The Police Federation.

Avery's in 1963
From the private collection of Brian Stothard
Buses in Whitehawk in the 1960s
From the private collection of Tricia Leonard
Central Hall, Westminster
Scarborough Conference Centre
Merlyn Rees Home Secretary (1976-1979)
Jim Callaghan
John Street Police Station
A course of action which appeared logical
Terry George
David Rowland
Police protest against cuts in London today
Guardian Newspaper
David Rowland Book Launch

At the turn of the 20th century there was no such thing as The Police Federation; policemen had to obey their senior officers to the letter. However, within 20 years of this date and after some serious trouble in the Police ‘rank and file’ which resulted in a police strike, the Federation was born. It fell short of being called a ‘Union’ but almost in every aspect it was ‘The Police Union.’

At this time many policemen were unsure if the concept would last, was it something that authority had agreed to but would soon extinguish the flame of hope.

The Metropolitan Police in London were equally sure that it would not only continue to exist but that it would go to bigger and better things. They were right as policemen right across the many and varied Police Forces joined and in ever increasing numbers.

These early beginnings were a very good foundation for the wonderful way in which the Federation grew and by the time I joined in 1958, it was almost a hundred per cent membership in Brighton. The Federation Representatives in those days worked entirely during their own time and very little Police time was made available.

I can recall that when I joined the Brighton Police I found myself signing a vast number of documents, not fully understanding what I was signing. I was told that it was a good thing to become a member of the Federation, as they would help me if needed. I did join but took very little interest apart from wanting to know about any impending pay rise and maybe reducing the working hours. That was about my sum total of interest. However that would change in later years.

Constable Peter Gear

In the early 1970’s Constable Peter Gear was the Representative for all the constables within the Brighton area, being one of my best friends he talked to me about taking a more active interest in the Federation and I think I attended the annual meeting at that time. To me it seemed that there was a lot of talk but very little action, plenty of wonderful ideas but very little seemed to come from them. I felt I couldn’t be bothered with this. I suppose I was rather selfish and only interested in what they could do for me personally. I didn’t understand just how dedicated these Federation Representatives were, just how much of their own time they put in for the benefit of the rest of us. I suppose I likened it to an ‘Old Friends Club.’ I knew that I could never do such a job; firstly I was too quiet, as I still liked to be in the background and not push myself forward. Secondly, I just couldn’t see myself standing up on a stage in front of my colleagues and spouting off to them. I was certainly suffering from a severe lack of confidence for that sort of thing. I still vividly remembered my training days when I had to stand up in front of the class and talk for just a minute on a given subject, like ‘a ball of string or a piece of chalk’ it was so embarrassing, no that sort of thing wasn’t for me.

Constables Representative

In 1971 Peter was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and then really got to work on me. He said that I should put up for the Constables Representative at the end of the year when the elections were held. He tried so hard to convince me that I could do the job. I still wasn’t so sure about it. I put up just about every excuse I could think of in order that he would get fed up and leave me alone but that didn’t work.

He then came up with the idea that if it didn’t work out I could always resign. That then got me thinking, perhaps I should give it a go, maybe, and just maybe I might like it.

I talked it over at home, bearing in mind that I would possibly spend a lot of my own time doing Federation work. I asked a few more questions of Peter, just to make sure that I fully understood what I was letting myself in for and then finally agreed to stand at the forthcoming elections in December 1971. I still wasn’t too happy about the situation, this would be uncharted water, something I still wasn’t convinced I could do, and there was so much to learn. One of my worst fears, as the elections drew near, was that I wouldn’t receive any votes or such a small number and would be the laughing stock of the Police Station. I canvassed as many people as I could, being a GP driver at this time it made it a lot easier to get around and see many more of my colleagues.

Election Day

On Election Day I attended the police station where the ballot was being held and run by the deputy Divisional Commander, trying to whip up a little more support, reminding my colleagues to vote and generally gee-ing everyone up. The day finished and the votes were counted and to my utter amazement I had won, by quite a large majority. I couldn’t believe it; I had actually won on my very first attempt. I now realised that a large number of my colleagues were looking to me to try and make improvements in their police life and I was left in no doubt that ‘work’ started here.

