Cambridgeshire Police Authority February 2009


Thursday, February 19th, 2009. 4:39am

Cambridgeshire Police HQ
I went to observe a meeting of Cambridgeshire Police Authority on Wednesday the 18th of February 2009. The agenda for the meeting had only been made publicly available on Monday the 15th, after the suggested deadline for members of the public submitting questions. When I questioned the late publication of the agenda by email in advance of the meeting, the Chief Executive of the Authority replied:

Regarding publication of the 14th January and 18th February Police Authority agenda, all business within these meeting fell or will fall within the closed session in accordance with clauses 3 and 4 of Part 1 of the revised schedule 12A to the Local Government Act.

The Chief Executive is wrong to say that all business was to be dealt with in secret as there is an opportunity for members of the authority to raise urgent items and there is supposedly an opportunity for members of the public to ask questions and make statements; both of these elements of the meeting are public. In addition to that, the fact that substantive items of business are to be discussed behind closed doors is no excuse for not publicising the meeting; as happened at the meeting on the 18th of February members of the public might want to comment or raise questions on such items even though they will not be able to observe the whole discussion. This is exactly what happened on the 18th of February where three members of the public asked questions on pensions for police officers injured on duty – an agenda item to be discussed in closed session. Quite how those people were made aware of what was on the agenda I do not know, as ex-police officers perhaps they have inside contacts; what is clear is that there is a two tier system – those in the know have access to be able to question the Police Authority on items on their agenda others do not.

No members of the police authority queried the late online publication of the meeting’s papers either at the February 2008, or at the December 2009 meetings.

Injury Awards Review

There was an item on the agenda entitled: “Injury Awards Review”. Despite the agenda not being publicised prior to the suggested deadline for submission of public questions three members of the public had somehow managed to find out this was going to be discussed and had apparently submitted questions. One was there to ask his question in person, and the chairman of the Police Authority read out a prepared response, another question was read out by the Authority’s Chief Executive and a response read out. The third questioner was not present, his question was not read out nor any response given.

Eddie Hopkin was the individual present to put his question in person. He was apparently a retired police officer, he said he wasn’t in receipt of an “injured on duty” pension, but his wife is. He asked when the authority began their review process.
He was told that the answer was “late 2008″ and it was explained that this was due to consultation, which had delayed legislation. The chairman of the police authority assured the questioner that if individuals’ circumstances change they are able to have their claims reassessed if their disablement has changed. This is a change from a previous force policy in Cambridgeshire which saw individuals “banded” at the age of 65, ie. their payments depended on their state of health at age 65. What the chairman appeared to be doing with this comment, which I don’t think he was reading from a written statement, was pre-judging the outcome of the discussions the Authority were about to have in private. He was also referring to people’s health getting worse, whereas the main concern appears to be people will be assessed as being fitter and having their payments cut at the age of 65. (See this petition)

The chairman stated the Authority’s motivations for its actions did not include saving money, and in direct response to one of the points raised by a public questioner said Authority did not intend to employ inappropriate people. (I believe there were complaints about the attitude and approach of those dealing with and assessing ex. police officers in receipt of “Injured on Duty” pensions). The chairman of the Police Authority said that the authority recognised its legal and moral duties, while saying this he said the legal duty arose from Home Office Circular 46/2004. David Copeland of the Cambridgeshire Branch of the National Association of Retired Police Officers asked to speak at this point, and apparently despite not having submitted a question, the chairman allowed him to speak. He said that the Home Office circular merely pointed to legislation, no legal duty arose from it, and he expressed his disappointment in relation to the situation in Cambridgeshire over the last four years. He said that he was deeply concerned and upset by this.

Prior to the publication of the “Home Office circular” in 2004 Cambridgeshire police used to continue to pay benefits at the same rate until the death of the Officer concerned. (1) .

