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Home Secretary creates Police Covenant in bid to protect officers and staff

09 September 2020

THE GOVERNMENT will enshrine a new Police Covenant in law to enhance support and protection for the police. This follows the publication of a consultation which found that more than 90% of respondents backed Government plans for a police covenant. The new Police Covenant will apply to all serving or former police personnel.

Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the publication of the Government response to the consultation in a virtual speech to the Police Superintendents’ Association, where she outlined her commitment to stand firmly by the side of the police.

“The police and the families that stand behind them deserve special recognition,” stated the Home Secretary. “Their bravery and sacrifices are what keep us and our loved ones safe. I will put the Police Covenant in law to ensure they will always have the support of the nation.”

The consultation, launched earlier this year, was aimed at those serving with the police, those who have previously done so, their families and any groups with an interest in supporting the police in England and Wales. Over 1,000 responses to the consultation were received, with the highest proportion coming from serving police officers, followed by police staff and retired officers.

The Government’s proposals to implement the Police Covenant include:

*enshrining a Police Covenant in law, creating a statutory duty to do more to support the police

*placing a requirement on the Home Secretary to report annually to Parliament on progress with the Covenant

*ensuring the Police Covenant applies to all those working within or retired from policing roles, whether paid or as a volunteer

*putting the initial focus of the Police Covenant on physical protection, health and well-being, as well as support for families

*implementing a new governance structure to drive forward activity on well-being and protection in order to fulfil the Police Covenant

Response from the Police Federation

John Apter, national chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, responded: “The Police Federation has campaigned relentlessly for a Police Covenant and we’re delighted it will now be enshrined in law and subject to regular Parliamentary scrutiny.”

Apter continued: “This Police Covenant will mean much more than words to serving or former police officers. It recognises the unique position they hold in society and the fact that they very often put their lives on the line. The benefits of this Police Covenant will be welcomed by the entire policing family. We would therefore like to thank the Home Secretary for her enthusiastic support and for turning the Police Federation’s campaign into a reality.”

Paul Griffiths, President of the Police Superintendents’ Association, said: “The Police Covenant will provide formal recognition and a sign of clear value to the families of officers and staff who have made sacrifices in carrying out their duties. We’ve repeatedly called for this recognition of our workforce, and we were delighted to hear news of the Police Covenant at our conference last year. This latest update is extremely positive and we will provide the experience and support of our members in further work to develop the Police Covenant.”

Griffiths went on to state: “Our people put themselves at risk each day as they work to protect the public. This is something that’s now more acute than ever, given that officers are faced with the challenges of Coronavirus and increased reports of assaults against them. This important step forwards will ensure that our Duty of Care to our people begins to mirror that of our Duty of Care to the public.”

Campaign to support policing

The Police Covenant marks the latest step in the Government’s campaign to back the police service with more resources, powers and protections. Other steps include:

*the biggest funding boost for the policing system in a decade, with up to £1.1 billion more going towards the police compared to last year

*the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers over the next three years, over 4,300 of whom have already joined police forces across England and Wales

*expanded Stop and Search powers which have empowered over 8,000 more officers to use them, and increased levels of Stop and Search which have resulted in more arrests (over 58,000 in the last year alone)

*a consultation on doubling the maximum sentence for assaulting police officers and other Emergency Services workers

The final wording for the Police Covenant, as included in the consultation response, is as follows:

“This Police Covenant acknowledges the sacrifices made by those who serve or have served in our police forces, either in a paid or voluntary capacity, whether as an officer or as a member of staff. It’s intended to ensure that they and their families are not disadvantaged as a result of that commitment and seeks to mitigate the impact on their day-to-day life or in their access to justice.”

“Police officers are required at all times to uphold the important principles of policing by consent, which is the foundation of their long-standing relationship with the public. We ask a great deal of our police and we expect the highest standards to be maintained. In return, we have a responsibility to provide protection and support to the police.”

“The Police Covenant recognises that working within policing comes with a high level of personal accountability, duty and responsibility requiring courage and personal risk both on and off duty. This recognition extends to all those who support police forces in upholding the principles and practices of their vocation. Recognising those who have served in policing unites the country and demonstrates the value of their sacrifice. This has no greater expression than in upholding this Police Covenant.”