“The fight is won or lost far away from the witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road; long before I dance under those lights.”
― Muhammad Ali
Some police pension authorities still have their head in the sand and refuse to admit there is a problem with how they administer police injury awards.
Let us look at the difference between how the police and the fire service treat those injured on duty.
“Harry Potter or Dr.Who”, “Babies or cats”, “chicken or turkey”, “White Rat or Brown Rat”, “or even “Jesus or Hitler”. Harry Hill happily arranges ‘fights’ that attempt to determine which of two people or things from a scene are “best”.
Our irreverent fight is between the “Police Injury Benefit Regulations or the The Firefighters’ Compensation Scheme”. Because we can’t get actors to dress up in costumes and fight this out on stage, we’ll decide this by pitting the number of Pension Ombudsman decisions that have been handed down for each scheme.
The twist in this exercise of silliness is that the big guys lose. The rules are the smaller the number of complaints judged by the pension ombudsman the better the scheme is administered.
And onto the weigh-in. In the left corner we have the Firefighters’ Compensation Scheme. In the right corner, the Police Injury Benefit Regulations.
(England) Order 2006
|The Police (Injury Benefit) Regulations 2006|
|Part 8.—(4)Where it is necessary to determine the degree of a person’s disablement, it shall be determined by reference to the degree to which his earning capacity has been affected as a result of a qualifying injury||7.—(5) Where it is necessary to determine the degree of a person’s disablement it shall be determined by reference to the degree to which his earning capacity has been affected as a result of an injury received without his own default in the execution of his duty as a member of a police force:|
1.—(1) Where a person is in receipt of an injury pension, the fire and rescue authority shall, at such intervals as they think fit, consider whether the degree of his disablement has substantially altered; if they find that it has, the pension shall be reassessed accordingly.
|37.—(1) Subject to the provisions of this Part, where an injury pension is payable under these Regulations, the police authority shall, at such intervals as may be suitable, consider whether the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has altered; and if after such consideration the police authority find that the degree of the pensioner’s disablement has substantially altered, the pension shall be revised accordingly.|
Which is better? There’s only one way to find out: FIGHT!
The Regulations are near-enough identical but the maladministration reported within the Firefighters compensation scheme seems dramatically smaller. These numbers of 10 (firefighters) and 41 (police) relate to those Pension Ombudsman decisions concerned only with injury benefit matters.
As of 2015 the Home Office reports 44,000 full time equivalent firefighters compared to 127,000 police officers.
There are 2.27 complaints to the Pension Ombudsman for every ten thousand firefighters. If there were 127,000 firefighters then the expected number of complaints would only be 28.86 – still lower than the 41 police decisions.
For every ten thousand police officers, there are 3.23 complaints to the Pension Ombudsman.
Yes, this is all unscientific, rather flawed and just a bit lighthearted. There are other variables at play here that may account for some of the differences. Is there proportionally more or fewer firefighters than police officers with injury awards? Maybe the Fire Brigades Union is proactive and militant enough to be able to stop maladministration before the rot takes hold. We haven’t got the answers.
But still taking all the variables into account, the majority of Pension Ombudsman police decisions are solely concerned with unlawful reviews. There are no complaints to the Pension Ombudsman from firefighters with disputes over the firefighter being unlawfully reviewed and reduced even though the ‘power to review’ regulation between the two schemes is, for all purposes, identical.
Something is amiss. Same power; different public bodies; different application. The fire service avoids maladministration but the police pension authorities are attracted to it like moths to a flame.
Attitude is an important factor here. The Fire Service obviously does not have the overarching core power as law enforcers, their objective is to save lives not to uphold the peace. So does the absence of such make the whole fire service more egalitarian? Is the institution geared to being more of an equaliser and leveller between those who make the decisions within the fire service and those who are decided upon?
Serious mismanagement and possible corruption can occur anywhere and it’s unfeasible to think the Fire Service is immune to it. But the point being such behaviour can be magnified exponentially if the organisation has the capacity to justify restriction of individual liberties in order to protect the general welfare.
Corruption within the higher echelons in the police service depends on power and testosterone. Power and testosterone breeds arrogance. Although senior civilians in the police can make pro-social decisions to indirectly benefit the public good they can also abuse their power by invoking anti-social decisions. With no warranted power they can’t project their ‘might’ onto the general public, so they direct it inwardly towards the ‘plebs’.
A phenomenon clearly evidenced when the actions of HR managers, legal services, selected medical practitioners and force medical officers are criticality examined and labeled as maladministration by the Pension Ombudsman.
Pause to imagine a Fire service Senior Divisional Officer writing, on matters he is ignorant, to a retired injured on-duty firefighter threatening to remove the award on made-up non-compliance of failing to fill-in an invented questionnaire.
This is exactly what happens in the Police. Chief Superintendent Chris Markey from Merseyside Police believes his rank gives him the authority to threaten a member of the public to do something that person is not obliged by any legislation to actually do. This is the underlying reason why the Pension Ombudsman hears more complaints about the police. It is fair to say that power has not corrupted senior officers of the Fire Service to the same magnitude as the police.
Police pension authorities and their delegates should be responsible for what they do, just like everyone else.
Injury awards and how the police treat medically retired officers are examples of how those who run the police service are flouting the rules that are there to protect us all. This should send a strong message to the senior management that they cannot make the rules up as they go along. They are not above the law.