We would like to wish all DPF members a very Happy New Year.
With Parliament is recess over the festive period, defence news over the past fortnight was led primarily by Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson halting a proposed Army rebrand that would have seen the end of its longstanding ‘Be the Best’ slogan. The MoD is understood to have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on the proposed rebranding exercise, which attracted significant criticism in the media and from influential figures including Dr Julian Lewis MP, Chairman of the Defence Select Committee.
Elsewhere, it’s emerged that the Royal Navy has sold HMS Ocean to Brazil for £84 million. HMS Ocean was the UK’s only helicopter landing vessel and will not be replaced until NHS Queen Elizabeth is fully operational. Home Office constabularies have also continued to show the pressure on their resources, with news that the Metropolitan Police is to stop investigating low level crime.
The New Year’s Honours list was also announced in the last week, with the inclusion of an MBE for DPF Welfare Officer Claire Batt for services to the MDP. We of course send our congratulations to Claire for a fantastic achievement and recognition of her years of support to officers.
DPF Welfare Officer, Constable Claire Batt, awarded MBE
DPF’s Welfare Officer Constable Claire Batt has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to defence and policing and in recognition of her work as DPF Welfare Office. Responding to the publication of the honours list, the MoD called her contribution to the Force “valuable” and “whole-hearted,” saying that she has supported “colleagues at times of need following organisational change, bereavement or ill-health.” MoD Police Chief Constable, Andy Adams, also commented: “I offer her many congratulations on behalf of the force.”
The DPF would again like to express its sincere congratulations to Claire on a much-deserved award, and thanks for her continued work supporting MDP officers.
Record number of armed police patrol streets for New Years’ Eve celebrations
A record number of armed police patrolled London during New Years’ celebrations following the terror attacks on the UK during 2017, the Daily Telegraph reported. The Metropolitan Police declined to disclose exactly how many armed officers were deployed on 31 December, but it believed the number exceeded the 2,000 armed officers on duty for New Year in 2016. The Daily Telegraph has also suggested there were an increased number of covert officers on duty in the capital, with an SAS squadron also on standby.
Metropolitan Police to stop investigating low-level crime
The Times has reported that it has obtained the Metropolitan Police’s new crime assessment policy, revealing the instructions to officers, which came into force in September, will mean that crimes including public order offences, shoplifting and low-level assaults will not be investigated. The guidance specifies that officers should not investigate incidents in which CCTV footage is unavailable; where footage does not identify a suspect; if officers are required to view footage for more than 20 minutes; or if the cost of damage or loss incurred in an incident is less than £50.
The new policy requires officers to go through steps to determine whether a specific list of crimes should be investigated. Offences including firearms incidents and homicide are explicitly exempted from the policy.
The assessment criteria has prompted substantial criticism. Scotland Yard has cited resource pressures as the basis for the policy, requiring officers to focus on more serious incidents.
Reduction in police on the street is hampering its war on gang crime
Chief Constable of Merseyside Police, Andy Cooke, has said that the cuts to community policing are harming the police’s war on gangs and powerful crime syndicates, The Times has reported. He said that, although less reported, organised crime is “probably the biggest threat that this country faces,” also highlighting the increase in violent crime and increasing rates of drug-related deaths. Mr Cooke noted that community police who worked more directly with communities were more successful at gaining the trust and breaking the silence of communities affected, gaining crucial intelligence.
Mr Cooke additionally noted that funding cuts are reducing the police’s ability to carry out such work. The Times has reported that £2.3bn had been cut from police forces since 2011, although also noting that £450m in new funding was announced by ministers before Christmas. In 2016, deaths from drugs and gang-related violence included 26 fatal shootings, 213 stabbings, and 2,479 deaths from illegal drugs, compared with 38 deaths from terrorism in 2016.
Police arrest six far-right suspects in counterterror raids
Counter terrorism police have arrested five men and one woman in the West Midlands this week, The Times has reported. Those arrested range from 21 to 37 years old. They are suspected to be part of far-right neo-Nazi group, National Action, that was criminalised in September 2016, after it lionised far-right extremist Thomas Mair for his murder of the MP Jo Cox, and members of the group called for the murder of other MPs.
The Home Office registered the group as extremist, saying “the group is virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic” and has since identified Scottish Dawn and NS131 (National Socialist Anti-Capitalist Action as aliases of the group.
Royal Navy sells flagship HMS Ocean
It has been reported in the Daily Express that the Royal Navy has sold HMS Ocean to Brazil for £84m. The ship is the Navy’s only helicopter carrier, and will not be replaced until HMS Queen Elizabeth becomes fully operational, which is scheduled to be in 2020. The vessel had undergone a refit four years ago, costing £65m.
The MoD has said that no deal has been finalised, but the ships sale to Brazil is “at an advanced stage.” Shadow Defence Secretary, Nia Griffith, called the news “hugely disappointing” but a Government source had said that the deal was a good one which gave the MoD much-needed cash.
Defence Secretary U-turns on proposed rebrand of the Armed Forces
Just before Christmas, the Mail on Sunday revealed that the Army had proposed to spend £2m on rebranding, as outlined in a document called The Army Brand. The proposals were being led by General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff. They included scrapping the Army’s famous “Be the best” slogan because senior military officials considered it “elitist” and changing the Army’s “historic crest” of crossed swords, a crown and a lion, because it was deemed “non-inclusive.” This advice comes from a year-long assessment of the Army’s public image by external consultants, which found that these tools “did not resonate with many of our key audiences” and hindered recruitment drives. The MoD said, “Like all organisations we adapt our brand to make sure it is up to date. Be the Best has been used since 1993 and, following detailed research, we've decided to update our branding at a cost of £520,000.”
Critics of the plans included Colonel Richard Kemp, who said that “at a time when the defence budget is being squeezed, it is lunacy to squander money on a futile branding project.” Defence Select Committee Chairman, Julian Lewis, also rejected the idea saying, “being the best is nothing to be ashamed of.”
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson subsequently intervened to halt the plans. An MoD spokesperson said, “the Defence Secretary believes that the British Army is the best of the best and has put these proposals on hold.” This is a controversial intervention, with one senior military official responding saying, “By stepping in to block the branding changes at such a late hour he risks showing contempt for the Army's chain of command.”
Armed Forces launch female recruitment drive
The Daily Mirror has reported that the Army has launched a major recruitment drive aimed at getting women into frontline roles such as snipers, paratroopers and tank drivers, after the Government amended the law allowing women to serve in “close ground combat.” Forces have also been preparing separate accommodation and instructors ahead of the change. The Marines have admitted that women will have to share accommodation with their male counterparts during their initial training, with Major General Robert Magowan saying it is “an essential requirement for team cohesion.” He and First Sea Lord, Admiral Philip Jones, issued a statement saying that shared accommodation would also “ensure equality of opportunity.”
This comes as the Armed Forces Joint Equality Diversity and Inclusion unit (JEDI) published two-page guidance on how the Armed Forces can be more inclusive for women and LGBTQ people, the Daily Telegraph has reported.
An Army source highlighted that “Inappropriate language is a real problem.” However, some have criticised the move, saying, “we should be spending more time on tactics than worrying about the niceties of modern language” and another saying, “it’s the daftest thing ever.”
Military historian and retired Army Air Corps Officer, Mike Peters, welcomed the announcement, saying “women proved themselves undercover in Northern Ireland as well as Iraq and Afghanistan.” An MoD spokesperson said it is “promoting a modern, inclusive, working environment to ensure individuals are recognised and feel valued.”