Monday, 30 May 2011


As regular visitors to these pages will know, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have, by their arrogance and prior actions, provided plenty of negative fodder for the media machine. To see our previous articles simply type ACPO in the search box above. It will not surprise many to hear that the ACPO articles are the most read on these pages. 

Following in the wake of the police federation conference, ACPO have yet again missed a vital opportunity to forge closer bonds with the rank and file officers they are meant to lead. In these difficult times, one would ave thought that common sense and the desire to protect the service as a whole would have been in evidence from the illustrious leaders. Sadly, yet again, they have shown what a self serving, arrogant bunch they are. No slight is intended against any individual chief, no doubt many perform a valuable function for their respective forces. Ask them to comment or contribute as a group and it all goes pear shaped.

Such is the rank and file anger and discontent with ACPO, that a no confidence motion was tabled at the conference, spearheaded by the Metropolitan Police Federation.

An open letter has been sent to Sir Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO, to express concern at his non-attendance at the Police Federation Conference in Bournemouth, passing the opportunity to listen and respond to officers and representatives of the government.

Conference passed an emergency motion instructing the Joint Central Committee of the Police Federation of England and Wales to write this letter to the Association of Chief Police Officers stating that the Police Federation of England and Wales has no confidence in ACPO acting in the best interests of British Policing.

An open letter to the professional body from Fed Chairman Paul McKeever and General Secretary Ian Rennie said members were disappointed by the President's (Sir Hugh Orde) lack of show – particularly at such a tough time for policing.

The letter, which followed a motion of no confidence in ACPO from conference delegates, also accuses the professional body of being "in thrall to the government".

And it adds that certain ACPO members seemed unwilling to directly challenge ministerial assertions that 20 per cent cuts to policing are manageable.

In pressing home their attack in the letter, the senior Fed officials said there had been "dissatisfaction and anger" in the Federated ranks during the conference.

The letter added: "It was clear that officers believe that ACPO is in thrall to this government and certain members appear unwilling to endanger their future prospects of employment by challenging the government's contention that 20 per cent cuts in the policing budget are perfectly manageable.

"Disappointingly, ACPO seem intent on supporting the reduction in police officers' pay and conditions which has provided them with the most flexible workforce in the country.

"We currently have the perfect storm in policing resulting from Winsor's attack on pay and conditions, Neyroud's proposals on promotion and leadership and Lord Hutton's proposals on pensions. Policing and Crime Commissioners will potentially change the political dynamics in the Service and there is a move to remove police officers from the protection of health and safety legislation.

"Regrettably, it is being left to the Police Federation to voice the concerns that should be raised by senior officers in the Service and, in particular, by you as the President of ACPO."

The response from Sir Hugh will have disappointed the Federation and their rank and file membership for its arrogance and lack of real empathy for the plight of the junior ranks. 
27 May 2010
Paul McKeever
Police Federation
Federation House
Highbury Drive
KT22 7UY

Dear Paul and Ian,

The strength of ACPO lies in the collective knowledge, experience and endeavour of the leadership of the police service, across all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Your role is to represent your members – ours is to lead. I can say with absolute certainty that every chief officer team is working tirelessly within their force, bearing in mind the very difficult financial situation we are presented with, to cut budgets while preserving the critical service we deliver to the public.

The reality is that this is extremely challenging: and a number of forces have had to take drastic action to balance budgets. We must be entirely clear about this with our public, with government and with all those who work within the service. Each force is impacted in different ways and many chiefs have articulated this both in public and in private. Without question, the service overall will suffer and reduce. As chief officers our job is to lead policing through these difficult times, remaining focussed on keeping communities safe from harm.

We all share a passion for the British model of policing, admired and imitated across the world; it is a model you and I seek to preserve. With this in mind we continue to inform and engage during the passage through Parliament of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill. In our professional view, clear and strong checks and balances are a crucial element of any reform, in order to preserve impartiality, the freedom to deliver policing without political interference, and the Office of Constable which we consider so precious.

We are mindful always of the painful impact of budget cuts on our workforce. The Winsor, Neyroud and Hutton recommendations are all subject to consultation and we are determined that the outcomes of these processes should recognise and reward officers fairly for the difficult, dangerous and critical job that they do. I feel we can best do this by recognising our different roles but more importantly reinforcing our desire to serve our communities.