The written question was submitted by Gordon Smith, he was suggesting that the Police Authority ought set up a sub-committee to carry out the Injury Awards Review, and said that there had been sharp practice and dishonesty in the process he did not think that injured officers were being well treated.
The response given was that the existing arrangements, of the Authority’s Human Resources panel dealing with the review, were considered sufficient. Mr Smith’s suggestion was rejected, not by a vote of the Authority but apparently by the chairman personally. A major flaw in the Authority’s standing orders is that no debate on is permitted in relation to items raised by members of the public.

Despite a member public present, a representative of the Retired Police Officer’s association, being given permission to speak by the chair despite apparently not having submitted a question in advance. I however was not allowed to ask a question or make a statement.

TASERs

Had I been permitted to make a statement I would have said:

I would like to comment on the lack of a response by Cambridge Police Authority to the Home Secretary’s 24th November 2008 announcement that TASERs will be made available for all front line response police.

Within hours of the ministerial announcement the Metropolitan Police Authority announced their decision not to extend TASER use to all front line response officers in London on the grounds that they may cause fear and damage public confidence.

Cambridgeshire Police Authority have still not considered the proposed expanded TASER deployment. I was surprised it was not mentioned at all during the December 2008 full Police Authority meeting and that it is not on the Agenda for today’s meeting. I was particularly disappointed it was not discussed in December as I had an assurance from Mr Wilkins that he would try and ensure it was. This commitment was made at a public meeting at which he received the support of a number of Cambridge city councillors to come here and oppose the routine arming of response police with TASERs.

I am aware that some of you, and certainly the Chief Constable, will consider the TASER deployment an operational matter and not one you have a role in. I disagree, this is clearly a strategic matter; it will be a huge change to policing, arming every response officer with a TASER is not a routine operational decision. The decision to expand TASER deployment is in my view firmly within the remit of the Police Authority.

I would like to point to two items of evidence making it clear Police Authorities have a role:

  • The first is the The Metropolitan Police Authority’s stance and statement.
  • The second is a speech by Vernon Coaker the Home Office Minister of State for Policing, Crime & Security who, on the subject of the expanded deployment of TASER said: ” the number of Tasers that a force has is not dictated centrally. It is a matter for individual chief constables, with their authorities, to determine what they should have”

I would like to suggest caution with respect to the phrase “Specially Trained Units”. The Chief Constable had assured members of the Authority that TASERs would be for the use of specially-trained officers only. I suggest you ask questions about the substantive nature of that training and if regular refresher training would be required. However well trained these officers are, it is unlikely their skills in judging how to respond to a situation will be as refined as those of dedicated firearms officers who face the sorts of extremely dangerous situations where a TASER discharge might be considered on a more regular basis.

I would like to urge to you make any decision based on the real world experience of TASER use by police in other countries and during the UK trial deployment to non-firearms officers. I think this is provides better more relevant evidence than animal tests and computational modelling presented by the Home Office when they are making their case for the safety of these weapons. .

I support police firearms units having access to TASER weapons which they can elect to use as an alternative to firearms in circumstances where they would otherwise use firearms. I said I would prefer to be shot with a TASER than with a gun. However I do not want to live in a country where more police officers than necessary are routinely armed with TASERs. I believe any expansion of TASER use would be damaging to the relationship between the public and the police.

Asides

When I and the other members of the public arrived the Police Authority were having a secret “Pre-meeting” from which we were excluded.

The Chief Constable did not attend, and attendance by members of the Authority was poor, with three or four including County Cllr Shona Johnston sending apologies and more just not turning up.

The police appear to make a permanent record of your car registration number if you take it onto the police headquarters site; I think that is unnecessary and symptomatic of the police’s culture of collecting excessive amounts of information – for example the DNA database – containing records of everyone arrested nationally, and in Cambridgeshire the apparent policy of keeping stop and account records indefinitely. To attend a Police Authority meeting you have to take your passport, and its number is stored by the police along with a photograph they take of you.

