Shadow Home Secretary hears of pressures facing police officers in Calderdale

The Shadow Home Secretary visited West Yorkshire to meet police officers to hear first hand how pressures of the job impacted on their mental health and discuss the Government’s forthcoming Police Covenant.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 7:00 am

Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds was accompanied by his fellow Shadow Home Office Minister, Halifax MP Holly Lynch, and Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin, who is Labour’s candidate for the post of West Yorkshire’s first Mayor, a post which will include police and crime commissioner powers, at the election on May 6.

They met Police Federation representatives and retired West Yorkshire Police officer Ben Pearson, who has published a book about his experiences as a traffic police interceptor, Handcuffed Emotions, which includes the impact on his mental health, at Halifax’s historic Piece Hall.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said the 12 months since lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic had seen numerous changes to the law and had put increasing pressure on front line officers.

Labour West Yorkshire Mayoral election candidate Tracy Brabin MP, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, retired officer and author Ben Pearson and Shadow Home Office Minister Holly Lynch MP
Labour West Yorkshire Mayoral election candidate Tracy Brabin MP, Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, retired officer and author Ben Pearson and Shadow Home Office Minister Holly Lynch MP

He had expected the officers he spoke to in Halifax to express concerns about the impact on their mental health but hearing the stories from them personally had reinforced the message to him that the new covenant must be tough enough to protect front line officers and give due regard to mental health concerns and the support they need.

“We need to make sure officer wellbeing and mental health are part of the covenant.

“In practice that means picking up where an officer may be experiencing mental health issues and making sure they are picked up early.

“The personal stories bring it home to you.

“That for me has been an extraordinarily valuable part of today,” he said.

Mr Thomas-Symonds said there was a wider issue of officer numbers, with the Government pledging 20,000 new officers which he said would only get numbers back to where they were when Labour was last in office in 2010.

He said Labour hoped, if in Government, to establish a £150 million fund which police forces could apply to, to pay for officers or support staff they needed.

Ms Lynch said it had been quite emotional hearing how his experiences as an officer had changed Mr Pearson’s life.

“We want to make sure this legislation and the covenant goes far enough,” she said.