Training Day

12 08 2014

A phrase has appeared in the media with increasing frequency of late. It normally appears after an inquest or inquiry in actions taken by police and can come from a range of sources:

Single issue campaign groups
Other organisations

The phrase is this:

“Police need more training …”

I sensed that I had seen this phrase a lot recently and so I ran that very phrase through Google and I wasn’t wrong.

Having done this, the results which came back showed that the police apparently need more and better training in:

Dealing with domestic abuse
Mental health training
Reading HGV Tacographs
Dealing with “honour” crimes
Riot training
Dealing with bullying
Dealing with cyber crime
Crisis intervention

To name but a few.

The phrase is normally in response to a single theme, in isolation and with no reference or context to the many other things which have recently been added to the training list.

Add it all up – it is a LOT of training.

To do any of these subjects justice would require more than an hour or two in a classroom. Indeed, I have previously suggested that the very minimum required for mental health training (to achieve even a basic understanding of some of the concepts and legislation) is two full days.

That is before we get into some of the real specialisation such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training which is a two day course (run by MIND and others) for an introductory level qualification.

Remember that Lord Adebowale, in his independent report on policing mental health in the Met, recommended that ALL front line officers should receive training in this.

If these subject matters are so important that they keep coming up in reports and inquiry findings then one has to ask how it is to be managed.

Currently, the shift system I work allows for 5 training days a year. One of those is taken up with the mandatory Personal Protection Equipment training (Baton, CS, cuffs etc) and will no doubt, in future, incorporate the soon to be mandatory fitness testing as well.

Which leaves 4 days.

Training days come once every 10 weeks or so. It is one day – built into the roster. Anything additional would be classified as a “course” and would count as an abstraction.

This means, that in order to attend it, it would leave a gap in resources on the team.

In my experience, training days tend to be badly done. At least an hour to an hour and a half is spent talking with a member of the Senior Leadership Team. This is supposed to make them accessible but it usually sees them delivering key messages (about performance usually) to a captive audience before opening the floor up to questions from the officers present.

I have been present when a senior detective has turned up and specifically said “I am not here to talk to you about detections” before spending the next 40 minutes talking about detections.

The rest of the day usually consists of cramming as much into hourly slots as possible to cover as many subjects as possible. No subject is ever given the time or attention it deserves.

This is scattergun training. We can say we have done it and a force can say its officers have been trained but have they? Really?

Mandatory training usually comes by way of the much hated NCALT.

For the uninitiated this is computer based “self teach and test” using products delivered by the College of Policing. Training like this involves watching, pointing clicking and testing.

It is possible to rattle through any of the current NCALT products simply by pressing the mouse and not paying attention. I am not confident that anyone undertaking an NCALT lesson truly absorbs what is in front of them.

Nonetheless, having got to the end of the session (which can take a couple of hours of duty time if you do it properly) you are shown as “trained.”

I recently did the new mandatory one on cybercrime. I can remember nothing about it other than the fact that it started by telling me what the internet was.

NCALT is not popular and I do not believe it is effective.

The list of subjects above (with the probable exception of HGV Tacos) all need detailed and effective inputs; classroom based and with subject matter experts delivering them.

Each of those subjects requires days of training. Not hours – days.

At the moment, the sheer volume of subjects which apparently we need more training in far far outweighs the time we have available to be trained.

Going back to mental health – is it not absolutely urgent (given the number of death by restraint incidents which KEEP happening) that we address this fully and properly?

Which do you prioritise?
How do you fit it all in AND still provide a service to the public?

Several forces have either changed or are in the process of changing their principle IT systems. These are systems which the majority of staff use daily simply to get the job done. Crime recording, investigation, missing people, custody, intelligence – all use IT systems.

When a new one is introduced it is vital that all staff are trained in it before it is turned on. Otherwise normal functionality will become impossible.

It can’t be done in a day or without classroom input.

So how do you mobilise an organisation of several or even tens of thousands to ensure they are trained (over a period of a few consecutive days) sufficiently close to the new IT go-live so that things aren’t forgotten?

It is a massive undertaking – not dissimilar to moving staff around for a major pre-planned event. It affects rosters, rest days and overtime budgets.

IT training on this scale should be a rare occurrence. Once every decade perhaps. The point, however, is this:

To ensure that the training delivered on this list of subjects above is given true justice then it requires the same time in the classroom, the same number of staff and it involves the same logistical nightmare.

A simpler solution is to train some staff to a higher degree.

Police have historically done this for officers trained as first responders to sexual offences. It works up to a point – that point being when there is no first responder available.

Each team could theoretically have a number of trained subject matter experts in mental health, sexual offence response, crisis intervention etc. Then you have a problem with succession planning and retention. What happens when these officers move on – or are unwell or on leave?

You will be permanently training people – identifying gaps – then training people ad infinitum.

Part of the problem is that much of this training is about learning about culture and complexity. It is no longer sufficient to learn legal definitions by rote as it was when I first joined.

The world has changed greatly and police training simply has not caught up with it. It is neither deep nor subtle enough.

It is no longer sufficient to have omni-competent police officers who are “a bit good” at everything. This approach is akin to comparing constables to medical GP’s. The police are running out of specialists to refer to as the focus is on maintaining the front line.

If, as has been so simplistically suggested, “more training” is the answer to these issues then finding the right amount of time to dedicate to this is slightly less simplistic.

NCALT is not the answer. It should not be allowed to be the answer. It may well be AN answer but it is not the right one.
Rostered training days do not allow sufficient time to explore and deliver meaningful training.
Anything else has repercussions on service delivery.

Of course, the good news is that this should all be eminently doable.

Only a few weeks ago the Right Honourable MP for Lewes, Mr Norman Baker (Minister of State for Crime Prevention) was quoted as saying that because crime was down “the police had less to do.”

This being the case perhaps we can dedicate some of this new found down time to additional bespoke training.

My next blog will be on the following subject:

“If crime is down so much – why are the police busier than they have ever been?”

UK Cops – From Small Acorns Do Great Oaks Grow

21 07 2014

It’s not like me to struggle for words when it comes to writing a blog but on this occasion I really am.