If there was a Full Police Authority meeting on the 14th of January then that has been run entirely in secret, even the date wasn’t announced on the Authority’s website never mind an agenda. It was omitted from the meetings list. There was a publicised Finance & Resources Committee on that date but it appears there might have been a Full Authority meeting too, as the Finance Committee’s business was not secret, and minutes of a meeting held on the 14th were taken to a meeting of the Full Authority.

While writing to me, the Chief Executive of the Police Authority decided to let me know (rather irrelevantly) that the Authority had within the last six weeks sent the : “Local Policing Summary (a statutory duty) to every household in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – around 320,000 households.” I believe this is sent to those who receive council tax bills, disenfranchising many including students, and those in rented accommodation where the landlord not the tenant is deemed liable for council tax. I believe she also wrongly directly linked the responses to the recent Authority “Anti-Social Behaviour” survey to the distribution of the local policing summary whereas the survey has been far more widely publicised, on the force and authority websites and via ecops emails.

I have decided to make a freedom of information act request using the whatdotheyknow.com website to seek the answers to some of the points raised in this article.

See also this article from two days previously on the “Openess and Accessibility of Cambridgeshire Police Authority”.

6 comments/updates on “Cambridgeshire Police Authority February 2009

  1. injurypensiongroup

    Richard, I am one of a number of ex Cambridgeshire officers in receipt of an injury on duty pension, trying to engage with Cambs Pol Auth, about the severe reductions to our pensions, being retrospectively introduced as a cost cutting exercise under the GUIDANCE of HOC 46/2004. Indeed I am only one of many hundreds of such permenantly disabled pensioners across the country trying to protest the injustice of the draconian measures being used to suddenly take away our injury pensions which were ‘guaranteed’ by our Police Authorities when they retired us. In Cambs, we only knew Reviews of Injury Awards was being discussed at the meetings you mentioned as our local representative body, Narpo, was at the meeting pleading the injustices of our case. Narpo had presented its case on 14th, and as not all the Authority members were present asked to present it again on 18th before it was considered. It was no surprise when they were refused this courtesy to reach more of the Board. Many of us wanted to know the whole content of the meetings but, in the absence of an explanation for them being held in private, we are of the opinion that the reason for this is extent of the extent of the outrage about the Injury Pensions changes. The Police Authorities have absolute discretion as how to apply the guidance and even discretion whether to implement it at all and many forces are not. Cambridgeshire, however has a 2.2 million deficit and is using HOC 46/2004 to cut costs by mercilessly slashing the pensions of vulnerable disabled pensioners injured in the execution of their duty. Those officers have had no time to make other financial preparations.
    It is no surprise that the representations made by NARPO on our behalf were rejected completely.
    The questions raised, verbally at the meeting, and others in writing to the meeting, have not been answered satisfactorarily and it is doubtful that they can be without The Police Authority’s embarrassment.
    Thank you for highlighting the Cambridgeshire Police Authority’s secrecy in this matter. You have shown how difficult it is for individuals to be able to have their voices heard.

