Rebellion in police ranks in wake of Plebgate affair

A row over pay and conditions and following resignation of Chief Whip has pitted constables against senior officers

Britain’s police officers are beset by infighting between ranks, leading to a damaging internal rift in the aftermath of the Plebgate scandal which threatens to undermine their opposition to the Government’s police reforms.

The Police Federation, which represents 131,000 officers up to the rank of chief inspector in England and Wales, is split over plans to reform itself after setbacks in its campaign to protect officers’ pay and conditions, and the firestorm over its role in the downfall of the former Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell. The dispute has pitted constables – who represent the majority of the membership – against more senior ranks in the organisation.

It has also sparked fury among rank-and-file officers who say the dispute is hampering the group’s fight against government reforms to cut pay, end the jobs-for-life culture and change pensions. “The Home Office must be clapping its hands with glee,” one Federation source told The Independent. “The Federation is doing to itself everything that the Government would want.”

Mr Mitchell’s confrontation with officers in Downing Street provided a rallying point after a series of reversals in 2012 during police officers’ battles against government reforms. The most vocal opponents of Mr Mitchell came from  Federation members in the Midlands where officials repeatedly pressed for his resignation.

Mr Mitchell eventually quit, but Scotland Yard later launched an inquiry after allegations of a conspiracy and that officers colluded to leak details of the confrontation. Mr Mitchell  claims he is the victim of a stitch-up.

Three  Federation officials from the Midlands are under investigation over comments they made to the media after a meeting with Mr Mitchell. The incident led to a rift between the national leadership and the branch officials. The dispute prompted the review – headed by the senior civil servant Sir David Normington –which is due to report in January next year.

However, the constables’ branch has suspended payments to headquarters for more than a fortnight in protest at plans for the future of the staff association. Officials held a series of crisis meetings which failed to resolve the dispute. Police message boards were filled with angry comments and some called for constables to split from the organisation. “Divide and conquer,” said one anonymous posting on the Police Oracle website. “If it carries on like this we may as well kiss goodbye to what little leverage we have with pay and conditions.”

The review was the first announcement by the  Federation’s new leader, Steve Williams, and is seen as a push for more central control.

“We remain open to dialogue and we hope there will be a resolution,” said Will Riches, chairman of the constables’ branch. “This isn’t about a split – this is about ensuring we have credibility with the Government, our members and the public we serve.”

Federation sources told The Independent that the latest row is a build-up of tensions between members who wanted more militant action to protect current working conditions and a new leadership which has embarked on a less confrontational approach to government changes.

The issue is set to provide a stormy backdrop to the body’s annual conference next month, which will be addressed by the Home Secretary Theresa May. She was heckled and jeered at the event last year.

“The members haven’t seen any leadership or willingness to fight on behalf of its members. There’s a reluctance to allow even more power to go to the centre,” said the source.

Mr Williams said the review was designed to ensure the association was “representative”. “We are a professional body and are seeking to ensure all voices are heard and all issues are dealt with for the benefit of all concerned.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border