Defence Police Federation Chairman Eamon Keating looks back on 2020 and ahead to a hopefully brighter and different 2021 in a New Year’s Message.
Looking forward to 2021, there is a certain amount of hope that the situation the country finds itself in will improve over the next 12 months.
When people say ‘when are we going to return to normal’, actually this may be the new normal for a while. Even with the vaccine, there are still going to be infections, there is still going to be the spread of the virus.
I think that we really need to start looking nationally policing-wise at how we do our business and how can we do it differently – especially in relation to things like training and the way in which we do that. I know there’s a lot of work going on in that area.
We need to take this as a lifelong lesson rather than a short-term issue that we’ve dealt with and we can move on from and go back to the way it was. I’m sure we will approach that with the same tenacity and professionalism that we did the pandemic itself.
I think this is a lesson that’s not going to be forgotten, it’s not going to stop on 1 May and all of a sudden we’re back to normal – we need to be honest about that and start to plan for it rather than almost hope that we can go back to how we were.
The impact financially is never going to change, we’re going to have to pay for this at some point – we’ve seen that already in the pay freeze that’s been announced so it’s already hit us and the cuts to our Departments budget. It’s not a great way of saying thank you to the police officers who have worked right through.
Some of the things that we’ve been exposed to and that we’ve learned we would never have tried and they’ve turned out to be exceptional.
Working at home is an example, where there is the ability for people to work remotely or work from home. Historically, there was an underlying belief that in some way that was an easy route or somewhere where people could hide – the reality of that is we’ve seen workloads and work output increasing massively in this area.
People are working far more – and there is a danger to that and we need to monitor it– but we’ve now discovered that you can do remote meetings, you can do video conferencing, you can work remotely at home and still function fully.
There’s a lot of work that can’t be done remotely – a police officer has to be at work doing their job, you can’t do that by video conference. There are other areas where we can reduce pressure and I think that we need to embrace that and take it forward.
Even this past year, we’ve had to do a virtual conference, but that will now form part of our conferences going forward. Where Reps can’t attend conference we are already talking about how we have a Zoom screen so those people can dial in.
We’ll still look to have a physical conference in the future if that’s possible, but we’ll also have the ability for some people to dial in if they can’t be there for whatever reason. That improves the diversity of the people we can have at those meetings and helps us to improve communications and representation.
There’s a lot that we will take from this going forward and change the way in which we work.
We would never have done this before because police officers by definition are conservative with a small c – if something works, we like to keep doing it, we don’t like change and we’re not good at it. But actually this has forced our hand in a lot of areas and I think it’s been positive in that regard.
For our members in 2021 I would say thank you, keep doing what you’re doing, it’s phenomenal and genuinely I hope this year is a more positive year for us.