The Sheehy Inquiry: Police 'jobs for life' culture swept away by inquiry: Rank and file representative says authors of Sheehy report understand little or nothing about policing

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The Independent Online
A POLICE pay system based on skills and performance ending the 'jobs for life' culture is the centrepiece of a wide ranging and radical package of changes recomended by the Sheehy inquiry into policing, which issued its report yesterday.

Fixed term contracts for all officers, the abolition of three ranks to create a slimmer management structure, performance bonuses of up to 30 per cent for chief constables and tighter restrictions on medical retirements, are among key proposals.

Sir Patrick Sheehy, chairman of the Home Office-commissioned inquiry, said the report was designed to end the police culture of 'jobs for life' and create a nationally agreed rank structure. The present one was 'top heavy' with overlapping responsibilities; variations between forces sometimes gave responsibility to low- ranking officers and denied it to those in higher-rank posts.

Management systems were 'ineffective and inefficient' and there were 'serious weaknesses' in a method of promotion based on length of service rather than performance, said Sir Patrick, chairman of BAT Industries. A more efficient service was the only way the police would gain the 'considerable increase' they needed in the level of public approval and combat the rise in crime.

The report was immediately criticised by most of the service. Alan Eastwood, chairman of the Police Federation, representing officers up to chief inspector, said it was divisive and demonstrated its authors understood little or nothing about policing.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, whose members will have greater powers to reward performance and skills but have to submit to fixed- term contracts, gave the report a wary welcome. The Home Office said it would respond later. The White Paper on the Police, published on Monday, which dealt with structural reform of police authorities, signalled that the Home Office intends to incorporate any Sheehy proposals it adopts into the Police Bill planned for the autumn.

Sir Patrick made it clear yesterday that he fully expected the Home Office to accept the bulk of the 270-detailed recommendations. The report sets out a timetable for implementation by 1 January 1995; such a programme would create fundamental upheavals in the service.

The most controversial recommendations involve the abolition of the index-linked annual pay awards, based on the 1978 Edmund Davies report on pay which was implemented when the Conservatives took power and has given the police pay awards above the public sector average.

The new benchmark would be based on the non-manual private sector average. Ranks between constable and superintendent will receive pay increases according to 'skills and experience' measured on a 12-point scale. There will be no automatic annual pay increase and none for those whose performance is unsatisfactory.

'Local flexibility' should give bonuses for those with special skills, such as firearms officers, or duties like patrolling inner-city estates.

The report suggests overtime is virtually abolished, but bonuses are available for 'exceptional events'. All allowances, including housing, are ended or consolidated. Skilled superintendents qualify for a possible 10 per cent performance bonus; assistant chief constables and chief constables for a 30 per cent one.

All new officers or those changing jobs go on to 10-year then five-year contracts. Chief constables will have to renegotiate open-ended contracts or face losing potential bonuses.

About 5,000 chief inspector, chief superintendent and deputy chief constable ranks could be abolished, allowing 3,000 more constables. The report says voluntary and compulsory redundancies necessary over the next three years would cost pounds 200m- pounds 300m in payments; that would be offset by later savings.

On medical retirements - a source of controversy when officers facing inquiries retire on an enhanced pension prior to a disciplinary hearing - the report says dispensation should be granted only when an officer is 'disabled from performing the ordinary duties . . . at the rank he/she holds'.

The present position of unlimited sick leave is restricted to six months with a further six on half pay.

----------------------------------------------------------------- MAIN RECOMMENDATIONS ----------------------------------------------------------------- Annual index linked pay award scrapped Three ranks abolished Fixed-term contracts - Pay to be performance related Tighter sick leave rules -----------------------------------------------------------------

Police warn of conflict, page 7

Leading article, page 27

The hidden agenda, page 29