This blog is primarily meant to be about UK COPS, the superb work it does and the phenomenal strength shown by the survivors.

And yet – there is a theme around this that I am finding hard to verbalise. A theme I am almost uncomfortable in raising but raise it I will in due course.

Yesterday we gathered at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire for the major event of the UK COPS schedule.

It is such a wonderful, fitting venue. There are various sections within it for the different armed services but there is also “The Beat.”

This avenue of trees, within about 50 years, is going to look incredible. It is here that each force has its own tree alongside individual trees, planted by surviving friends and family, for many named officers who have lost their lives too soon.

Even now, in its relative infancy, when you look down this space and consider its scale and its simple beauty ….. Well, it couldn’t be more suitable nor more aptly named.

This year everything, including the trees, was a little bigger.

The Police Unity Tour who had cycled from London to Staffordshire, raising £40,000 for the charity, was at least twice the size it was last year in numbers.

The Blue Knights – well, their convoy just didn’t seem to stop.

The turnout – UK COPS say it was their biggest ever and I think a couple of the organisers were surprised and delighted in equal measure.

During the service we heard from several survivors, each giving a different perspective on their tragic experience, the loss of their loved one and the gaping hole left behind.

Then there was hope in their stories as they recounted how the charity had supported them and how it continues to support them.

How they have developed a network which allows people to support one another.

They cannot replace – but they can rebuild.

Once again it was the voice of youth which carried louder and stronger than anything else.

Last year, Nathan Dent’s words reduced those gathered to tears.

This year, a remarkable young lady – Vicky Moore spoke bravely and eloquently and gave us all serious food for thought.

Vicky’s father, Bryan, was a Leicestershire officer who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002. Vicky was ten at the time and she told us of that fateful night when she learned of the news and how she had then spent the rest of her childhood without him.

My son is ten. He and the rest of my family joined me for this years service and he heard Vicky speak.

He got it. He understood – as well as any child can – what Vicky was saying. He had made the association in his head that she was his age when she had lost her father. When he started asking me questions afterwards it sank in even further for me as well.

Then it dawned on me – this theme I am struggling with and it was this…

There should be more people here.

Vicky said that she didn’t understand the hero her father was and regrets that it is now too late to tell him how proud she is of him.

Vicky then said this:

“It shouldn’t take stories like ours for other people realise the sacrifice in police work.”

This struck me hard and I dwelt on it.

The service later heard from Chief Constable Jacqui Cheer from Cleveland who said that although she had sadly lost colleagues and friends during her service “to my great shame I just assumed that the families were supported.”

CC Cheer spoke of the work of the charity and how, unfortunately necessary but essential it is.

It hit me again – there should be more people here.

I have spent the last 24 hours wondering why there weren’t more people there and I think there are a few reasons.

First and foremost is lack of awareness. Lack of awareness of the charity and its work but also lack awareness of the events which necessitate it’s existence.

We should all be grateful for the fact that the death of a serving officer, on duty in the United Kingdom, is a rare event. Rare enough for very few of us to have experienced it in our service.

But it is not so rare that there are not many people who are struggling with the aftermath of exactly that event.

UK COPS exists solely to support these families but I am going to be blunt:

The POLICE family needs to step up to the plate.

It has become almost unfashionable to talk about “the police family.”

The police, as an entity, has taken a sustained reputational beating for the best part of two decades and has spent so much time looking outward that it is in danger of forgetting to occasionally look inward.

We should all strive to uphold and maintain the Peelian principle that the police are the public and the public are the police but we must never forget that there are some who are prepared to put on a uniform and who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for doing so.

Putting on that uniform makes you stand out. It means you can’t run away from trouble – you run towards it. It is a vocation and a calling.

We should never put on that uniform without remembering what it means, what it represents, who it protects and why it is there.

But we should never put on that uniform without remembering that others have put it on and paid a heavy price for it. They are our family.

And we should never forget those they have left behind. They are our family as well.

In her oration, Chief Constable Cheer said “I ask colleagues to ensure that we actively spread the word about COPS and fully support the charity.”

Over the course of the next twelve months and every twelves months after that – we must rise to that challenge.

It is the duty of each force to promote the work of the charity and ensure it’s long term survival.

It is the duty of each force to ensure that COPS can continue it’s essential work supporting the families of those who have worn their uniform and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Those families have paid the ultimate sacrifice as well and need and deserve that support.

However, it is also the duty of each force to support the work of COPS and indeed the PD Trust and Police Memorial Day by reminding serving officers of those who have gone before them.

The military gets this right – I am not yet convinced that the Police are in the same league.

It is right and proper that a senior ACPO officer from each force attends the COPS service and pays respects on behalf of their force. This should never change.

But wouldn’t it be fitting if each force could send a small contingent of regular officers, special constables, PCSO’s and – absolutely – Cadets to attend the service.

Wouldn’t it be fitting if the Police Federation could gather it’s Rep’s on mass – in uniform – to support the cause.

Would it not be helpful for each force to publicise the event on whatever internal communications systems it has and invite officers to attend and represent that force.

If each force sent a carrier with 7 people in it that would be over 300 officers for a start.

Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could actually encourage our officers to attend and support the event.

We can mobilise officers to deal with anything the world can throw at us.

It should not be beyond us to mobilise for this.

Social media is a powerful tool but it is not enough. This needs active drive from the very top.

We need to promote the charity, it’s work and it’s events. It should be something we just DO.

We should do it and we should not feel guilty about it.

These were our colleagues – they left behind their families. Those families are our family. The police family.

The UK COPS service is a wonderful event which is going from strength to strength.

With some solid support from all quarters and if CC Cheer’s request is acted upon by her peers then the event, like the trees which line “The Beat” at the Arboretum, will grow and mature into something truly magnificent.

Pictures courtesy of NPAS Ripley and “Bullshire Police”

A second, shorter blog on the Guard of Honour and #100Cops will follow in a few days



A Word To The Wise

17 07 2014

The first thing I will say is that I have thought long and hard about posting this.

This is not intended to be a lecture.

In about ten months there will be a General Election in this country. I think it would be safe to say that the vast majority of public sector workers are pretty unhappy with the way things have gone in the last four years.