However, this must not be to the detriment of my police work out on the streets, I had a very big commitment to the people of Brighton that was sacrosanct; after all they paid my wages.

Looking back now I really was so green and far too quiet to make a success of the job. I realised I had a lot to learn, not only about all the rules and regulations but equally important how to conduct myself with senior Officers. I knew I needed a lot more confidence and hoped that that would come in time.

Constables Branch Board meeting

I went to my first Constables Branch Board meeting in March and I remember Fred Gaylor, who was the secretary. He was so knowledgeable that I thought, I just wish I knew all the things that he did. It was a bit like being back at Training School, just one big blooming jigsaw puzzle. I sat there and a lot of what was said just went over my head. The meetings used to start about 10am and go on until around 1pm, then a break for lunch

After lunch it was back again for around three hours in the afternoon. There were three components to the Sussex Police Federation, The Constables, Sergeants and Inspectors Branch Boards. After each of the individual Boards had had their meetings There was a break of about three weeks and then the three different Branch Boards  met together. This was then called ‘The Joint Branch Board’ it was at this meeting that items from all three boards were discussed and if agreed by the three Boards were taken to the Chief Constable for his approval.

The Chairman of the Joint Board at this time was Sergeant Sid Tully, a formidable character. It was his job together with the Joint Secretary, to negotiate with the Chief Constable and his senior Officers. The secretary of the Joint Board was also a sergeant, and he was Eric Osborne who was also a member of the National Committee. This position was good for our Branch Board as we got to know something about the national view at a fairly early stage.

These Branch Board meetings were held four times a year with each Branch Board Secretary responsible for arranging the agendas and the dates of the meetings.

At this first meeting, it was usual to decide who would represent the various branch boards at the Annual Conference, being held in Blackpool this particular year.

During my years on the Branch Board, in general, there were only two places used for the Annual Conferences and they were Blackpool and Scarborough. Due to my inexperience I would not go as a representative but as an observer, this being my first year.

Annual Conference

This meant that my expenses were paid for but I had to attend in my own time. A representative attended the Conference in Police time. I attended the conference and was taken under the wing of woman Sergeant Edna Morley, later to become Policewoman sergeant Edna Osborne after she married Eric.. She was a great help to me and pointed out the various National Committee members. She also explained the different items on the conference agenda and introduced me to a number of the speakers and Officers from our region. In the forthcoming years I would benefit from this. It was a great advantage to know a number of different people, which of course made obtaining information a lot easier to come by.

At the Police Station I was trying to get to grips with the different complaints that I received from other Constables. The duty inspectors and occasionally the Divisional Superintendents resolved most of these. I think at this stage of my Federation career I was just about tolerated, I hadn’t yet earned my ‘spurs’ I made a number of mistakes by going to see a Superintendent when the complaint could have been sorted out by an Inspector. The biggest mistake I ever made and the one I learned most from was when I listened to a constable who was often bitching about something or other.

He should have left the Police Force as in his eyes nothing was right with the job. I mentioned to him on one occasion, about leaving but he said that it wasn’t as bad as that. I think it was this same guy who ‘tested’ me, after that (we were never very friendly) He told me about something or other and I listened to him at length. It seemed a very genuine complaint and one I thought was only for the Divisional Commander, who at the time was Chief Superintendent Norman Cooper.

Now, Norman Cooper was a hero to me as he was with a very large number of other officers. He had started as a constable and had risen through the ranks, achieving each successive rank by skill and no one ever believed it wasn’t justified. He was a real man’s ‘Man.’ He was a pretty tough ‘Cookie’ and stood no nonsense, he didn’t ‘suffer fools gladly.’ He was also a very compassionate and fair person and would back you to the very end if he believed in you and your cause. It was generally agreed that only a fool would challenge him at just about anything.

