The Police Federation of England and Wales is the representative body to which all police officers in England and Wales up to and including the rank of Chief Inspector belong. There are 140,000 members as of February 2006. Members can elect not to pay subscriptions and thereby not receive the legal representation and other benefits that paying members receive, but they still continue officially to be members of the federation. In reality only a very few officers have ever decided not to pay their full subscription dues. Superintendents have their own association, the Superintendents Association, whilst the Association of Chief Police Officers represents the most senior ranks. The organisation is affiliated with the European Confederation of Police.
The Police Federation of England and Wales was set up by the Police Act 1919 after two police strikes. The government of the day were frightened by the prospect of the police going on strike and created the Police Federation of England and Wales and withdrew the right of officers in the UK to strike.
Police officers are technically not employees, but crown-appointed warrant holders. This allowed the police their unique independent status and notionally provides the citizens of the UK a protection from any government that might wish unlawfully to use the police as an instrument against them. The Police Federation was set up by statute to represent the rights and interests of its members, hence its recent involvement in campaigns involving drugs and licensing hours. Many observers mistakenly equate the Police Federation with a trade union. This is an incorrect assumption as it was set up specifically by the government of the day not to be a trade union.
The Police Federation is a tripartite organisation made up of equal numbers of representatives from the Constable, Sergeant and Inspector ranks. Each of the 43 police forces within England and Wales has its own federation structure based on three branch boards based on rank. The three rank boards meet as a Joint Board, or in the Metropolitan Police's case, as a Joint Executive. The 43 forces are grouped into 8 regions. Each of the regions sends a Constable, Sergeant and Inspector to the National Body called the Joint Central Committee. Due to its size, The Metropolitan Police federation send two officers of each rank to the Joint Central Committee. The central committee also has three 'reserved seat' members made up of a female PC, Sergeant and Inspector.
The Joint Central Committee has responsibility for national pay negotiations on behalf of its members. It also performs many other functions, such as training, administering legal representation and liaising with government and other national bodies on policy and legislative matters. The present Joint Central Committee Chairman is Mrs Jan Berry QPM.
The Police Federation HQ address is Federation House, Leatherhead, which also incorporates the federation's national training centre.
Police officers have a number of unusual conditions attached to their working practice. Firstly, they hold a warrant from the Crown that allows each officer to act as an individual and at their own discretion. Therefore, they cannot be ordered to arrest someone if they believe that not to be the right course of action. Some parties allege that this position is being eroded by the present UK government who are employing non warranted Police Community Support Officers. These new officers, who are not members of the federation, do not hold a warrant and do have the right to strike, but can be ordered to perform acts by a senior officer.
Fully warranted Police Officers do not have the right to strike and they do not have redress to an Employment Tribunal if they believe they were wrongly dismissed. This is because police officers are excluded from much UK employment law. (Police Discipline Regulations).
The federation was found in 2006 by an industrial tribunal to have racially discriminated against one of its members, Sultan Alam.