Whether it be budget cuts which are beginning to bite and which are making everything less easy to do or whether it be the personal cost – pay, pensions, terms and conditions – whether you are a police officer, fire-fighter, teacher, doctor, nurse or paramedic or indeed anyone who works to support these services, chances are you will feel worse off professionally and financially.

We can expect much to be said by incumbent and prospective governments in the coming months and, I suspect, much of it will cause anger.

The incumbent government will want to tell the country that their policies are working. The prospective government will want to tell the country that they are not.

This is probably the first election to take place since social media has really kicked off.

In the months after the last election the use of social media got a lot of people into a lot of trouble.

There are now more people using it than ever before and many of these are now tweeting from official accounts.

Over the last few weeks and months I cannot be alone in noticing a crescendo in the rhetoric on Twitter speaking out against various government policies and pronouncements. Some of this has come from places I really would not have expected.

I have read it – I may even have retweeted some of it but I try to be careful.

Even those of us who are “anonymous” are not truly anonymous (except Gadget maybe.)

My real identity is well known within policing circles. That has been a choice of mine over time. I very aware of this and do all I can to remain professional and true to the values I strive to uphold in my life and my work.

I don’t profess to get it right all or any of the time but I have enough friends on here who would pull me up if I got it wrong. We have seen that even the biggest names on Twitter have ended up in considerable grief over a perceived errant tweet.

I just want to get in an early word of warning, folks. There is no need to shy away from debate and discussion but I have recently been seeing a few tweets which could potentially land people in trouble. Far be it from me to lecture anyone on how to use social media but I would hate to see anyone fall foul of the new Code of Ethics or existing discipline regs.

The coming 10 months is a potentially dangerous time for social media users.

Over the last few weeks alone I have composed tweets, thought better of it and erased them before sending them. I am trying to find a balance where I can challenge things in a professional way – even though I am only ever representing myself on here.

This is nothing more than an advisory message to my friends. All of you.

There is a debate and discussion to be had – sometimes we are not the ones best places to have it.

There is a debate and discussion to be had – sometimes social media is not the place to hold it.

There is a debate and discussion to be had – play the ball not the man and don’t be afraid to walk off the pitch.

There is a debate and discussion to be had – but our jobs are important, precious and it is too easy to lose them by getting it wrong.

Above all – think before you tweet.

These are challenging times – it’s getting a bit hairy out there and on here.

Stay safe, friends.

COPS 2014 – #100Cops Update

7 07 2014

Hi everyone, it is now just over two weeks before the UK COPS memorial service at the National Arboretum at Staffordshire.

The #100Cops hashtag symbolises how we would like to get at least 100 uniformed rank and file officers to the event to help form a Guard of Honour for the families.

As of this moment I have absolutely no idea how many officers are likely to turn up. Judging by the responses I have had I put the number between ten and twenty.

I have no formal plan in place for the Guard of Honour as such. This is mostly because I have no idea how many folk will come. If there aren’t enough then we can at least show our support by being there.

If enough people come then it will be a case of me lining people up and calling them to attention at a relevant point in proceedings. It will very much be determined on the day.

I am pretty sure that Simon Guilfoyle will be upset with me – 100 Cops is a target and an arbitrary one at that. It was just a number which seemed appropriate and realistic. We can do it with less.

However, if you are able to make it to the event I know it would mean a lot to the Charity and the families they support.

If you have “Number One” uniform – brilliant.
If you only have standard uniform – also brilliant.
If you are a Special Constable or PCSO – also marvellous.
Retired – then come as you are.

You can read more about the event here. The article also contains a link to the blog I wrote about the event last year.

Sincerely, I hope you can make it and I look forward to seeing you there if you can.

To give me a rough clue – could I ask you to add something in the comments below so I can gauge numbers? Even if I already know you’re coming. If you are coming with others – a total. So I have some idea and can advise the organisers and Staffordshire Specials for their Op Order.

Best wishes


A Complaint About Complaints

18 06 2014

Over the last few weeks there has been much discussion on how the police handle complaints against them.

The IPCC, who themselves are no strangers to criticism over the length and quality of their investigations, have recently published a report following their review of 94 cases, in three forces, which concerned allegations of racial discrimination.

The IPCC described their findings as “stark” whilst others described them as “shallow.”

It appears that none of the 94 complaints were upheld. Whilst this is perhaps surprising, one has to question whether their sample base was deep enough to draw the conclusions that they arrived at.

There are some very disturbing examples within the report which do lead the reader to conclude that something feels “wrong” about the outcome. There are, however, 43 forces in the UK and I just wonder whether a wider look might have provided more balance. Perhaps it wouldn’t have.

The general theme of that report was that “not enough complaints are being upheld.” This is something which has been said on a far wider level and applied to police complaints more generally. It has got me wondering “why” “what is the problem” and what should be done about it.

It could simply be that none of the cases justified being upheld but there appear to be examples which contradict that finding within the report and, in any case, it is an accusation which is not going away.

For me, one of the main problems with complaints against the police is the terminology used.

Whether it is someone who is calling to express unhappiness with a response time; someone who believes they were subject to excessive force or an outright allegation of corruption they are all “complaints.”

This does little, from the outset, to differentiate the severity of the allegation. It is further compounded by the initial handling of the call.

Whether it be by phone or by personal attendance the moment someone suggests that their call or visit is about a “complaint” they are steered into a system which immediately “ups the ante.”

The call taker is likely to stop them in their tracks and tell them that this is a complaint against the police and,therefore, they MUST speak to an Inspector. They are then promised a call back or the front office staff will go and find the duty Inspector.

Maybe, during the course of a shift, I would expect to receive two or more such alerts or requests. Clearly this would indicate that there is a massive problem. Except – when you actually do return the call – you find that whilst it may very well be a “complaint” it is not a “complaint.”

Not one which would require formal recording and investigation anyway. There may well be some valid dissatisfaction which needs resolving but it is not a complaint in the sense of a “formal complaint against the police.”

If a complaint is recorded then things become very formal – even if we don’t actually want or need them to be. All the paperwork which comes back has the word “misconduct” stamped all over it.

