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Wednesday, 13 March, 2002, 15:01 GMT
The view from the beat
Off-duty officers arriving at the QEII Centre in Westminster.
Thousands of officers arrived in London to protest.
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By Jackie Storer
BBC News Online political staff
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Dressed in their civvies, there was little doubting the strength of feeling against David Blunkett's plans to cut overtime pay and hand powers to civilian.

Thousands of officers from as far afield as Scotland and Northern Ireland had used a sacred day off to register their views at the rally in Westminster.


I regard a cut in over-time as a complete slap in the face

PC Russell Yardley

PC Russell Yardley, 48, a Metropolitan Police officer based at Richmond, said: "David Blunkett is offering us 400 a year in extra pay and then this reduction in overtime.

"I am certainly earning about 3,000 to 4,000 a year in over-time which is higher than average, but that is because I feel I am a keen, hard-working officer.

Cheap shot

"When you are working very long hours, I regard a cut in over-time as a complete slap in the face.

"It is policing on the cheap."

Hampshire police constable Stuart Vaughan, 24, based at Cosham, Portsmouth, said: "Over-time is quite a big part of the job. It is not a 9-5 job.

"Some times we end up working 17.5 hours. Under the new reforms, we wouldn't be paid for those hours.

"We have got lives outside the police. There aren't many other jobs where you are expected to work over-time for free."

PC Russell Yardley
PC Yardley: Reforms are 'policing on the cheap'.

PC Tony Clifford, 24, also based at Cosham, said he feared officers would end up "bailing out" Mr Blunkett's community wardens.

"It is bad news giving powers to people with very little training, when they don't know the ins and outs of the job.

"It is dangerous. We get enough grief when we turn up to a job. We get shouted at, abused, hit and we have got some form of protective equipment.

Second class force

"I think civilians would struggle to apprehend anybody."

Sgt Gordon Rolland, a Lothian and Borders officer, who caught a 6.30am flight from Edinburgh to join the protest, said: "I am concerned about the way inwhich the home secretary is trying to impose changes to pay and conditions, bypassing the proper negotiating process.

"I am worried about giving untrained people the powers of a police officer.

"I think it will turn the police into a second class service."


People are anti-traffic wardens, goodness knows what they will make of community wardens

PC Pete Clout

PC Dave Rogers, area chairman of the Defence Police Federation and PC Pete Clout, area secretary, attended the rally to support the national police federation.

PC Rogers, 54, based in Woolwich, said: "We have always hoped that over-time would never be a necessary - that we would get a good enough wage.

"Our dispute is that when you have to do over-time, you get properly compensated for it.

PC Pete Clout and PC Dave Rogers
PC Clout and PC Rogers: Officers should be properly compensated for over-time.

"The 400 pay rise that they are proposing would not compensate at all."

PC Rogers said giving civilians powers of arrest for 30 minutes negated the fact that a police officer would still be needed to deal with the incident.

"It's an added complication. It doesn't lighten the work of a police officer at all.

"You will have to judge how much force a warden has used. You might end up arresting the person for an offence, but also looking at whether the warden has exceeded their powers."

Seven Oaks-based PC Pete Clout, 45, said he wondered what the public would make of civilian police officers.

"People are anti-traffic wardens, goodness knows what they will make of community wardens," he said.

West Dulwich-based DS Alex Robertson, chairman of the British Transport Police Federation, said cutting the overtime rates would severely affect his colleagues.

PC Stuart Vaughan and PC Tony Clifford
PC Vaughan and PC Clifford: Concern over how civilians will cope.

"The government has under-estimated the strength of feeling among all officers."

DS Phil White, BTPF general secretary, said he was concerned that the train operating companies that fund BT Police may be prepared to save money from the reforms, but not make the investments needed.

"It is important for us to be here to show our support for the England and Wales federation."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"David Blunkett will have to build bridges with rank and file officers"
Police Federation Chairman Fred Broughton
"This is a cheapening of policing"
Home Office Minister John Denham
"We want to be remembered for success in supporting officers"
See also:

22 Feb 02 | UK Politics
'No compromise' over police pay
17 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Q&A: Police reform white paper
29 Nov 01 | UK Politics
Police anger over Blunkett reforms
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Police reform row tests Blunkett
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