‘Paralysed with mistrust’: Police Federation tries to recover reputation after plebgate

The Police Federation is attempting to recover its lost reputation after protecting police officers in the 'plebgate' scandal.

Those linked to the group, which represents all the 127,000 police officers in England and Wales, were the only ones not to apologise for the apparent conspiracy which cost Andrew Mitchell his job.

The scandal has left the national federation, its 43 local federations and its eight regional bodies "paralysed with mistrust", an insider told Politics.co.uk.

Now an independent review chaired by Sir David Normington has set out "a very significant programme of reform" which will help boost the power of the national Police Federation above its regional offices.

The review was established as a direct response to the Andrew Mitchell affair, the Federation source added.

Senior figures within the organisation feared if they had not instigated the independent review one would have been forced on them by the government.

They are facing a £500,000 bill for the review conducted by the Royal Society of Arts – who will keep the copyright for the report.

"We think there's an opportunity here," Normington, a former permanent secretary at the Home Office, said in a video message.

"Most of all it's an opportunity for the members to have an effective staff association representing it, and being a trusted and significant voice."

Police officers are desperate for reform at the organisation, with 91% of those surveyed thinking change needs to be made urgently.

"It represents all the police officers in the country and therefore the way in which it conducts its business is a matter of public concern," home affairs committee chair Keith Vaz told ITV.

"I think it's essential we do restore that trust which perhaps in recent months and years has been missing."

The review was commissioned by new chairman Steve Crowther in 2012 in what could end up being a successful bid to dramatically shift power from the regional branches of the Federation to the national office.

"For the federation to be a powerful and effective voice for frontline policing, it is essential that we are open and accountable in how our members' money is spent," Crowther said.

"Only then can we ensure that the interests of our members and the public are properly served.

"We aim to take the findings of the review extremely seriously and will consider how to strengthen our accountability as part of the wider recommendations made."

The national office is so weak it does not even know details of the accounts of its regional branches.

It cannot even send out round-robin emails to members, but the proposed changes of today's interim report could change all that.

"The organisation as a whole is paralysed with mistrust. You get everybody briefing against each other," the source said.

"It was set up in 1919 and in many ways it hasn't moved on since."