The regulations which govern how they are investigated use the word “misconduct.”

Let us look at two definitions of that word.

The first from Wikipedia:

misconduct is a legal term meaning a wrongful, improper, or unlawful conduct motivated by premeditated or intentional purpose or by obstinate indifference to the consequences of one’s acts.

The second from the Oxford dictionary :

Unacceptable or improper behaviour, especially by an employee or professional person:

The first would qualify as an unofficial definition but suggests premeditation on the part of the wrong-doer.

The second doesn’t quite go that far but “unacceptable and improper” are stern terms which suggest a degree of forethought or indifference.

I have dealt with many complaints in my time. On occasion I have found there to be evidence of misconduct but, more often than not I have either found that the officers have acted correctly or that there has been a mistake.

To my mind there is a world of difference between “misconduct” and “mistake.”

The process used to investigate does very little to differentiate until the end. A matter may be determined as “suitable for Local Resolution” but it is still a “misconduct investigation.”

This puts the officer immediately onto a defensive footing.

Certain allegations are not suitable for Local Resolution. Allegations surrounding force are a case in point. If I wish to seek a response from the officer concerned I am required to serve them with a Regulation 15 notice which advises them of the details of the allegation and explains their rights. These are commonly called “misconduct notices” or “gross misconduct notices.”

Whilst these are important documents in that they explain the officer’s rights (and are required by Regulations) they again do little more than place the officer into an immediately defensive position.

Now, not all complaints are valid. Let me give you the example of an allegation by a person who made a false report of a robbery. They complained that the officer had failed to conduct a proper investigation. In old terms that was a “neglect of duty.”

The same person had made a similar false report of robbery the month before and the attending officers then had determined it to be false.

On the complaint occasion, the officer had attended, investigated thoroughly, found evidence which suggested a false report, called a supervisor for advice, spoken to a detective sergeant in the
Robbery team and then told the caller that they believed that the report was false. The officer had documented this thoroughly. An officer from the robbery team attended themselves and arrived at the same conclusion. The report was filed accordingly.

The complaint was made, a misconduct investigation was undertaken which was not suitable for local resolution. Reg 15 notice was served – a formal written response received and the matter was concluded with the complaint not being upheld.

The officer throughout was helpful and diligent in their responses but remained under formal investigation for misconduct. Misconduct.

Even the title Independent Police Complaints Commission is a problem for me. I wish we had something a little more… neutral, as they do in Northern Ireland. Police Ombudsman is a much better title as whilst it is absolutely right that the police are subject to independent investigation and scrutiny – not all of this arises from “complaints.”

So if the language used to define and manage complaints is so harsh and the processes so strict and formal then the matter of “outcomes” is equally unsatisfactory.

If I am investigating a complaint of misconduct there is, strictly speaking, only one of two outcomes available.
Either the officer is guilty of misconduct or they are not.

In matters where the complainant wants an apology this can make matters complicated.

If the officer has done nothing wrong then an apology is less likely. We end up with some kind of fudged apology “on behalf of the organisation” or “sorry if you feel ..”

Of course, it is possible to uphold a complaint whilst finding the officer not guilty of misconduct but this is harder to explain to a complainant than it may seem. These kind of apologies rarely satisfy.

This is made all the more complicated in cases where you can understand exactly why the complainant feels aggrieved but the officer has done nothing wrong. An example perhaps being a case where someone has been legitimately arrested as a genuine suspect but released without charge and the person complains of “unlawful arrest.”

It is also possible to have a situation where both the victim / aggrieved person and the suspect make complaints about the same incident. Perhaps for taking “too long” to arrest the suspect whilst the suspect then complains about the fact that they were arrested at all.

The fact that misconduct investigations are dealt with by the officers’ own supervisors is, I think, another source of contention. This, in itself, can lead to defensiveness and then allegations about lack of impartiality no matter how thoroughly it has been investigated.

Then there is the appeals process. I am not personally aware of any other complaints system for any other organisation where there is an automatic avenue of appeal. Given my preceding paragraph I guess it is necessary.

I have only ever had two of my investigations appealed and was slightly disconcerted by the outcome of one conversation with the IPCC investigator who was insistent that there had been “a little bit of misconduct” on the officers part. I had upheld the complaint but determined that the officer’s actions were genuine error or omission. The IPCC wanted to call this misconduct. I did ask the IPCC investigator to show me the sliding scale of degrees of misconduct but there isn’t one – so they couldn’t.

Overall, this leads to an unsatisfactory solution all around. The police complaints system is framed and worded and run as a pseudo-legal process which feels very similar to a criminal investigation. Whilst there will be times when this is necessary and appropriate it is simply not appropriate to all cases and leads to a very natural sense of defensiveness on the part of the officers concerned.

This defensiveness sometimes leads to potential withdrawal and rigid compliance with regulations. This is an understandable reaction for any human being.

The IPCC’s preferred way to deal with this is to compel officers to attend interviews, compel them to speak and to draw inferences from their refusal to do so. Whilst this is applicable in criminal cases it suggests that, when applied to an investigation into – for example a death in custody – you are starting from the position of assuming criminality.

It’s all so – adversarial.

So what is the answer?

In all honesty, I simply don’t know bit I was struck by this blog from @cate_a_moore

What Cate is suggesting is that the themes of complaints against the police aren’t always down to individuals but rather, they are manifestations of cultural or organisational failure. Cate argues that PSD departments have lost almost all credibility and that a new department should be created to examine the wider issues and promote “lessons learned” at an organisational level.

In my experience, some PSD’s already try to do this and some do seek to promote this quite actively. I suspect, from Cate’s blog, that this is not a universal thing.

From where I sit, I think the entire complaints system needs a revamp but I am not entirely sure what should replace it.

To begin with I would like there to be clearer separation between what is a complaint of misconduct and what isn’t.

I would like to see a less formal and confrontational system of dealing with complaints whilst retaining all of that formality for cases where it is truly warranted.

Some officers do do things which amount to misconduct or gross misconduct – I just don’t like the fact that almost all police complaints start from this position and work backwards.

