A chief constable has said he wants to be kept in the loop over any potentially “contentious or novel” activities by Federation reps from his force.
West Midlands Chief Chris Sims has said he would be keeping closer tabs on the future activities of the staff association following the controversial Plebgate meeting between three Fed reps and conservative MP Andrew Mitchell.
He told members of the Home Affairs Select Committee that he had “no intention of being the decision maker” but added that he expected to be informed in cases where contentious activities were undertaken.
CC Sims, who was appearing alongside CC Andy Parker of Warwickshire Police and West Mercia Chief David Shaw, agreed with his colleagues that a more open and transparent relationship between senior officers and Fed officials is needed in the wake of the high-profile meeting.
It transpired during the Parliamentary hearing that the Fed branches in the Midlands had hired an independent PR firm that helped co-ordinate their pursuit of an aggressive campaign opposing cuts to policing.
MPs were also told that then Fed Chairman Paul McKeever wrote to them asking them to stop their campaign, adding he feared it would damage Fed members’ interests.
CC Sims said a more open relationship between the Federation and senior officers was needed in cases where controversy could arise, such as the meeting with Mr Mitchell.
He added: “As part of my management action I have looked at the facilities currently given to my Federation officers and will use those facilities to curtail any such future activity.
“The Federation is in a very ambiguous position. I recognise that where there is no trade union representation but the 1969 legislation gives no guidance on what campaigning could look like.
“What I do say is that public money that is being used by the Federation and any attempt to use that money in a way that is novel and contentious will have to come through the force.”
Earlier in the hearing, CC Shaw told MPs the Fed “had to tread a difficult line” – while he accepted they were police officers first he said he did “not expect them to account for every single action”.
He added: “There is a fundamental difference between a warranted serving officer and a Federation officer conducting themselves on Police Federation business.”
But he said that what had happened with Mr Mitchell had overstepped the mark, adding: “I distance myself from what took place – it was inappropriate and wrong.”
Speaking to PoliceOracle.com after the hearing, CC Parker of Warwickshire Police said he believed the Federation needed to think carefully before becoming drawn into high-profile campaigns.
“Their involvement in Plebgate was misguided and it is unfortunate that they jumped on the bandwagon,” he added. “I hope that by working with the Fed some boundaries can be established.”
A spokesman for the national Police Federation confirmed that the independent review of the staff association – commissioned in the wake of Plegbate – was now in its advanced stages but was unable to comment further.