White 'must repair trust in police'

Mid Devon Star: Steve White said the Police Federation must radically reform itself into a more progressive organisation Steve White said the Police Federation must radically reform itself into a more progressive organisation

Repairing the "severely damaged" level of public trust in the police which has been wrecked by "plebgate", stories of bullying and secret financial dealing is a top priority for the new leader of police rank-and-file officers.

Steve White, who was elected last week as chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales representing 125,000 officers, admitted: "We have been in a fairly dire place for 18 months ... we were quite close to being irrelevant."

He told the Guardian that the federation must become the "progressive, forward-thinking ... conscience" of policing by radically reforming itself into a more professional organisation.

Mr White became chairman days after the organisation was left stunned by a raft of shock changes announced by Home Secretary Theresa May, including the removal of state funding this August.

She also called time on automatic membership for the federation.

To stony silence from the 2,000-strong audience Mrs May listed a string of damning controversies surrounding the police, such as the findings of the Hillsborough Independent Panel, the review into the investigation into Stephen Lawrence and the so-called plebgate row.

She told delegates if they did not overhaul the organisation the Government would force change upon it.

The federation also came under fire earlier this year for having around £70 million stashed in unregulated accounts.

Mr White was elected vice chairman of the federation's joint central committee in November 2012, and before that he was representative as a sergeant and an inspector.

A former firearms officer, while working as an inspector in Bristol he received three commendations for courage and leadership.

Mr White said it was time for the Government and the federation to work together.

He said: "If we spend our time fighting with each other, we are not improving policing. The Government should see the Police Federation as an ally, not an enemy."

Mr White's reign has started as official data revealed that the proportion of adults who believe their local police are doing a good job has dipped for the first time in a decade.

Figures in the Crime Survey for England and Wales 2012/13 show 61% of people gave positive ratings for local officers, compared to 62% in the previous year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The drop signals the end of a decade of year-on-year growth in the proportion of adults who report their area's police as doing a good or excellent job, the ONS said.

And when the ratings measures are broken down further, an increase was revealed in those who thought the police were doing a "very poor" job when compared to the previous year, from 1.8% to 2.2%.

Elsewhere, the ONS said the proportion of adults who reported seeing a police officer on foot patrol in their local area at least once a week dropped to 34% from 38% in the same period.

High visibility was associated with positive ratings of the police, the ONS added.

Some 69% of adults who reported seeing officers on foot patrol at least once a week gave the police an excellent or good rating.

This compared with just over half (53%) of adults who reported never seeing the police on patrol believing the police are doing an excellent or good job.

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