  2. Gordon Smith

    Hi Richard,
    Thank you for bringing the above matters to the attention of the public.
    Police officers go out on patrol both in uniform and ‘civilian clothes’. They never know what might be round the next corner where danger may lay in wait for them.
    The Chief Officers and Police Authority have a duty of care towards those officers.
    Most police officers will, at some stage in their career face death or serious injury whilst protecting those they serve, the members of the public. Police officers tread where many others dare not.
    Like most police officers I faced imminent death or serious injury on more than one occasion. I am no hero, I just did my job. On one occasion I placed myself between a group of children and adults and an oncoming motor vehicle which was accelerating at speed. I placed myself in immediate danger firest and foremost to protect the children and adults, and because it was my duty. I placed myself in immediate danger without hesitation or thought for my own safety. I also placed myself in immediate danger because I knew that if anything dreadful happened to me Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Police Authority would care for my family and I. I closed my eyes and wondered if I would feel much pain. When nothing happened but a squeal of tyres I opened my eyes to find the car’s bumper resting against my trouser legs.
    Sadly, like me, some are injured, ‘in the line of duty’.
    In 1983 I caught hepatitis from someone I dealt with. This led on to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. It has left me severely disabled, chronically ill and in continual pain.
    In 1989 I was so ill I was forced to retire from Cambridgeshire Constabulary
    Before I retired the Force solicitor was asked to look at whether I had a case against police. He informed me I had. Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Police Authority were wonderful to my family and I. Their welfare and care was second to none.
    I was so proud of my Force and all in it.
    I did not feel I could sue the Force so I went away to think about it. In the meantime they offered me awards of retirement. Simply it was that both the normal pension and injury award pension would be paid for life and never be reduced or stopped. It was a fair and reasonable offer. The outlook for the future of my health was poor. I desperately wanted to be well enough to get back to some sort of work. I tried hard but due to the nature of my illness it wasn’t to be.
    I have now lost 19 years of my working life. As a result my financial losses are enormous and this and my severe disability also impacts on my wife and my family.
    Sadly, in February 2008, I received notification that Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Police Authority intend to renege on my injury award when I get to 65 this August, 2009, even though I have my awards in writing. They are doing this to other officers injured ‘in the line of duty’. The oones that will suffer the most are those, like me who are severely disabled.
    The Police Authority have a duty to consider whether a pensioners degree of disablement has altered at appropriate intervals.
    But they have absolute discretion afterwards to honour those awards made in writing to individuals 20 years ago if the degree of disablility has not altered substantially.
    Regardless of any reason they may give for doing so, they are reneging on the injury awards to save money. The severely disabled officers in the highest band who have had their lives wrecked are where they will save most money! We are the ‘easy pickings’.
    This act of betrayal by Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Police Authority is beyond belief. You do not expect for a police force and police authority to be morally dishonest, but they are. There is no other word for it. It is utterly disgraceful. There is other disgraceful behaviour too.
    It is not only happening in Cambridgeshire but in many other police forces in England and Wales. Some police forces are remaining honourable but many like Cambridgeshire aren’t.
    As a result of the moral dishonesty of Cambridgeshire Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Police Authority I shall lose approximately half my pension and end up in financial difficulties. I may also lose my home.
    When I wrote to the Chief Constable about the grave financial situation they were about to place us in and asked her to talk to us, she eventually politely declined.
    When I wrote to the Chairman of the Police Authority about the grave financial situation they were about to place us in and asked him to talk to us, I receieved the following reply “…we regret that we see no value in a meeting with the Chair of the Police Authority”!
    This sums up their attitude. I am condemned to the rest of my life with severe disability, chronic illness and hardly any quality of life, like other injured colleagues. I am of no value to them!
    They seem to forget that police officers who have been injured ‘in the line of duty’, no matter what the injury, they have been injured because of their dedication to their profession and the people they serve. They will all have lost their chosen profession through no fault of their own.
    It is the worst act of betrayal I have known in my 64 years of life.
    Please click the link in the main text above and sign the No.10 Downing Street petition for us. Where it says (see this petition). Thank you.

