Police Federation 'must change'
The Police Federation of England and Wales has "turned in on itself and risks losing public confidence", an independent review has warned in a damning report.
The body, which represents tens of thousands of police officers, has been damaged the so-called plebgate row - but change would be needed even if the events surrounding former Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell never happened, the independent panel said.
In a progress report, the panel, managed by the charity RSA, said the Police Federation, formed in 1919, needs "urgent reform", has "substantially lost the confidence of its members", and its influence on public and policy debate has declined.
Three Police Federation representatives last week refused to apologise for accounts they gave of a meeting held with Mr Mitchell in the weeks after the MP was accused of launching a foul-mouthed rant at officers outside Downing Street.
"It is evident, however, that the Federation needs urgent reform," the independent panel said. " Its influence and impact on the public and policy debate has declined, just at a time when the police service is undergoing major changes and needs influential voices representing front line officers.
"It has turned in on itself and risks losing public confidence and its legitimacy to represent front line policing. It must change and change fundamentally. Otherwise it may become an irrelevance or face reform from outside."
It added: "The imperative for change would be present even if the recent events surrounding the former Chief Whip had never taken place."
Police Federation representatives Inspector Ken MacKaill, Detective Sergeant Stuart Hinton and Sergeant Chris Jones were accused of trying to discredit Mr Mitchell after meeting him in October last year.
The officers, who were representing the forces of West Mercia, Warwickshire and West Midlands, were spared misconduct proceedings by an internal investigation.
But the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) later disputed the findings and said there were issues of ''honesty and integrity'' among the three men.
Commenting on recent events, the independent panel said: " At the time of writing that public confidence is being tested as never before by the events surrounding the actions of Federation representatives in their dealings with the former Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell.
"Whatever the precise rights and wrongs of the case, those events are damaging the Federation, its members and the wider police service."
It added: " Members and representatives at all levels of the Federation are appalled at the damage this is doing to policing and are increasing the calls for change."
Responding to the progress report, the Police Federation said: "Clearly the initial findings are worrying and raise a number of issues for consideration and further debate within the organisation.
"We must not lose sight of the fact that it was the new incoming chair of the Police Federation, Steve Williams, who asked for an independent review to be carried out, in January, because of the concerns that had been raised concerning the Federation and some of its working practices.
"It was important that we understood how these impacted on the Federation and how we could change the organisation to ensure that we were fit for purpose moving forward.
"As the progress report highlights, the Federation is an organisation that is in need of change."