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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 10:24 GMT
Q&A: Police reform white paper
Rank and file police officers have voted by 10 to one to reject David Blunkett's proposed reforms on pay and conditions.

BBC News Online looks at the issues which have put police forces at loggerheads with the home secretary.

Q: Why are police "massively angry"?

A: They are up in arms over pay proposals contained in a government White Paper on police reform.

The Police Federation says they will result in the average officer being worse off financially.

Specifically, the federation is concerned about a cut in overtime pay, which will be paid only after an officer has worked 42 hours a week.

The federation says this will mean its members working longer hours for no extra cash.

Q: What does the government say?

The government is intent on modernising pay and conditions in the force.

Under the proposals, officers would be expected to work more flexible hours but there would be a bonus system to reward priority staff, including beat officers, and one-off payments for particularly unpleasant work.

Q: Is there anything else officers are unhappy about?

A: Two weeks ago, the federation accused the government of conducting a propaganda campaign in a bid to portray officers as an "inefficient band of malingerers".

Mr Blunkett says he wants to reduce the number of sick days taken, but the federation claims his proposals will effectively make taking early retirement through ill health not an option.

It says a one-rule-for-all on the number of sick days allowed each year unfairly penalises officers working in high-pressure inner city environments.

The government also plans to create a new breed of uniformed civilian workers who would have the power to use "reasonable force" to detain suspects.

The idea is that they would take over some lighter duties including chasing truanting pupils, crowd control and issuing fixed penalty notices for dog fouling or dropping litter.

But officers say giving police powers to civilians will lower standards and have cautioned against giving stop and detain powers to under-trained members of the public.

Q: Can officers stop the proposals?

A: It is a strong possibility. The Police Federation, which represents 125,000 officers, is not a union and it is illegal for officers to strike. But it is a highly effective lobby and successive home secretaries have found the organisation a formidable opponent.

No politician wants to be seen to be attacking the police, who are generally held in high regard by the public, and the force is mobilising to garner public sympathy.

Q: Does the government expect to have a battle on its hands?

A: Undoubtedly. A senior officer says there is "massive anger" in the force over the proposals.

Officers could decide to work to rule and they will be seeking support within parliament from opposition parties to stop the white paper from becoming law.

The police have until 27 December to agree to the plans - another cause for complaint because they say the deadline is too tight.

See also:

05 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Blunkett's bold plans for police reform
02 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Plan to reform 'failing' police
01 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police red tape targeted
29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police anger over Blunkett reforms
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