Norman Cooper

Norman Cooper was efficient at just about everything he ever got involved with. In his earlier days, he too was a Federation Representative and rose through the organisation to become the Joint Branch Board Chairman, and to become the chairman, you really had to know ‘your stuff.’

I like to think that I got on with him pretty well, if nothing else he knew me very well. He had been, over the years, my Sergeant, Inspector, Chief Inspector, Superintendent and now my Divisional Commander, – what a record.

He had a very nice secretary and I used to ask her what sort of mood Norman was in. His mood was very important to me; I knew that if he was in a good mood then I had a very good chance of him agreeing to my demands, well within reason. On the other hand, if he were in a bad mood, then I definitely wouldn’t bother to make an appointment to see him. She used to advise me accordingly. I used to think what a position she is in to trick me, but then she never did and I am sure she was far to nice to even think about doing that.

I recall I went to see him this particular morning soon after the end of the Senior Officers morning conference. I knocked on the door and he bade me enter. He invited me to sit down close to his desk. I told him the nature of the complaint and he listened intently. He asked me a couple of questions relating to it. He then sat back in his chair not saying a word. At this stage I had forgotten that as well as now being the Divisional Commander he had been the Chairman of the Joint Branch Board and so knew this game from both sides. I really was little match for him. He then said in a quite voice,’ have you done your homework on this, Mr. Rowland?’ I thought, homework, homework, what homework?  Then just as the penny started to drop, he stood up and boomed out, ‘you haven’t done your homework, have you? And at the same time thumping his desk with his clenched fist a couple of times. (Later someone said to me, I didn’t know it was you in there, I could hear his voice at the end of the corridor)

Do your homework

He then seemed to calm down and sat back in his chair and resumed his quiet voice saying, “Now, let me give you some very good advice, never come here again before you have done your homework, get more answers than I will have questions. I think that is all for now David, don’t you’ I mumbled something like ‘Yes Sir’ and hastily left. Oh dear, I hadn’t done very well, worse still it was in front of Norman Cooper, but I had learned an awful lot that day. What I had learned would stand me in good stead for the rest of my Federation career and in later years I was able to pass on that same advice. I lived to be very thankful for the advice on that day, brought about by the most basic of mistakes.

For all my early doubts I took to The Federation like a duck to water, spending more and more of my time on it. Elections for representatives were held every year and I am proud of the fact that I was never beaten in any election for the post.

The Federation continued to take more and more of my time and I wrapped myself in it almost completely. I was elected to the position of Constables secretary, which then encompassed my responsibilities for all constables in the Sussex Police. I was then elected to the post of deputy secretary of the Joint Branch Board under Tony Clarke, the Joint Branch Board Secretary.

Constable’s Conference representative

I was a Constable’s Conference representative every year and that meant five days away at the Annual Conference. At the Branch Board meetings prior to the conference we would vote on the representatives out of pocket expenses. This money was only to be used for social evenings, whereby you met representatives from other forces and over a drink you could discuss questions and answers that were of mutual interest. I know that on several occasions when talking to people from other forces, it helped the officers in Sussex to enjoy a better police life. I believe that the expenses for the last conference I attended in 1982 or 1983 were £25 per night. Sadly, not everyone used these expenses as they should do. Rumour had it that one person used to drive to the conference and with his expense money he used to buy four new tyres each year for his car. Personally, any monies that I didn’t use I paid back to the Federation funds. Each year the Conference venue alternated between Blackpool and Scarborough, I have to admit that I liked Blackpool the best. They were very good times and I think that we all enjoyed ‘Conference week,’ rightly or wrongly it was a bit like a holiday, a working holiday. They were always held during the month of May.

The Conference I remember the best was the 1977 one, held in Scarborough. The weather was particularly nice and the conference hall was hot and stuffy.

Scarborough 1977

The National chairman at this time was a wily Scot, named Jim Jardine, while the General Secretary was Joe Martucci, both members of the Metropolitan Police. These were the two most important members of the National Federation and were responsible for various discussions with the Home Secretary, who at this time was Merlin Rees. To every policeman in the country the most important discussions ever held were those on police pay. By the latter part of 1976, it was apparent that the government were going to try and implement a very poor pay rise, this being to an already poorly paid Service.