  3. Paul Styles

    Richard,
    I am a former Cambridgeshire Constabulary officer and am retired due to injuries. I am unable to work so rely entirely on my police ill-health pension and the police injury award pension.
    The Ill-health pension is simply a version of the normal police retirement pension to which all officers, including myself at the time, contributed 11% of their pay each month. This pension is funded by the contributions of currently serving officers – those who are in the job effectively pay the pensions of those who have gone before them. Central Government makes up any shortfall.
    The injury award pension is funded entirely from local Council budgets. This was not always the case – the situation changed in, I believe, 2006. This is why Cambridgeshire Police Authority, and all other police authorites in England and Wales are now being encouraged by the Home Office to dramatically reduce the ‘burden’ of police injury pensions.
    Police authorites were given ‘guidance’ by the Home Office in the form of their Circular 46/2004 and its Annex C.
    This guidance moved police authorities to renege on well-established practices and solemn promises made to disabled former officers as police authorities realised they had Government support for measures that would prove to be highly contentious and that could not be brought in to effect by a change on the law.
    Readers of this excellent, campaigning web site, may like to know that before a police officer is granted an injury award pension the following conditions have to be met:
    a) The injury to the officer must be so serious that he or she is unable to continue to perform the ordinary duties of a constable – they therefore must leave the job.
    b) The injury must have occurred whilst on duty.
    c) The injury must be entirely not the fault of the officer.
    d) The injury must be medically certified as permanent.
    Injury award pensions are a compensation for the injury and the concomitant loss of earning capacity. They are to be paid for the life of the former officer.
    The amount of the pension is initially calculated by reference to the years of service completed and the degree of disability and resultant loss of earning capacity. There are four bands of payment levels.
    Police authorities have a duty under the law to review injury award pensions at ‘such intervals as shall be suitable’. This is because it was recognised by Parliament that injuries could worsen or improve over time. Clearly, if a former officer’s health improved or worsened significantly the pension could be adjusted, thus safeguarding both the public purse and ensuring the former officer received the appropriate level of pension.
    Prior to the Home Office guidance, Cambridgeshire police authority properly exercised their discretion in respect of injury award reviews. Some former officers, it was decided, were so permanently injured and so badly injured that regular, formal reviews with a full medical examination by an authority-appointed medical expert would be waste of time and money. A brief glance at the former officer’s file and medical reports was sufficient in many cases for the duty to review to be fully accomplished.
    Some former officers were told very early into their retirement that they could rely on receiving their then current level of injury award pension for life, with no formal review. Again, this approach was both lawful and appropriate.
    In January 2008 Cambridgeshire police authority, having considered the Home Office guidance for four years, suddenly announced a new policy and procedure for the management and review of police injury award pensions.
    Notwithstanding that previous approaches had stood scrutiny without interference from the Government from 1987, when the Police Pensions Regulations became law, until 2008 – a period of twenty-one years – the police authority decided that a totally new approach was needed.
    The Home Office had suggested in its Circular that they wished to encourage a ‘fairer and more cohesive approach’ throughout all 43 police areas in England and Wales.
    This call for fairness was interpreted by Cambridgeshire police authority as meaning that they could now:
    Review, by full medical examination and interrogation conducted by a Selected Medical Practitioner of the authority’s choice -
    1) Annually, following retirement and until the Force Medical Advisor/Force Medical Advisor acting as the Selected Medical Practitioner considers the medical condition to be stable.
    2) Two years after the the medical condition is considered by the FMA as stable.
    3) After the two year review, every five years subject to the recommendation of the Force Medical Advisor.
    4) At the request of the recipient of a police injury award where evidence of a change in medical circumstances relating to the injury on duty is supplied.
    5) Additionally, reviews will be conducted when officers reach what would have been their Compulsory Retirement Age for their rank on leaving and when they reach [the age of] 65 years.
    So, the police authority has moved dramatically from an ad hoc, common-sense approach to a draconion time-table driven, one-size-fits-all approach that will keep disabled former officers in a state of constant financial uncertainty.
    Moreover, this state of anxiety will only cease when the disabled civilian (how long can you be called a former officer?) reaches the age of 65 – then the pension will be slashed, regardless of medical condition, to the lowest band, which miserable amount is only a very few thousand pounds a year. This means that someone who has been so badly injured in the line of duty that he or she has been unable to work and has therefore relied entirely on the police pension will have the major part of it withdrawn just at the age when other folk are starting to look forward to retirement and to receiving their state and work-related pensions.
