Resistance by police to reform surprises Sheehy: The inquiry chairman outlines his case for changing conditions to Terry Kirby

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The Independent Online
THE POLICE were far more resistant to change in pay and conditions than had been anticipated by the Sheehy inquiry, its chairman said yesterday.

In a robust defence of its recommendations, Sir Patrick Sheehy, chairman of BAT Industries, acknowledged he was surprised at the reaction to the report, published last month.

He was disappointed at attacks based on only superficial reading and at the failure of critics to suggest alternatives to its recommendations on performance-related pay, fixed-term contracts, bonuses for chief officers and extending the retirement age from 55 to 60.

It was clear the police were less willing to change than he had believed. 'They all told us they wanted change and were willing to change . . . but then they say they do not like our report but are not prepared to say what it is they want instead. I am beginning to come to the conclusion that the police service is more resistant to change than we thought.'

The Police Federation, which organised last week's anti- Sheehy rally, was largely supported by an older generation, more opposed to change, he suggested. Younger, ambitious officers, particularly those in the fast stream and in chief officer rank, would be more happy with the report.

He recognised the recommendations would be modified. 'I see it as an enabling rather than a prescriptive report. It would be quite wrong . . . for the recommendations to be implemented to the letter.' But he added: 'All the major recommendations, one would hope, would be enacted in order to give chief constables the discretion they need.' It was correct, Sir Patrick said, for 30 per cent bonuses to be given to chief constables. Their present pay was low and under his report and the Home Office's own White Paper on police structural reforms, they would be given greater responsibilities. If the starting pay of pounds 10,600 for non-graduate probationers failed to attract new recruits, it should be increased.

He stood firmly by the proposal to put officers on fixed- term contracts of 10 years followed by successive ones of five years; contracts gave protection not enjoyed in the private sector.

'Police are just ordinary persons with special powers. If we give them jobs for life, there is a tendency to feel special . . . which can affect their attitude to the public in a negative way.'

On performance-related pay, Sir Patrick believed about 10 to 15 per cent would not qualify for an annual increase; those who topped the scale would still qualify for bonuses under local discretion. Rejecting the argument that officers would not be rewarded for diligent but unspectacular service, such as patrolling rural areas, he said: 'We do not want individuals in one job for long periods. They should be able to move around to increase their earnings.'

Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has said he cannot respond to the report until consultation ends in the autumn.

Sir Patrick refused to speculate whether Kenneth Clarke, the previous Home Secretary who apppointed him, would have been more supportive than Mr Howard.