality, I am pleased to announce that we are changing the law to introduce defined hours for superintending ranks.
This will open the door for flexible working and help support people like hard-working parents amongst you who can’t always be on call 24-7.
The recruitment of 20,000 new officers is also a once in a lifetime opportunity to make our forces more diverse and stronger.
And I will use the National Policing Board to ensure this opportunity is not wasted.
Today I have set out how plans of how I intend to change our relationship with the police and make this a partnership where we work together to keep people and communities safe.
I will support you, protect you, empower you to protect the public.
I will give you the ability to restore a sense of public pride in your profession, that recognises the sacrifices that you make each and every day.
My door is always open: so, you need to tell me what you need, to stop criminals in their tracks.
And to deliver on our shared mission to protect the public and keep our streets safe.