THE Sheehy Report would turn the police into a commodity open to manipulation and exploitation by the Government, 20,000 rank and file officers were told at an unprecedented mass rally last night.
Alan Eastwood, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said the rally was the start of a campaign to save the service from 'the disaster of this report'.
He said the report, which followed a committee of inquiry chaired by Sir Patrick Sheehy, chairman of BAT Industries, the tobacco conglomerate, would create a service based on short contracts. 'A force stripped of its identity. A force without shape or expectations . . . cynically hired and learning to cynically serve, semi-casualised, a force whose members expect to be used and turned-over . . . Policemen under Sheehy will not be policemen they will be units of manpower. Will units of manpower take the same risks?'
In a clear reference to Kenneth Clark, the former Home Secretary, who commissioned the report, Mr Eastwood said it was the work of a 'vainglorious politician who decided that the police were fair game for a shake-up'. But it had produced an 'arrogant, hectoring and dismissive report', which had ignored the evidence put before it.
Richard Wells, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire, told the rally both Sheehy and the Government's White Paper on changing police authorities was causing enormous worries. He warned that the changes would centralise power, which could be abused by future governments of extreme political persuasions. Fifteen chief officers, including Paul Condon, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, sent messages of support.
Tony Blair, Labour's Home Affairs spokesman, told the rally that the Government was undermining the principles on which the police service depended. 'The case for police reform is whether it helps to cut crime, whether it makes our communities safer, not whether it allows the Treasury to cut corners or satisfies some mistaken political dogma.'