Police should face annual fitness tests and have their wages docked if they repeatedly fail, the widest-ranging review of pay and conditions in the service for more than 30 years has concluded.
Chief constables should also be given the right to make officers redundant if budget cuts are needed, ending the prospect of a job for life, the report’s author Tom Winsor found.
Mr Winsor, a former rail regulator whose suggestions will be studied by Home Secretary Theresa May, proposed an end to the principle that every officer should join the service as a constable and work their way up. He said applicants should be able to enter police forces at the higher ranks of inspector or, “after rigorous testing”, superintendent.
The proposals immediately provoked outrage from police staff associations who claimed their members were under “sustained attack” from the Government.
West Yorkshire Police Federation chairman Andrew Tempest-Mitchell criticised the suggestion that chief constables could be given the right to make officers redundant when those officers have no right to take industrial action.
“Police officers are not treated like normal employees,” he said. “We have no industrial rights, and therefore to implement a system where officers have no rights but could be made redundant is grossly unjust.”
Mr Winsor proposed that an initial annual test requiring officers to reach level 5:4 on the “bleep test” should be brought in by September next year.
This is equivalent to an average speed of 5.5mph for three minutes and 35 seconds, but the report suggests that the test should get tougher by 2018 to include climbing over walls and pulling bodies.
The report showed that more than half of the Metropolitan Police’s male officers were overweight, a fifth were obese and one in 100 was “morbidly obese”.
Mr Tempest-Mitchell said he could not begin to estimate how many West Yorkshire officers were overweight.
He added: “The federation is not against fitness testing and I would think the majority of us would say it is not unreasonable to expect police officers to be fit.
“But concentrating on this issue is a complete nonsense when there is so much else in the report for officers to worry about.”
The report proposed that the starting salary for constables should be cut, from the current £23,500 to £19,000 for someone with A-levels but no police-related experience or qualifications.
New educational requirements should be brought in, it added, with applicants needing three A-levels at A to C or equivalent qualifications.
Policing Minister Nick Herbert had asked Mr Winsor to reconsider controversial severance packages for chief officers after the Yorkshire Post revealed that North Yorkshire Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell stands to receive £200,000 in compensation when his contract ends in May.
Mr Maxwell, who admitted gross misconduct at a disciplinary hearing last year, will be entitled to the payment – unless he takes another police job – because he will not have attained 30 years’ pensionable service. Mr Winsor recommended that the current scheme should remain, but any hearing with the power to dismiss a chief constable should also have the right to withhold some or all of any compensation payment if the officer is found to have committed misconduct.
Chief Superintendent Derek Barnett, president of the Police Superintendents’ Association of England and Wales, said the review had “major and long-term implications for the police service, individual officers and staff and for the public we serve”.
Police officers and staff faced real cuts in pay of £160m, a three-year pay freeze, increased pension contributions and the loss of 34,000 officers and staff, he said
Chief Constable Peter Fahy, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said chief officers were clear radical approaches were needed to maintain protection of the public during budget cuts. “At the same time we must not put in danger the core ethos of service and self-sacrifice in policing that has served this country well.”
Comment: Page 12.