London: Police officers say their morale is being sapped by claims that they are thick, fat and lazy.
Derek Barnett, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association, attacked critics who, he says, believe officers are ‘fat, lazy blue-collar workers’.
He warned there was a danger that the beleaguered rank and file may even come to believe the myth, adding: “There’s only so much that you can take before you start thinking there may be some truth in it.”
Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation, said government statements about police were destroying morale, asking: “Why would anybody feel good about being described as thick and lazy?”.
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The comments, which were made at a major policing conference, will be seen as an attack on Tom Winsor, author of two reviews of police pay and conditions.
Winsor wants compulsory fitness tests for all officers, instead of ad-hoc testing of those in specialist roles.
Those who cannot pass should have their pay docked and could be sacked.
The lawyer and former rail regulator, who spoke at the conference, said policing was wrongly seen as “intellectually largely undemanding”.
He has recommended tougher entrance requirements to raise the standards of recruits, saying a career in policing should appeal to the “brightest and the best”.
The conference also heard criticism from senior officers over the proposed appointment of Winsor to the role of Chief Inspector of Constabulary.
Sir Hugh Orde, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, told the Policing 2012 conference in Central London that Winsor would not be able to give advice on difficult operational decisions in a crisis, such as a terrorist attack, because he had not been in the force.
“It is a historic moment in that it is the first time that a non-sworn officer has been appointed to that role in the history of policing in this country,” Orde said.
He said that as chief constable in Northern Ireland he would ask the inspectorate for advice on issues such as terrorism. But Orde added: “In the new model, those are not the sort of issues I’d expect to ring Tom and his people about, because simply he’s the wrong person.”
The selection of Winsor by Home Secretary Theresa May has angered the Police Federation, which sees his reports as an attack on police. If his appointment is confirmed, he will be the first non-officer in the role in more than 150 years.
Winsor told the conference: “Policing has been unfairly regarded as an occupation of an intellectually largely undemanding nature, with more in common with blue-collar workers.
“Policing today is entirely different. The attitudes of some police officers remain fastened in that mindset and I believe that is holding them back.
“If policing is to become the profession it should be, officers must come to think of themselves not as the blue-coated workers of the past, but practitioners of a profession which requires skills and attitudes distinctly above those of factory workers.”