On the one side, rank and file officers have a gut feeling that the Chief Whip called officers plebs. The feeling was not helped by his refusal to say, in meetings with W.Midlands Police Federation, exactly what he did say if he was denying the word "plebs".
On the other side, the case has added to the public's gut feeling that the police are not to be trusted. This strong feeling is not helped by the police officer who allegedly posed as an independent witness to the incident.
"Always a pleasure."
"Excuse me, did you say Pleb?!"
As an observer, some things should be obvious:
- At the time officers filled out the police log of the incident, they were not intending to make an issue of the incident or publicise it. Therefore to assume it was fabricated is a bit far-fetched.
- It took Mitchell three months to cough up a full account of the incident, which he only produced after seeing and publishing the CCTV. Call me cynical, but "adverse inference" springs to mind.
- Any police officer writing a phony email posing as someone he isn't, and diving head-first into a political firestorm, is a cretinous idiot.
For the Police Federation, it is a political catastrophe. The Home Office already detests the police staff association, seen as belligerent, old-fashioned and as full of dastardly mystery as a Masonic lodge. Reform of "the Fed" is now inevitable, and not necessarily a bad thing for front line officers if it can be reformed quickly and from within, rather than handing the job over to those who are so suspicious of it.
Speaking personally, all I really want from the Federation is someone to represent me when I am treated unfairly or in the proverbial - whether through my own doing or someone else's. This includes standing up for my pay and conditions, but it doesn't include political warfare on Government ministers.
The Federation sees the upcoming reform as an assault on the office of constable. As a police officer, I agree. As a member of the public, I want police officers to be signed up to a code of conduct on or off duty. I want them to be experienced and skilled at all police matters. I want them to have discretion to show compassion, and the integrity to put their foot down. There is no doubt that under the Tom Winsor formula, a diverse police force representing the needs of society is under threat.
I'm just not so sure that this argument is one for the Federation. And they risk losing the battle over pay and conditions while they are distracted by politics.
Apologies for the patchy nature of my blog this year - I've had a lot on!
Hopefully in 2013 I will find more time to devote to it.
Happy Christmas, if my readers are still out there.
'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.