20 May 2014

Battered and bruised’ police body attempts reboot

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

Burnt by scandals like “plebgate” and bullying allegations, the Police Federation is meeting in Bournemouth to elect a new leader and put in place reforms to get the organisation back on track.

A battle for leadership of the “battered and bruised” Police Federation has begun at its annual conference in Bournemouth.

Delegates representing 130,000 rank and file officers, from constable to inspector, will also vote the on the most widespread reforms to the organisation since it was set up in 1919.

The federation has been under attack for bullying and secret bank accounts, and a review found it had become unaccountable to it members.

One leadership contender, Will Riches, chair of the Metropolitan branch, described the conference as the most important in the federation’s history.

He acknowledged “plebgate”, and said the federation’s attack on Andrew Mitchell was a perhaps mistaken attempt to play hardball with government.

“Our response was first one of shock, then verbally aggressive and finally crude and disrespectful. We got so caught up in the fight we lost sight of the prize,” he said.

Last week the home affairs select committee warned of legislation if the federation rejected reforms.

But behind the scenes there remains opposition to recommendations that much of its cash reserves of around £70m should be given back to members.

One source said there is a worry that the federation may be facing huge legal costs in the future defending officers under investigation by inquiries into Hillsborough, the Stephen Lawrence case and possibly the aftermath of clashes between striking miners and police in 1984, at the so-called Battle of Orgreave.