Office of Constable under threat, Federation warns

THE Office of Constable could be “destroyed” without a full, independent review of policing, the Police Federation of England and Wales has warned.

In the ongoing battle with the Government over the reforms to the police service and officers’ terms and conditions, the Federation has issued a document setting out the expectations placed upon those who hold the Office of Constable and highlighting its value.

It also looks at what the term means for those outside the police service, pointing out that an MP once genuinely asked: “Where is this Office of Constable? Is it in the Home Office?”

Steve Williams, chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said the Office of Constable is “the ultimate check and balance in our democracy to protect against a tyrannical abuse of power”.

He added that “integrity, impartiality and, most importantly, political independence” was at the heart of the office.

According to the Federation, The Office of Constable dates back to reign of Henry I in the 1000s – although it was a military term at that stage. Those police officers who hold the office are servants of the Crown, not employees.

As such, they have access to most statutory employment rights but it is a criminal offence for a sworn officer to take industrial action. Rank and file police officers are currently voting on whether they want the Federation to seek to obtain industrial rights.

In England and Wales, police officers swear an oath of allegiance to the monarch to ensure the separation of power and political independence of the Office of Constable.

Police officers cannot legally be instructed to arrest a person and must be allowed to police with discretion.

The Federation pamphlet warns that “ill-conceived reform risks destroying the value of, and deskilling, the Office of Constable by separating the component parts that make it work”.

The Federation has maintained that entry level to the police service should be at constable level for all sworn officers and that a ground in policing at this level is “imperative” to any rank. It has said it will resist any moves to introduce non-sworn officers into operational policing roles.

It calls upon the government to urgently undertake a “full, independent and holistic review of policing”, examining role, structure, governance, function and accountability. “Otherwise,” it said, “there is a genuine fear that the current workforce modernisation programme could destroy the Office of Constable by default.”

You can see the document here