If an officer makes a mistake and gets it wrong – as any employee in any organisation is capable of doing – can we not think of a better term than “management action” to show we have responded to it?

Some forces are now piloting Restorative Justice in their handling of complaints. I think this is worthy of further exploration. It isn’t always appropriate but I can see it as a means for the complainant to feel heard.

An RJ conference to resolve a complaint would need to be very carefully handled but it would rely on the officer not being overly defensive or recalcitrant. And for it to be made clear to the complainant that this is an opportunity to explain how the officer made them feel – not necessarily to question their operational judgement.

Even before this was suggested as a concept I have seen it work. I attended with an officer (at their request) to speak to a complainant. This officer was superb – they listened carefully to the complainant, explained their decision making and rationale and fully accepted that the complainant felt as aggrieved as they did. The officers’ explanation, however, convinced the complainant that they had been acting correctly and it was clearly an explanation which the complainant accepted.

It was one of the bravest things I have ever seen an officer do. A fine example of public service which sought to address the root cause directly. At the conclusion of the meeting it was handshakes all around and I am convinced that a lot of faith was restored.

You can’t use this approach in every case but there are many situations where it is perfectly appropriate and probably more beneficial than formal investigations using pejorative language and which will actually leave everyone feeling they have had their say.

I also think there is much work to be done with investigating officers. I have never been trained to deal with complaints – I just apply my trained investigative skills and my “human” side. I have never been taught soft skills for this. It is very much down to who I am or who I choose to be. By extension this applies to all investigating officers. Some will take this route and others might take a more aggressive / defensive stance and try to protect their officers.

There is an argument that ALL complaints against the police should be handled by someone OTHER than the police. This has merits above a certain degree of severity. It can’t be used for everything – otherwise it would be like asking Tesco to deal with a complaint about a Sainsburys member of staff. Such a body would need to be fiercely independent and neutral. It would also need to be well resourced.

This particular stream of conscience (which I shall call a blog) can be summarised thus:

I think the police complaints system is too negative, too formal (in many cases) and leads to a defensive stance from the officer concerned and possibly the investigating officer.

There are many times when full and formal are completely necessary and justified but there is currently too little to differentiate. When the only choices are “misconduct” or “gross misconduct” – I personally feel this is a lousy place to start.

I don’t feel that it adequately resolves complaints especially in cases where the officer has done nothing wrong but the complainant still feels aggrieved.

There has to be a more satisfactory way of dealing with things than there is now.

No More Chances

24 05 2014

I am going to start this blog with a warning.

It will contain MY view of what just happened at the Police Federation Conference and will, at times, be a stream of conscience.

This is not intended to try and change anyone’s mind or opinion and I suspect that many people will disagree with me.

During the course of the past few days there have been a number of interesting moments and for me, personally, there have been several significant ones – which I will come to individually.

This years conference really only had one agenda. The Normington Review.
In the weeks and days leading up to the event itself it was clear that the Federation, both as a whole and at individual Branch Board level, genuinely believed that there was quite a bit of manoeuvre within the recommendations.

A number of JBB’s had put forward Motions and potential Amendments which were scheduled for discussion.

The conference agenda had been written with this in mind and we were all briefed to expect a long night on Wednesday as the AGM section had been brought forward to allow for this debate.

As it turned out this was not necessary.

Day 1 saw the individual rank boards break into their respective groups so that issues more specific to the particular rank could be discussed.

As an Inspector, I spent the morning watching a panel discussion which included Tom Winsor, Mike Cunningham (Chief Constable), Ian Johnson (PCC) and Michael Brown (aka Mental Health Cop.)

I have to say that it was an interesting session which talked about the things which are of most concern to the Inspecting ranks. These include the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (specifically with reference to custody), dealing with vulnerable people and command resilience.

To be fair, ALL the panel made interesting contributions but the overriding theme seemed to be “we came here to raise these issues last year and nothing has changed.”

We heard a lot about all the things which are being done (by the various agencies represented by the panel) but it seemed that for all this promising talk – nothing seemed to be translating into practice and it was invisible at ground level.

Mr Winsor failed again to convince anybody of the benefits of Direct Entry and, at one point, made a very questionable comparison (which I won’t repeat here) but which actually disgusted the room. It was a very ill-judged comment but who am I to say that.

The session was interesting but I genuinely don’t know what it achieved. It seemed to provide an opportunity for the panel members to tell us things rather than the other way around. In fairness to Mike Cunningham – he did seem to be genuinely concerned and interested in the issues raised about staff welfare and morale. He assured the room that a great deal of work was about start and promised to come back next year, if invited, and update us on progress.

With the abolition of the various rank boards imminent – I don’t know if the opportunity will arise. This is actually a shame. I think there is room for rank specific discussion even if the formalities of the boards are done away with.

I can’t imagine many Constables being particularly interested in our concerns about PACE reviews (because it is not part of their role) for example.

I also want to congratulate my mate Michael for the award he was presented with by the ICC chair. It is richly deserved and I know it was a surprise but Michael has gone over and above the call of duty for years. His work has saved lives and continues to positively affect lives. It is right that he is recognised by his peers. Well done, mate.

This session was an introduction to the days ahead. I am now going to jump out of order.

The Wednesday was “keynote” speech day and we all awaited the words of the Home Secretary. First, however, we heard from Shami Chakrabarti from the human rights group Liberty.

This was one of my significant moments. For years I think I have laboured under the impression that Liberty were anti-police. I don’t have that impression now – I see it far more subtly.

Ms Chakrabarti was an impressive speaker who knew she was addressing a potentially hostile audience. I know I am not the only person who left thinking differently.

Liberty is primarily concerned about The Rule of Law. As sworn constables – so are the police. In fact, as sworn constables we are the agents by which The Rule of Law is implemented.

This is where policing by consent and the independent office of constable are so important.

We are given that authority by consent and constables are beholden solely to the law.

I have always known this and appreciated it but Ms Chakrabarti spoke about it so clearly and passionately that it resonated for me in a new way.

She outlined her concerns about Direct Entry and how it threatens the independent office of Constable. How it militarises the police and introduces an officer class.

