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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 15:03 GMT
Police rally against reforms
Police officers in Westminster
Police officers on duty during the rally
Off-duty police officers from across the UK have staged a mass demonstration outside Parliament against planned reforms of the service.

More than 5,000 officers protested against proposed changes to their pay structure and plans to give police powers to private security guards.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett: Prepared to compromise
The action comes as Home Secretary David Blunkett announced police numbers were 128,748 - up from 127,231 last September - the highest on record.

Mr Blunkett says he is determined to deliver the security the public wants, but has indicated he may back down on some of the controversial proposals.

He told the BBC he was "prepared to compromise" and did not want to be remembered for failure or confrontation but for "managing the service well" and for a "conciliatory approach to find solutions".

And a Downing Street spokesman said: "We cannot do what we want to do in the fight against crime without taking the police with us but that does mean confronting change."

Frustration warning

Officers have already voted by a 10-1 margin against the reform plans, which would cut their overtime and remove a range of allowances.

The Police Federation, which organised that ballot, is calling on its members to register their "frustration".

We would rather be focusing our efforts on fighting crime

Fred Broughton
Police Federation
Fred Broughton, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said "politically drip-fed smear stories" from the government had angered officers.

"Police officers are saying to me that they feel they are being under-valued and unfairly criticised," Mr Broughton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We are facing the highest workload we have ever faced. We are facing enormous public demand for policing."

Police wanted "to visibly display their frustration" over plans "to worsen pay for a group of public servants who regularly put their lives on the line", said Mr Broughton.

There was concern too about proposals to give civilians powers to stop, detain and use "reasonable force" against the public.

So-called community officers would have the power to issue fixed penalty fines, confiscate alcohol, request names and addresses.

They would also have powers to request the removal of abandoned vehicles and to detain people for 30 minutes until police arrived.

Public worries

Chairman of the Northern Ireland Police Federation Jimmy Spratt said the proposed reduction in the rates of overtime pay were particularly unfair to the province's officers.

Houses of Parliament
Officers carrying out normal duties at Westminster

Chris Mullin, chairman of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: "All previous home secretaries have had difficulty persuading the police that some changes are needed in the way their pay and conditions at work are organised.

"But there is no doubt that the police are relatively well off compared with other similar professions," he told Today.

Nearly two out of every three people questioned in a Federation-commissioned ICM poll expressed serious reservations about civilians being given police powers.

Police officers are prohibited by law from going on strike.

But Mr Broughton revealed that three force areas of the federation were calling for a discussion on whether they should campaign to change industrial legislation, possibly with the aim of winning the right to strike.

Key plank

Mr Blunkett said the record number of officers was "superb news", putting the government on track to meet its 130,000 target by next spring.

There have been recent claims that extending the use of stop and search powers could produce more paperwork for officers.

But Mr Blunkett said he was stripping away unneeded red tape in a drive to make the job of policing more rewarding.

"We also want modern pay and conditions, where officers are rewarded for the job they do, not just the overtime they work," he continued.

The government is currently engaged in a formal conciliation process over the reforms row.

Police Federation Chairman Fred Broughton
"There still seems to be a clarity on what is being said"
Home Office Minister John Denham
"We want to be remembered for success in supporting officers"
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Civilians with police powers would be a mistake"

Should the police strike? Add your comments to the debate.Bobby lobby
Are the police right to protest?
See also:

13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
PC gives case against Blunkett reforms
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Police reform row tests Blunkett
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
The view from the beat
13 Mar 02 | Scotland
Scots police join pay lobby
22 Feb 02 | UK Politics
'No compromise' over police pay
17 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Q&A: Police reform white paper
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