Reflections on ASEBP Conference from me and Ian Hesketh

As we travel home from a superb few days in Philadelphia (where the weather is as unpredictable as my wardrobe) it is time to put pen to paper and relay some reflections about the American Society of Evidence Based Policing conference 2018 and the way in which these events continue to be received. Both Ian and I spoke at the conference at Temple University, Philadelphia.

The conference was attended by officers of various ranks and roles from across the US, academics, students and individuals from other agencies with an interest in policing. This blog outlines some of the highlights of the conference and reflects on how both the UK and USA police and policing academics are experiencing similar issues with the evidence (and we are applying a broad definition to evidence here) based policing debate.

Presentations addressed:

 Predictive policing

Body worn cameras

Deescalation in police and citizen encounters

Translating evidence for practitioners

Media and policing

Implicit bias

Police well-being

Violence reduction strategies

So what did we learn about US and Canadian policing?

First and foremost the problems that the Canadian and American policing family face are largely historical, social, geo-economic problems arising out of mental health, poverty and increased levels of citizen violence. Although in both these countries officers bear arms, this is largely inconsequential in contrast to the volume of demand versus the capacity to deal. As in the UK, vulnerability, complexity, efficient multi-agency partnerships and effective officer training all play a crucial role in the capability of officers to deal with these issues.

We heard of a number of both long term strategic approaches and reactive tactical work from both academics and practitioners. Many of these were built on collaborations between both; which was refreshing. These propose effective means to deal with these problems and are similar to approaches currently being trialled and evaluated in a number of UK forces. The practice of collaborating with academic institutions, as you would expect with EBP, was well voiced. As well as traditional crime issues, much was discussed about the need for research to explore wider social issues and to ask questions about the growing role of police as social welfare agents and what work is valued in policing – again similar discussions to that in the UK. Contrary to popular belief the sociology of policing featured heavily throughout the first morning and the need for learning from the past was a key component of these sessions. Very positive!

Professor of Criminology at John Jay College, David Kennedy, alluded to this in relation to a violence strategy. This coheres with the UK story and the challenges violence presents to the public and the officers attempting to deal with the increase. No short term fix will solve the intense social problems that play a role in the growing problem of violence in both countries, as well as the challenges of mobilising appropriate agencies.

Jerry Ratcliffe hosted the conference and delivered some amusing and inspiring talks about research in the US context. It was encouraging to hear his recognition of the need to utilise qualitative research methods to explore the why’s and context of some of the trials being discussed. Furthermore he emphasised that the mixed methods evaluation conducted in Philadelphia on predictive policing had deployed intense observations to ensure the research understood the wider context of simply just ‘doing patrol’. This picked up officer discretion and engagement with the community and formed a core part of the research strategy.

Body worn cameras threaded through many of the US presentations, and more interestingly there was a good deal of debate about the possibility of using them to explore community and police interactions. In a sense, to consider procedural justice and view events leading up to quick decisions made at the time. Often we do not understand the context of police decision making and this was an interesting inclusion to the conference themes.

Police welfare and well being also featured as a core thread during the two days. An interesting, yet small trial, described by Associate Professor Lois James, highlighted some promising results on sleep training for officers who has experienced symptoms of fatigue. The similarities here to UK police officers was evident and Ian’s paper outlining his own work on police well being was received well and with much interest from the US cops in the room.

All of this was held together by the wonderful Queen of American EBP Dr Renee Mitchell, whose passion and love for policing is apparent in her every word!! Hats off Renee for a fabulous conference.

 So who are the attenders?

One of the most inspiring features of the conference was seeing the amount of practitioners in the room doing small scale research projects, testing new innovations and challenging their own assumptions. They were conducting pre and post evaluations, interviews, small randomised control trials, ethnography or observations and systematic reviews. This was with the aim of helping them understand hugely complex and multi-faceted problems, together with the impact this was having on the officers. All these people wanted to do was the right thing, deploy resources in the right places where community relationships could be enhanced and use research to help them do this. They had proactively built relationships with academic institutions to facilitate the co-production of this process. In essence, they had done it without formal education in many cases, or previous knowledge of academic research. Much had been driven rightly, from their own craft knowledge and experience of the job. Police training in the US is even more disparate than the UK, with different states provide different types of training to their staff. For these 230 or so people in the room this world of making EBP ‘business as usual’ is even more fresh and new than it is for us in the UK.

So what are the similarities?