My favourite passage was when she said that “Chief Constables should perhaps do less TV.” She continued “We don’t really want to see our politicians in uniform in a democracy.”

She had other concerns as well but I was left with the sense that, when it comes to Liberty and the Police, there is actually more that unites us than divides us.

Crucially, however, she struck me as someone who absolutely sticks to her principles but with whom it would be possible to have a professional disagreement without it becoming personal. A critical friend with whom we should probably be talking more frequently.

This is controversial point 1:

Until we realise that Liberty and other public interest groups are ‘not the enemy’ then we have a problem.

Their existence and their contribution to the debate – any debate – on policing is actually the realisation of policing by consent. We don’t have to agree – but we must listen and consider their contribution into the policing response.

To be fair to the Met, they have already taken an important step in this direction by having Liberty observers in the command and control centres during significant events which could lead to public disorder.

I will turn now to the speech given by the Home Secretary.

As I said earlier, until about 12:20pm on Wednesday those attending the conference genuinely believed that they could rewrite elements of the Normington recommendations.

In some cases the proposed changes were subtle and in others they were actually quite significant.

Having said that, there were very few people in the room who were actively resisting Normington. There was acceptance of the findings of the review and recognition of the need to adopt it in theme and spirit.

It turned out that this wasn’t going to be enough and any belief that the content could be significantly altered was misguided.

Nobody was expecting the speech the Home Secretary gave.

I am glad I was in the room when it was delivered partly because of the sense of history but also because I didn’t just see or hear it – I felt it.

The content and delivery of the speech turned about half way through. The change was sudden enough but the tone just became increasingly angry and hostile.

I am not going to enter into ANY discussion about Theresa May herself. I am going to stick to what was said and how it was said.

The Home Secretary was angry. Furious. She was actually shaking with rage at one point – it was visible.

To a room of 2000 delegates who had actually turned up with the best of intentions to reform as she wished it felt unnecessary and uncalled for.

At one point I had a TV cameraman kneeling on a step two down from me pointing the camera in my face. I had no idea whether this was being beamed to the world or not or whether it was a camera for Fed use but I was conscious of one thing.

If my reaction was being sent out across the 24 hour news channels in the middle of this speech I had to do something very deliberately – show no reaction.

No looks of disbelief; no shaking my head; no mouthed comment.

And why?

Because I realised what was happening.

The last image the police service needed now was that of a shocked, disbelieving and uncomfortable officer recoiling in his seat and shaking his head in disagreement.

This was not a warning shot to the Police Federation.

It was a laser guided nuclear bomb targeted at police culture.

It scored a direct hit and Ground Zero was that Conference room.

Of course the speech was clearly telling the delegates that nothing short of total acceptance of the Normington recommendations was good enough.

Of course it contained punitive measures such as the immediate withdrawal of public funding to the Federation.

Of course there was criticism of the Federation’s stance on wider police reform.

But it went deeper than that. Much, much deeper than that.

The list of police controversies (which just kept going) are not the fault of the Police Federation. The response to some of them has brought the Fed into disrepute but many of the incidents themselves had nothing to do with the Federation or its representatives.

The list went back into history and my immediate, defensive internal response was “but I was in school when that happened!” or “I wasn’t there!”

But it dawned on me. That IS an absolutely defensive action.

Think about it – Hillsborough happened in 1989.

I was 15 years old and in the Fourth Form at my secondary school many miles away from Sheffield or Liverpool

25 years later and I am a serving police inspector who had absolutely nothing to do with the events of that terrible and tragic day.

But….. but ….

An inquest jury attended Hillsborough Stadium yesterday. Yesterday.

25 years later and for the families of those who died or who were injured this is still not over.

And it’s not just the families. It is their friends. It is the football clubs and their supporters. It is two cities. It is the country.

We are in this position because there is an investigation into police corruption in the handling of the event and it’s aftermath. Serious allegations are being made against officers who were present at the time and many of whom still serve – some now at high ranks. Very high ranks.

This isn’t history. It is unfinished business.

And even if you think it is history – it keeps repeating itself. Over and over again.

And it isn’t just the incidents themselves. Its the police reaction to them. Sometimes the reaction is actually worse than the incident itself.

Nothing undermines trust more than a cover-up or the suspicion of a cover-up.

Every day brave and committed officers face the dangers of the worst of society on others’ behalves. That is what they joined for and that is what they do.

Meanwhile this is being consistently and persistently undermined by a never-ending narrative of allegations of corruption and malpractice.

This has not yet fully been examined. It has not yet been atoned for and it needs to be purged. Now.

THAT – was what the Home Secretary was saying. Angrily – and on behalf on an equally angry electorate – of all persuasions.

The next question would be whether it was targeted to the right audience.

Absolutely it was.

Of course I want the same message with the same tone delivered to an ACPO audience and to the Superintendents’ Association (though I know there were ACPO officers at the back of the room along with Irene Curtis, the president of the Supers’ Association.)

They need to have that “hairdryer” moment as well. We can’t give it to them – there is only one person who can.

As Federation representatives we are elected to represent our members. Not just to speak on their behalf (though that has to be our primary function) but in the context of this speech we were a representative audience.

We went there as representatives of the 120,000 officers in the federated ranks.

Mrs May was wrong when she said that we represent every police officer in the country. We do not – officers above a certain rank are represented by their own associations but there WERE representatives of all ranks in that room.

We represent them in good times and bad. On this occasion we sat there on their behalf and took a bollocking.

Think about it – with the exception of those teleported in at Superintendent level through Direct Entry – many people in that audience also represent the future leaders of the police service. If that speech doesn’t ring in their ears for the rest of their service then there is something wrong.

Yes – we were offended by the speech. Both the content and the tone. It hurt. It offended my very core on the basis that I objected so much to the insinuation that I was part of the problem.

But I AM part of the problem. I am a police officer – part of the police service and the service as a whole is the problem. Whether we like it or not.

At a micro level we positively influence those we directly deal with through professionalism, dedication, bravery and the selfless service. When we get it wrong at the micro level there are many ways it can be properly remedied but the negativity is confined to a small audience.