ACPO was very strongly represented at your conference by Peter Fahy, Mick Creedon, Adrian Lee, Phil Gormley, Francis Habgood and Nick Gargan on the agenda and many others in attendance. In our many conversations beforehand, in response to my question, you clearly indicated that my own unavailability was not of particular concern to you. Having had the privilege to stand toe to toe with the outstanding members of the Service I led in Northern Ireland, I find some of your personal comments disappointing and unnecessary. As President, I have never declined an invitation when possible to meet and engage with you and your members, and I restated that commitment in my letter to you of 12 May, which I requested that you share with your members.

I therefore repeat the suggestion I made then of an early meeting, with you and as many of your colleagues as you would like to be present.

I have shared this letter with chiefs and commissioners across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, who have elected to add their signatures. We speak with one voice, and will continue to lead this great institution with huge pride.

Yours sincerely

Sir Hugh Orde OBE, QPM

President of ACPO

Signatories to Sir Hughs' ACPO Response

"The strength of ACPO lies in the collective knowledge, experience and endeavour of the leadership of the police service, across all forces in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Your role is to represent your members – ours is to lead".

Am I the only one who thinks this sounds condescending and patronising? An unwarranted slap-down even? Your role etc etc ... completely ignores the comments made by Paul voicing the concerns of the members. Yes, I'm pretty sure Paul is fully aware what his role is, it would just make a nice pleasant change, for once to receive a reply that even hints at the ACPO oligarchy being genuinely albeit slightly interested in the rank and file, their fears and concerns at this difficult time.

The remainder of the letter comes across as insincere platitudes. Only yesterday, we posted an atricle about how Whitehall Civil Servants have created a tangled web of self protecting, self serving policies, procedures and contrary edicts that obfuscate and obstruct well intended ministers from achieving much needed reforms as well as forging a culture of selfish protectionsim.

ACPO as an organisation seems cast from the same mould as these manipulative Whitehall departments. One only has to remind ourselves of a few of the Yes Minister favourite scripts to put us in mind of how the ACPO oligarchy has in itself become a vast political animal. As Paul Mckeever rightly put it: "Officers believe that ACPO is in thrall to this government and certain members appear unwilling to endanger their future prospects of employment by challenging the government's contention that 20 per cent cuts in the policing budget are perfectly manageable".

References to "Politician" have been exchanged for "Chief Officers" , "ACPO" or policing equivalents. See how well the substitution works wihout distorting any of the original meaning....

"ACPO speeches are not written for the audience to which they are delivered. Delivering the speech is merely the formality that has to be gone through in order to get the press release into the newspapers."
"It is axiomatic in policing that hornets' nests should be left unstirred, cans of worms should remain unopened, and cats should be left firmly in bags and not set among the pigeons. Chief Offficers should also leave boats unrocked, nettles ungrasped, refrain from taking bulls by the horns, and resolutely turn their backs to the music."
"Policing is about principles. And the principle is, never act on principle."
"A Chief Officers dilemma. He must obviously follow his conscience, but he must also know where he's going. So he can't follow his conscience, because it may not be going the same way that he is."
"Police strategic management could be defined: Manipulation, Intrigue, Wire-pulling, Evasion, Rabble-rousing, Graft."
"Wearing two hats is not difficult for those who are in two minds. Or have two faces."
"The history of the world is the history of the triumph of the heartless over the mindless."

"We dare not allow politicians to establish the principle that senior police officers can be removed for incompetence. We could loose dozens of our chaps. Hundreds maybe. Even thousands."

Asking Police Chiefs to abandon Bureaucracy and obfuscation will be like asking a mother to abandon its child.

ACPO as an organization is in on the ropes, both financially and in terms of its integrity as a so called professional body. The rank and file have lost all confidence in them. The public and media mistrust them. Accusations of scurrilous disloyal conduct have been too many and too visible to ignore. The Coalition merely tolerate them. The Conservative Shadow cabinet under David Camerons direction accused ACPO of giving “political cover to the Labour Government repeatedly and consistently” and engaging in “gratuitous photocalls” with Gordon Brown and other ministers. It went on to say it “showed almost no criticism of the current Government”.


It should not be down to the Federation to be the only voice of sense in this malaise. Whilst ACPO is allowed to continue, despite their weak protestations to the contrary, the "Us and Them" culture will pervade. Many times this has been evidenced in the private sector, where powerful Governing bodies have been able to "divide and conquer" opposing views from organisations. The police service is no different. Whilst ACPO play the political game, (yet all the time insisting they want to rid the service of politicisation), every Government will use the division between the ranks as a lever to extract what THEY want from the situation. Only when the division no longer exists and the service is once again united, will it regain its strength and bargaining power.

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