Suella Braverman under fire for snubbing key officers' conference

13 September 2023, 21:35

The Home Secretary and Policing Minister are under fire from officers for snubbing an important policing summit.
The Home Secretary and Policing Minister are under fire from officers for snubbing an important policing summit. Picture: Alamy
Connor Hand

By Connor Hand

The Home Secretary and Policing Minister are under fire from officers for snubbing an important policing summit.

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Steve Hartshorn, the head of the Police Federation of England and Wales, blasted Suella Braverman and Chris Philp for not attending the Police Superintendents’ Association’s annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, a key gathering of leaders from across England and Wales to discuss the key issues facing policing. 

Speaking to LBC, Mr Hartshorn said there was “a lot of discontent in the room” relating to Ms Braverman’s absence, whilst Policing Minister Philp appeared via video link as he had been summoned to see the Prime Minister at Downing Street. 

“He [Philp] was talking, and took some questions, but people want to see their bosses, the people in charge, so they can have a face to face conversation, and really feel the mood of the room. 

“It's easy for me as the chair of the Police Federation to say there's discontent, but when you see it from other people, it starts to sink in… they can be briefed as well as anybody but unless you see it and see it, and then hear it and the very people involved that are trying to lead and change the police service. It's difficult to get a true picture.”

“But these conferences are planned well in advance. We appreciate people are busy, but they're in charge of policing… we want to see and have access to the people that are in charge.”

Read more: 'It's just totally disingenuous': Sangita Myska reacts to Braverman's push for police to investigate 'every theft'

Read more: Six former Home Secretaries write to Suella Braverman in support of police reform plans

James O'Brien slams Suella Braverman's condemnation of so-called 'woke policing'

This year’s summit was focused on delivering “Trust and Confidence”, as well as “Fairness and Support” to both the public and police officers. 

Among its speakers were some of the most distinguished and high-profile policing figures in the land, including the Met’s Commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, the College of Policing’s Head, Andy Marsh, and Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper. 

Pushed on the Home Secretary’s absence, Mr Hartshorn added: “I honestly don't know why the Home Secretary couldn't attend. I believe that Chris Philp, the Police Minister, couldn't attend because he was meeting with the Prime Minister and he physically could not get from London to the venue within an hour, which is fair enough. 

“However, the shadow home secretary came on and made a very, sort of short comment around, well, I've made sure my meetings don't clash - Keir Starmer will see me later this afternoon.

“It affects morale and so it was very disappointing that they were not there.”

Caller reacts to Suella Braverman's crackdown on 'woke' policing

It comes as the President of the Police Superintendents’ Association attacked the Home Secretary for saying that confidence in police has been buffeted by officers who were too focused on pursuing "politically correct causes". 

Last week, Ms Braverman wrote to chief constables and police and crime commissioners in England and Wales to say that “the British people expect their police to focus on cutting crime and protecting communities”, adding that “political activism does not keep people safe, solve crimes or support victims, but can damage public confidence.”

Rebuking these comments, Paul Fotheringham told the conference: “She [Braverman] references 'dancing and fraternising with political demonstrators', which we assume relates to police attendance at Pride. She talks about the displaying of the progress flag and the wearing of badges.

“These are deeply personal and passionate matters for our staff and our communities. What I have actually seen are plenty of examples of effective community engagement and a desire to promote and welcome inclusion in all its forms.

“Trust and confidence starts with how we treat our people; if they cannot be their true selves at work, how can we expect them to police our communities in the best possible way?'

“When the Government uses language in this way to position the police as political rather than inclusive, are we opening the doors to a rhetoric of discrimination against those most vulnerable in our communities?”

Approached about Ms Braverman's decision not to attend the conference, a source close to the home secretary pointed to the precedent set by former Dame Priti Patel, who did not attend in 2021.