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Conference 2016

More needs to be done to support the vulnerable says Home Secretary

Home Secretary Theresa May began her keynote speech to the Police Federation conference by acknowledging the sacrifices police officers make as they serve their communities.

In her speech on the opening day of conference (Tuesday 17 May), she paid tribute to the two officers who died in the line of duty in the last year - PC Sahib Lalli and PC Dave Phillips.

"Day in and day out, you - and the thousands of police officers and staff up and down the country - do a fantastic job," she told officers, "You do so with a tremendous sense of duty. You do so with courage and dedication not knowing from day to day what you might face. We must never forget the risks you take or the sacrifices you make so that we don't have to.

"So I am delighted that the Police Federation's new campaign, Believe in Blue, will celebrate the difference that police officers make every day to people's lives: protecting the innocent, defusing conflict, and providing comfort. These are not just slogans. They are the daily professional achievements of policing in this country, of which you should all be proud."

The Home Secretary then addressed the issue of reform, explaining: "Six years ago I stood on this platform and addressed you for the first time. On each occasion since then, I've talked about the wide-ranging programme of reform I have put in place since becoming Home Secretary. A programme which, let's face it, you haven't always agreed with and which, at times, you have resisted.

"But six years on, British policing has changed substantially for the better. We have overhauled inadequate institutions and systems, reduced excessive bureaucracy, and replaced a centralised model of governance with local democratic accountability. Policing is more accountable, more transparent and more effective. And crime is down by well over a quarter since 2010, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales."

She also highlighted an area of concern.

"Today, I want to talk about one such issue in particular - the police response to domestic abuse and vulnerable victims more widely. Because for years the violence, rape and emotional abuse that takes place every day behind closed doors was simply not being taken seriously enough, and all too often treated as a 'second class' crime. Claims neglected and ignored, suffering dismissed, blame and recrimination cast back at victims, rather than those responsible. In many cases, brutal violence was downplayed as 'just a domestic' and too little was being done to protect victims. And in neglecting victims, the impact of those crimes on families and children was also overlooked," the Home Secretary said.

Delegates were told that while progress had been made in the way these crimes were handled, there still needed to be further improvements and therefore HMIC would inspect all forces paying particular attention to officers who had formed inappropriate relationships with victims of domestic violence.

Mrs May concluded her speech with a plea for all officers to learn the lessons of Hillsborough.

"Remember Hillsborough. Let it be a touchstone for everything you do. Never forget that those who died in that disaster or the 27 years of hurt endured by their families and loved ones. Let the hostility, the obfuscation and the attempts to blame the fans serve as a reminder of the need for change. Make sure your institutions, whose job it is to protect the public, never again fail to put the public first. And put professionalism and integrity at the heart of every decision, every interaction, and every dealing with the public you have," she said.

"Because if you do, you will renew the model of policing by consent in this country, and you will truly be custodians of justice for those who have been denied it for too long."