The Police Federation organised a massive meeting at the Central Hall, Westminster in the September and the building was bulging with furious and angry policemen and women.

On the 25th April 1977 the Home Office forwarded to the Federation what was termed the ‘Official Side’s Final Offer,’ This offer consisted of a general increase of 5 per cent, topped up with 5 per cent of average overtime plus allowances. This sum worked out at £2.30 a week for a recruit, rising to £3.26 after 15 years service. The topping up gave constables 53p per week and sergeants 39p; this offer also included ‘forward commitments’ to increase annual leave of constables and sergeants by two days at some future date, in the light of pay policy, that prevailed at the time.

The Federation promptly issued a total rejection of the package. In a press statement, that said, ‘during phase 1 and Phase 2, millions of workers have received total increases of between £8.50 and £10. The Police are being offered, for the same period, a maximum of £4 and a minimum of £2.83. Acceptance of an award of this kind would merely take the steam out of the situation while not achieving anything for the lower paid constable.’ At a further meeting the government made it clear that they would not move on the offer, and so the scene was set for the annual Conference in May the following year that was being held in Scarborough.

Publicity campaign

A week or so before the Conference the Federation spent £3,600 out of £20,000 that had been set aside for the publicity campaign to win the public on to the side of the police. The money was used for an advertisement in the Daily Mail and used the slogan ‘Police Pay is a crime!’ and ‘Up Police Pay – down crime.’ The advertisement went on to say that policemen were taking home less than £38 a week while morale was at its lowest ebb.

The Service was coping with more than 12,000 assaults on officers and requested the public to write to their Members of Parliament. in support of the police case. They also invited people to write for Federation car stickers and in the first three days more than 4,000 people had written for them.

On the eve of conference The Joint Central Committee held an emergency meeting as to what should happen when the Home Secretary addressed the Conference. The Home Secretary was due to address the Conference just before lunch on the second day. The usual conference hall was being refurbished and the meeting had to be held in a converted cinema that only seated 2,000 people, much too small for the massive numbers of policemen who were arriving from all over the country to listen to the address both by Jim Jardine and Merlin Rees. No arrangements had been made for the speeches to be relayed to the people waiting outside the hall. In the conference hall on the morning of the home Secretary’s speech, various ideas were floated as to what to do. An Essex Inspector, Ted Davidson, well known to us in Sussex proposed that as soon as Jim Jardine finished his address the whole meeting should rise and give him a standing ovation, the Home Secretary, on the other hand would be received in total silence. This was agreed. (The idea of sitting in silence and reading newspapers had been my suggestion a few months earlier and we had passed this idea onto Les Curtis, the Constable’s regional representative, was this my idea after all, being used by Ted Davidson?)

Merlin Rees

The problem that then arose was that the waiting police members outside had no idea of what had been agreed and so when Merlin Rees arrived he was loudly heckled.

Jim Jardine welcomed the Home Secretary and then went into his speech where he spelt out in hard words what policemen of this country felt. As he sat down the hall as one stood up and loudly applauded, just as had been arranged, so far so good. Then Merlin Rees stood up and read his prepared speech, it obviously had pauses where it was expected that the audience would applaud, nothing, not a whisper as all the delegates read their newspapers and remained silent. It was very clear that the Home Secretary was feeling decidedly uncomfortable and I am sure wished he was anywhere except in Scarborough addressing 2,000 angry and very annoyed policemen and women.

With his speech concluded he stood there for a minute and at that time you could have heard a pin drop, not a sound could be heard. He then sat down desperately trying not to look flustered but it was written all over his face. We had done it, an absolute triumph. A few years later during an interview he freely admitted that this had been his worst experience during his many years in politics.

Sadly, just when we thought we had scored a great victory, those outside who still had no idea what had gone on, whistled and jeered the Home Secretary as he left the building and just as his car as moving off policeman’s fists were thumping on the roof of his car. He drove away visibly shaken by what had happened. The newspapers the following day reported on the ‘quiet’ that the Home Secretary had experienced but the biggest headlines were saved for the policemen thumping on the roof of the car; complete with pictures of course.

