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Wednesday, 15 May, 2002, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
'I made mistakes' says Blunkett
Police officers
Many officers are unhappy with Mr Blunkett's reforms
David Blunkett has conceded he made mistakes when trying to drive through reform in the police service.

The admission came minutes after the home secretary was accused of undermining force morale.


I and my ministers appreciate the difficulty of the job you in the police are doing

David Blunkett
Home Secretary
Mr Blunkett told hundreds of officers at the Police Federation conference: "I think I have made mistakes. I am not saying I have got everything wrong... an enormous amount of change has been demanded and mistakes have been made.

"But I honestly believe together over the years ahead we can provide the answer to the tabloid headlines by delivering a world-class police service."

'Undermining morale'

He told the Bournemouth conference he wanted to cut red tape and make officers' work more rewarding.

But he insisted he would plough ahead with his controversial plan to introduce community support officers (CSOs).

Mr Blunkett faced tough criticism from officers at the conference who say morale in the police service has hit new lows.

Immediately before his speech, Police Federation chairman Fred Broughton accused the Home Office of undermining and doing down frontline police officers.

"We believe in this police service that we do not receive the political leadership our job requires," said Mr Broughton.

Rally at Westminster

He accused the government of lying during the recent pay talks and gave a gloomy warning about the state of police morale.

"The level of feeling, the level of anger, the level of frustration, the level of bitterness in our police service has been overwhelming," said Mr Broughton.

About 10,000 off-duty officers lobbied Parliament earlier this year over the government's original pay offer.

David Blunkett
Mr Blunkett says he wants to cut red tape for officers
The Police Federation has now agreed the latest offer but many of its members are still angry about the deal.

Mr Broughton also outlined the federation's opposition to the idea of giving new civilian CSOs police powers.

The home secretary won a polite reception from the conference, avoiding the slow handclaps endured by his predecessor, Jack Straw, last year.

Mr Blunkett stuck by his reform programme for the police service but apologised for misunderstanding the time needed for change to be achieved.

'Not looking for a fight'

He said he wanted to make officers' jobs "satisfying, well rewarded and revered".

"An enormous amount of change has been demanded, mistakes have been made," he continued.

"But I honestly believe together over the years ahead we can provide the answer to tabloid headlines by providing a world class police service."

The home secretary said he was not "looking for a fight" and stressed the new CSOs would not be forced on police chiefs.

The reform programme indeed was intended to make that job more effective and that needed to be understood so government and police could work together.

Hundreds of officers kept a diary of their typical day in November.

Pay demonstration at Parliament
Off-duty officers demonstrated over pay
The exercise showed that only 17% of an officer's time is spent on patrol, while a single arrest can take anywhere between two and eight hours to process.

Mr Blunkett said the number of performance indicators had been halved in response to that and more money was now to be put into giving officers more up-to-date equipment.

There would also be a review of suspects' rights as a direct response to their concerns about the amount of time they spend on paperwork, he told the conference.

The new review will concentrate on the safeguards for suspects included in the 1984 Police and Criminal Evidence Act.

It includes regulations covering things like the way questioning is conducted, evidence is recorded and property seized.

Rights worries

The home secretary said lawyers too often scored "pyrrhic victories" by exploiting technicalities over the complex code.

Liberty general secretary John Wadham said the review had been announced at the conference in an effort to "buy popularity".

Mr Wadham said he was in favour of improved efficiency in police forces, to give officers more time to fight crime.

But he warned: "There is a danger... that some of the proposals which will be made will be to erode the rights and suspects of defendants."

Similar changes had been made in past in the mistaken belief that crime rates would "magically" fall as a result, said Mr Wadham.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Many rank and file officers are sceptical about his motives"
Metropolitan Police Federation chairman Glen Smyth
"There were old Labour tricks of old announcements reannounced"
Former Metropolitan Police Commander, John O'Connor
"I'd like to know what red-tape he is going to cut"
Centre for Criminological Research Dr Richard Young
"There is certainly potential to cut out unnecessary bureaucracy"
See also:

15 May 02 | UK Politics
Police 'snowed under' by paperwork
15 May 02 | UK Politics
Blunkett eats humble pie
15 May 02 | UK Politics
Police views on Blunkett
15 May 02 | UK Politics
Minister attacked over 'racist' term
13 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Police rally against reforms
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