    These new rules have no basis in law – they result from the Home Office guidance and can only be described as a novel, extreme, perverse, untested and unheard-of interpretation of the police pensions law. The Police Pensions Regulations make no mention of any age as a trigger for a review, nor do they even hint at it being possible or desirable to reduce an injury award pension for reasons of age, in disregard to medical condition.
    Now this would be bad enough if it was a prospect facing serving officers who might at any time be seriously injured. At least they would know the score and might take sensible precautions to lessen the impact of the new rules, such as taking out private injury insurance, or simply avoiding any dangerous situation. But, the police authority has chosen to apply these new rules retrospectively to disabled former officers who are already in the system – many of whom have been retired for years. These people could never in their wildest dreams have anticipated that their pension would drop by a huge amount when they reached the age of 65 – and they have cut their cloth accordingly. Some are still struggling to pay off mortgages, some have made savings over to sons or daughters to help then onto the property ladder. Few, if any of them been paying in to a new retirement pension to see them through the years after age 65. Many will not have realised that they should have paid voluntary contributions towards their state pension, so will not receive a full state pension. Their financial plans and expectations – already modest as a result of disablement and loss of earning capacity – have been thrown into complete disorder. Some will have to sell their homes and possessions – and now is not a good time to be doing that.
    The police authority seem not to care – their aim is to save public money. They chose not to do this by cutting back on their expenses, ceasing extravagant exchange visits, information-gathering junkets overseas, conferences in luxury hotels, or even reducing the number of totally pointless employees. Their preferred approach is to kick the disabled police pensioner in the expectation that they are too weak to fight back.
    Cambridgeshire has 194 injury award pensioners, and there are well over 12,000 across England and Wales. They will, with help, fight back against this injustice.
    If you would like to help you can sign a petition that is on the No. 10 Downing Street website, calling on the Home Office to rescind the iniquitous guidance contained in their Circular 46/2004 Annex C. You can reach the pension here:
    http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/HOC-46-2004/
    Around 3,000 people have already signed – please add your name.
    Also, disabled Cambridgeshire police injury award pensioners would welcome any offer of pro bono legal advice. They can’t afford highly-paid barristers and solictors as can the Home Office and the police authority (using rate-payer’s money). If you can help in this direction I can promise that there is plenty to get your legal teeth stuck into – arguable illegalities infest the new policy and procedures of the police authority, touching on areas of administrative law, police pensions law, human rights law, age discrimination law and the principles of natural justice.
    The police authority have been told of the pensioner’s concerns about illegality, but they prefer to stonewall and simply insist they are right.
    My thanks to Richard for making it possible to air these views through a most generous allocation of space. There is much, much, more to tell – including how the Home Office ‘sexed up’ their guidance, but that had better wait for another day. If any police injury award pensioners outside of Cambridgeshire are reading this and would like to make contact with a view to self-help and an exchange of information and experiences then please email me at wdtk[at]gmx[dot]com

  4. Richard Article author

    Paul,

    While I understand, and agree with, your point that funding for pensions for injured officers ought be from central government, however I don’t believe your statement: “The injury award pension is funded entirely from local Council budgets.” is really accurate. Local councils collect money via the council tax and pass it on to the police authority, but the amount is determined independently by the police authority, the local councils just collect it and pass it on. Most funding for the police does come from central government (65% in the current year). I thought I’d mention that so campaigning is not misdirected.

    I agree the amount of money available to police an area ought not be affected by the amount being spent on pensions for injured officers. We shouldn’t have police authorities trading off money available for policing with that needed to fund these pensions.

  5. Richard Article author

    I have now received a response to my FOI request, it contains written questions and answers submitted to police authority meetings during February 2009.

    The response confirms a Police Authority meeting was held, in secret, on the 14th of January 2009, and admits the lack of publicity was wrong.

    The response also confirms that Mr Copeland did not submit a question and yet was permitted to speak.

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