Jim Callaghan

Jim Callaghan, the Prime Minister was furious with the treatment handed out to his Home Secretary, Merlin Rees and when later Jim Jardine invited the Prime Minister to address the Federation, he politely declined the invitation as he had ‘other engagements.’

This Conference was the turning point for Police pay as very soon the government decided to appoint a committee of inquiry into police pay and conditions. Lord Edmund-Davies, a Lord of Appeal, headed the inquiry. From this inquiry would come one of the biggest police pay awards in the history of the Police, monies and conditions that would be enjoyed by thousands of hard working ‘Coppers.’

I am very proud to be able to say that, ‘I was there,’ and witnessed every little turn that was made by the Police Federation.

Lord Edmund-Davies

When later Lord Edmund-Davies reported on his long awaited report he found that the police had a very good case and he recommended that the starting pay for constables should be £3,600, an increase of 30 per cent, and the top rate after 15 years service should be increased by 45 per cent to £5,700. The senior constable would then overlap the newly promoted sergeant, who was to receive £ 5,450 on promotion, a 40 per cent rise unless he or she was already on the top constable’s rate. These were by far the highest pay rises ever recommended to any of the emergency Services. The Government were staggered by these increases but had agreed to stand by the result of the Inquiry.

Even today, the police Service must still be grateful to Lord Edmund- Davies. Also from the report came other benefits that were enjoyed for many years.

Poor health

Around the early 1980’s I started to experience medical problems and was believed because of my quite punishing workload. I was working in the Communications Room at John Street Police Station and also spending an enormous amount of time on my Federation work, as by this time I was representing officers on discipline charges in front of the Chief Constable, Sir George Terry. My total work hours were in the region of some 60 hours a week, sometimes more. I just loved the life having a very interesting Police job and my Federation work; I didn’t crave for anything else.

However, I was beginning to feel ill with bowel problems and attended the doctor. I was sent to see a specialist at the hospital and my mind started to veer across to the possibility that I might be suffering from bowel cancer. The consultant at Brighton General Hospital put me on tablets, gradually increasing them until I was taking 29 tablets a day. I spent several times in hospital for various tests but I didn’t seem to be improving. Tony Clarke and other members of The Constables Board suggested that I should go full time as the Deputy Secretary and after a short period the Chief Constable agreed and I then split my time between working at Sussex Police Headquarters in the Federation Office and also at my office at Brighton.

Sadly my medical problems continued and I decided that I would seek a second opinion. I had private medical Insurance at this time and went to see a surgeon in this sector. He examined me and told me that I would need surgery and soon.

At the end of 1983 I was once again elected as the Brighton area’s Constables Representative and arranged for the Constables Branch Board meeting to be held during the first week of January 1984. This happened to be a particularly long meeting and I scribbled down the down my notes for close on 8 hours. The following day I commenced writing up the minutes of the meeting. I was going into the Avenue Clinic, Hove the following day, the 6th, for my operation. I didn’t know at this stage that this would be my final Federation meeting.

I had the operation, in fact a series of operations being in the Clinic for 6 weeks. I was then transferred to the Police Convalescent Home in Hove; this was for another 6 weeks. It was while I was here that I began to realise that I would have to resign from my Federation positions and hand over to my deputy, Roger Charles.

He and Tony Clarke came to see me one day and I handed over my brief case and all my paperwork. They were sorry that I was unable to carry on and after they left I believe that I was at my lowest level ever. I was so committed to the Federation that to lose that job was like losing an arm, I cried for quite some while after they had departed the Convalescent Home. This was also the beginning of the end of my Police Career, as I would never go back to being a policeman. I was off sick for 13 months and was retired on Medical grounds in February 1985. My personal belief is that the Federation as well as being my salvation also brought about my ending. I am just so pleased and proud that I made some contribution to the Federation and by that, added to the welfare and well being of my colleagues at the time and those that followed in my footsteps.

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