When we get it wrong at the macro level then the negative influence is huge. Huge and long lasting.

I believe that it was this that the Home Secretary was challenging in her speech.

As Fed reps we were the micro representing the macro. Where else is a Home Secretary going to face a captive audience of 2000 cops and deliver a message like that?

The challenge now is to decide how to become part of the solution.

If there was any belief that the recommendations could be changed to suit then this was gone by 12:30pm and the hastily convened JCC, Chairs and Secs meeting came as no surprise.

The resulting Motion which came from that meeting was the only way forward.

Some in the room felt it broke the rules – from a rule book which we were just about to tear up anyway.

We had to send a positive signal there and then that we had heard what was said. I believe we did that and in doing so might have just bought ourself enough time to retain SOME control over our own destiny.

However, I think it is clear that tolerance is in short supply and that the wriggle room within the recommendations is quite small.

The following day, one of the authors of the RSA report, Anthony Pointer, blogged that he was pleased that the Fed passed the emergency motion as “any deviance from the technical detail in the report” would have been a grave error.

This bothered me greatly. It read that we had accepted the reforms lock, stock and barrell – indeed I thought we had and was a little perplexed as Conference continued with various speakers talking about how me might alter or amend the recommendations.

I think this was the Met’s worry as well.

But, in response to some tweets I put out, the RSA did respond to me directly saying that there was room for manoeuvre with the recommendations. Which was reassuring.

Sir David Normington said he believed that it would take two years to fully explore and implement those recommendations. The Home Secretary deliberately avoided answering the question of how long we had before she would intervene. Despite her repeatedly saying “I have made it clear…” She did not make it clear. If it was clear I would have understood it but it is now down to our new Chair Steve White to seek an exact answer. We don’t want any more surprises.

I would also rather not spend another conference talking about the Police Federation. I would like next years to be about the members and the conversation with the Home Secretary (whoever it may be) to be more positive and constructive.

My final observation about the conference is more positive.

There was one session which inspired above all others. In fact – inspired is an understatement.

It was the session with Chief Superintendent Nick Adderly of Greater Manchester Police as he took us through the events leading up to, surrounding and following the murders of PC Nicola Hughes and PC Fiona Bone.

It’s often said about these things that it makes grown men cry. This did. I did. So did others.

As Chief Superintendent Adderly took us through events he exposed his inner self to 2000 hardened front line cops. He admitted and reflected on the mistakes he had made. He talked about how he had stood up for his people in the face of political interference. How he had supported his staff and continues to do so now. How he had taken it personally and offered his resignation.

“We had lost two officers. It happened on my watch. And that hurt.”

He spoke of the things he and his team had done to get everyone through and what struck me most was the sheer humility of the man.

He spent much of his talk praising others but it was a fascinating insight into the old adage about “the loneliness of command.”

The standing ovation at the end was spontaneous and instantaneous. It was as heartfelt as it was deserved. It clearly affected him and I hoped it showed the effect his talk had on us all.

Fortunately for me I had the privilege and honour of spending a couple of hours with Nick in a less formal setting later that night.

I had spoken to so many officers after the talk that I knew that every single one of us felt the same. I was able to tell him personally about how impactive his speech was. How it ignited in me something which I was currently losing due to the day to day grind of police work – passion.

I thanked him on behalf of us all.

The rest of the conversation should remain between he and I but I can tell you this:

Two decades in this job have taught me to question leadership (even if that is done silently or delayed.)

There are very few people I would follow without question or hesitation. Probably less than five.

Nick Adderly is one of them.

An astonishing man who I am proud to have met and who represents the absolute best of today’s senior leaders.

Others need to see his talk. Including some of his peers and I would urge Irene Curtis to consider inviting Nick to deliver the same presentation to the Supers as soon as possible. (Unless he already has of course – I don’t know.)

Overall, the Conference was an incredible experience. It was necessarily inward looking this year but I hope that this will not be the case in the future.

The Home Secretary’s speech was unpleasant and perhaps unbalanced but she was right.

The message is clear – the Federation and indeed “The Police” as a whole need to get a grip and sort themselves out. Failure to do so will lead to drastic consequences. Nobody can say we have not been warned.

No more chances.

Stormin’ Normington

17 05 2014

In 1965, Dr Bruce Tuckman published a model which explains how teams behave. I had the pleasure of learning about this at Bramshill as part of their Leadership and Teams module and I remember thinking, as we went through it, that it applied to every single team I had ever worked with.

Essentially, it describes how a team starts in chaos and then progresses through four stages (he later added a fifth in the 1970’s but I will stick with the four for now) until it reaches a point where it is fully functional and doing well.

At Stage 1 the team is highly dependent on its leader. There is little or no agreement on anything other than direction given from the leader. The team have lots of questions about their purpose and will test their leader. Processes are ignored.

At Stage 2 things aren’t much better – if anything they are worse. Decisions are difficult. People vie for position within the team and leadership is challenged. Factions can form and there will be power struggles. A team can be completely distracted by internal politics and it is time to compromise. Progress is difficult.

At Stage 3 things begin to settle down. Agreements are formed. Roles and responsibilities become clear. Decisions are made; there is delegation; the leadership is trusted and commitment and unity are strong. The team even begins to get along and possibly enjoy some social activities together.

At Stage 4 the team becomes strategically aware. They know what they are doing and why they are doing it. There is a shared vision; there is trust; the leader can lead and the team gets on with it. Goals are clear and everyone is working – together – to achieve them. The team is now a team and it is functioning well.

I would now like to introduce you to the Police Federation of England and Wales and invite you to consider – at what stage on the Tuckman model is that organisation right now?

It won’t take too much thought to identify that the Federation is squarely stuck at Stage 2 at the moment and facing something of an existential crisis.

Now I would like to point out a delicious irony which led to the title of this particular blog.

Tuckman gave these four stages a name and the word play with reality here is just wonderful (well – I think so.) Tuckman labelled the stages thus:

Forming ​– Stage 1
Storming​– Stage 2
Norming ​– Stage 3
Performing ​– Stage 4

Now – simply replace Norming – with Normington.

