John Apter is the first National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales to be directly elected by the members – as such it’s his job to be the voice of rank and file ofcers. Andrew Gold spoke to John about his career, his thoughts on the Federation, and the challenges of 2020

AG: Why did you decide to become a police ofcer? JA: I grew up in Liverpool. My mum and dad were publicans and ran pubs in some pretty rough areas. We had a local beat ofcer called PC Fletcher who I looked up to and an uncle who was in the police. When I was six, I applied to be in Merseyside Police, and they saw an opportunity for a bit of PR, so they recruited me! They gave me a little uniform and took me out on patrol – it was great fun and that passion never left me. We moved to Hampshire and when I was 18, I wanted to join the police, but my dad told me to get a trade behind me. So, I got an apprenticeship as a carpenter

and joined the Special Constabulary to see if that passion was still there. I absolutely loved being a Special on the Isle of Wight and my shift were really supportive. Even then, I remember hearing about the Police Federation and thinking “I have a warrant card, why can’t I join?” — so the seeds of my desire to have Specials join the Federation took root. In December 1992 I joined the job as a regular and I’ve never looked back. I’ve been lucky enough to work in many varied roles in policing. I’ve been a response ofcer, a school liaison ofcer, a neighbourhood ofcer, and then on trafc. I was a family liaison ofcer and then a road death investigation ofcer. Like any job there have been ups and downs, but I would do it all again!

AG: Why did you become a Fed rep? JA: Early in my service I was arrested for a matter. I had done nothing – it was a process that had gone wrong outside of my control. But I was treated very badly by the job I loved, and I felt bitterly let down. I had a choice to resign or to do something about it. My Fed rep suggested I should become a rep and I sort of laughed it of at the time. But 12 months later I became a rep and I’ve done this now for 20 years. I’ve fought hard for colleagues and I like to think I’ve made a diference. I believe that the Federation can be a powerful force for good on behalf of its members.

AG: What did you achieve in your time as a Hampshire rep? JA: I was the Chair of the Constables’ Branch Board, then the Vice-Chair of the Joint Branch Board and finally the Chair. I brought the Federation together and we became one of the most united, solid teams there was. This

allowed us to get a lot done. This included small things that mattered but also big stuf like the Seven Point Plan which put violence against police ofcers and staf on the national agenda. I’m still in contact with ofcers who I have helped and supported saying if it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t be where they are today. I’m proud of my work I do with the Gurney Fund, taking kids of police ofcers who have died or been ill-health retired on holiday each year and the work I do for National Police Memorial Day. I’m still very proud to be a Hampshire ofcer and rep.

AG: What values do you bring to your role? JA: My mum used to tell me “it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice”. It’s about being a good person, having integrity and bringing people together to achieve goals. Of course, I can be tough when I need to be but I’m a believer in taking people with me and showing them the benefits of what I want to achieve. It’s also about good judgement and not being afraid to challenge something that isn’t right. At the end of the day, everything I do is about our members. With an organisation of 130,000 people I know I’m never going to please everyone, but if I can look in the mirror at the end of the day and know I’ve done the best I can, that’s all I can ask.

AG: Is the PFEW too friendly with government? JA: There’s always a balance to be struck. When I came into post, we didn’t have a constructive relationship with the government, and we weren’t well thought of. We’d come through an independent review process which resulted in the biggest changes in our history. I wanted to pull together the Fed as an organisation and rebuild bridges with government and others. Just because you


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