Sir David Normington is the man responsible for the Independent Review into the Police Federation. It was initiated at the behest of the retiring Chair, Steve Williams, and comprises of over 80 pages of mostly uncomfortable reading.

It is required reading for anyone attending this year’s Police Federation Conference next week.

Sir David has not pulled his punches in the content of his report. The evidence he and his team accumulated whilst compiling the report present the picture of an organisation which has entirely lost its way; is riddled with in-fighting and power struggles; where leadership is challenged; and where focus on mission has become almost entirely obscured by internal politics. In other words – see Stage 2 above.

Nevermind the sections on financial governance which are confusing and ugly enough – the main thrust of the report is that the Police Federation has become a completely dysfunctional outfit which has lost the trust of its members and those it deals with. It has consequently lost its voice and its credibility.

This should seriously worry anyone who wishes to represent the brave and tireless officers who comprise the Federated ranks of the Police Service of England and Wales.

Chapter 1 presents the case for change and it is compelling.

It outlines the fact that the local branches do not trust the central committee and vice versa. It points out that the three rank central committees don’t seem to get on that well either and that one central committee seems to be acting in almost complete autonomy from the rest of the organisation.

No organisation can possibly operate successfully with that level of distrust, secrecy and confused line of command.

The report states that the tactics adopted to try and resist government reform and the Winsor Reviews pretty much arose out of a complete lack of strategy. It further points out that the tactics themselves were to play the man instead of the ball, to attack and undermine and that the Federation failed entirely to present a compelling case to the public – or anyone else for that matter – that the proposed reforms were a bad idea.

The report points out that there are many within the organisation who believe that this was still the right way to go about things. That is fine except for one detail – it didn’t work. And it didn’t “not work” by a little bit – the Winsor reforms are here, we all earn less money and it has actually led to a position where officers have been imprisoned or faced with disciplinary sanctions.

More importantly it informs us that many of the members, the ones who ultimately pay for its services, are utterly disillusioned with the Federation.

At the conclusion of chapter 1, the reader is left with no doubt that things simply cannot continue in this vain. The Police Federation, as it stands, is broken and on the verge of irrelevance and oblivion.

When I first read Normington I thought it presented a compelling case for change but a questionable roadmap for achieving it. Then I realised that I was missing the point.

Sir David has not attempted to provide the Federation with guidance on how to tackle negotiations in future (other than by saying that it should be done by forward scanning, negotiation and based on evidence.)

This report is not about what the Federation should DO – it is about HOW the Federation should BE.

Without going into the detail of it – it presents a series of recommendations which are intended to streamline the structure of the organisation; increase democracy; redistribute power more fairly and professionalise some of the executive functions. Importantly, it seeks to address a number of diversity and equality issues and provides an internal discipline system which is currently lacking.

I only take issue on one aspect of it. I think it slightly over plays the “public interest” factor.

There is no doubt that the Police Federation, directly and in-directly, receives funding from the tax-payer. This amounts to several hundreds of thousands of pounds directly from the Home Office for a variety of reasons as well as officer time. At present, at least three officers will be funded by their force for full-time Federation duties. Conference and JBB meetings are taken from “duty time.”

These are generous terms and the public have every right to expect the Federation to be accountable – both financially and ethically.

But, as John Humphreys said on Radio 4 yesterday morning as he discussed the Home Affairs Select Committee report on the Federation “are we not confusing the ‘Police Federation’ with ‘The Police’”

I do not argue that the two are not inextricably linked and that the standards of behaviour from Fed Reps at all levels should echo the values of the service and mirror the Code of Ethics but – the Federation’s primary purpose is to represent its members.

There is a massive “public interest” factor but the Federation is the ONLY legitimate means for police officers to have a voice against things they might not agree with. Such are the constraints placed on individual officers and the fact that there is no right to withdraw labour the Federation must reserve the right to disagree – publicly if necessary – with something its members feel is wrong.

I am therefore slightly under-sold on the idea that the members interests and public interest are on exact equal footing. The Police Federation remains a members organisation but one which owes a great deal to the public and should never forget that.

The Federation should be open, transparent, financially sensible and honest, professional and accountable. In ways, as Sir David says, which have hitherto not been acknowledged? We should welcome this and embrace it. It is happening to every single other organisation in the country and the Federation cannot expect to be treated differently.

If members interests do slightly edge it – then the Federation needs to remember that as well. Sir David absolutely slates “communications” within the Fed and he is absolutely right. I still find it hard to comprehend that the three main figures, the Chair, the Vice-Chair and the General Secretary do not have individual Twitter accounts. There is no way for the National to communicate directly with members on the front line. This HAS to change.

Frankly the whole decision making processes, rationale and general strategy of the National Committee needs to be communicated to the front line clearly and frequently. There will be times when confidentiality is needed but it IS our business and we need to understand what is going on – and why. This was particularly true during the recent Reform period and it didn’t happen. Now, most officers are wondering what they pay their subs for and questioning “what have the Fed ever done for me?”

The next step is for them to stop paying their subs and leave. Many are considering this.

If that wasn’t warning enough that fundamental change is necessary then you only need to look at the language of the Home Affairs Select Committee and other politicians, including the Home Secretary.

It may well be “Hobson’s Choice” but the message is clear –

“Adopt Normington for yourselves – or we will impose Normington (or possibly something else you REALLY will not like).”

I don’t know about you folks but I would prefer to have some control over my own destiny. Steve Williams is the current Chair. He was democratically elected under the system some wish so desperately to preserve. He commissioned the report. We should see it through. Steve saw what was needed and what was coming and for that he deserves recognition and respect.

The Normington report is about structural changes, communication, fiscal policy and professionalising the Police Federation. It doesn’t say anywhere within it that we have to agree with everything that ACPO, the College of Policing or the Home Office say.

We are allowed to have different opinions from these other bodies but – unless we change how we do things – these opinions will not be truly inclusive or representative and they will count for nothing. Mostly because no-one will listen.

Next week’s conference is the last chance the Police Federation will have to navigate its own path. The choice is clear.

We need to get out of STORMING and into NORMING(ton) and PERFORMING.

Our members deserve no less – nor does Steve Williams – and neither does the public.


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