As well as the issues discussed at the conference relating to crime and social problems, a key theme related to the way this work is received by other officers in their own forces. We regularly heard familiar descriptions of officers feeling like they are being stabbed in the back by colleagues, considered as too academic and moving away from the importance of craft learning, as well as a general reluctance for forces to sometimes apply learning. These featured in the US states as well as they regularly do at home in the UK. The general problem of, ‘what counts as evidence and knowledge,’ is apparent on both sides of the pond and continues to relate to concepts of credibility and worth.

A future challenge may be to increase the engagement in respect of the world of social media. There was clearly a substantial number of officers who followed the event on line, however these seemed to be more voyeuristic than contributive. Officers pursuant of EBP methods can draw meaningful support from positive social media commentary and debate about their work. However, there seems a reluctance to embrace research, and a feeling many are watching in the wings rather than being a critical mass engaging in the virtual world. This is from people who may have a general distrust and uncertainty of research and academia. We would argue that most officers and academics who work in this area, whatever their chosen methodological approach or area of work, genuinely care about policing. This equally applies to those who are quick to critique innovation – of course they care passionately too. However, some commentary is often personal, hurtful, and outcomes such as withdrawal are seen. This is wholly unnecessary and quite preventable. Complaints about terminology, academic referencing or being accused of being too bound by certain methods is not supportive for those venturing into EBP for the first time – we are all learning all the time.

Whatever thoughts are about the concept of EBP and how it is defined, making derogatory, personal and unfounded comments to those involved in it is inappropriate. A great deal of effort goes into these events and they are attended by a lot of people who are passionate about improving a challenging public service in the best way they can.

We hugely thank Renee and her amazing team for a fascinating two days. It is about time we started supporting each other’s differences, respecting alternative standpoints and moving on from creating silos when all we all really want is to make a difference to cops and communities.

If anyone wants any further info on the event I would be very happy to share details of speakers and papers presented on the above subjects.

 

 

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Direct Entry Scheme: Tell us more about what might affect us! Emma Williams / Jennifer Norman (CCCU) and Dr Fran Boag-Munroe (PFEW)

Direct Entry Scheme: Tell us more about what might affect us!

 

The messages portrayed in this blog do not reflect the views of the writers – so do not shoot the messengers! The narrative presented here offers insight into officers’ own views on a significant area of police reform – that of Direct Entry into the Police Service.

The Canterbury Centre for Police Research was fortunate enough to have been approached by the Police Federation England and Wales (PFEW) to be involved in some analysis in relation to officers’ perceptions of the College of Policing’s recent initiatives. We were grateful to the PFEW for inviting us to engage in this work as the ethos of our centre is to capture practitioner voice and, amongst other issuers, their experiences of police reform.

The data that this blog is based on was generated from the 3626 qualitative responses derived from the PFEW’s Annual Pay and Morale Survey 2017, the only national survey of officers, designed and run by Dr Fran Boag-Munroe.

Context

Direct entry is a contentious issue which has been widely debated on social media over the last few months. Much of this conversation has been anecdotal and focused on a disconnection between the frontline and the College of Policing. Primarily this has focused on the lack of information coming visibly from the College about the work they are doing and the impact it might have on the frontline themselves. Officers’ perceptions about the lack of engagement from the College have been recognised more recently, particularly following a blog from a serving officer, @nathanconstable, and the subsequent thorough response to the blog from Rachel Tuffin, at the College of Policing.

The analysis from this survey offered us a chance to provide some evidence around these perceptions, based on reliable research that perhaps validates some of these concerns voiced by officers.

What did we find?

Quantitative findings from the PFEW Pay and Morale Survey 2017

  • 75% of survey respondents felt that Direct Entry at Chief Officer rank would have a negative impact upon policing
  • 77% felt that Direct Entry at Superintending rank would have a negative impact upon policing
  • 82% felt that Direct Entry at Inspector rank would have a negative impact upon policing

The findings from the quantitative survey data indicated that the majority of respondents felt, regardless of the point of direct entry, that the scheme would have a negative impact on policing. However there is more concern over the direct entry inspector level and this largely related to operational nature of this rank.

Practical experience

Part of this criticism related to a genuine concern raised from officers about the credibility of direct entry candidates to make operational decisions due to their lack of ‘on the ground’ experience and, in the current climate of perceived professionalism, this is important. Academically there is a wealth of literature on what influences individual officers’ sense of credibility and much of it concludes that operational experience and the development of the police craft is a key factor and makes policing unique as a result.

“You cannot learn policing from a book. It is inherently dangerous to allocate persons to senior positions without them learning their craft first”

These perceptions, notions of uniqueness and acknowledged complexities of what the police deal with intersected with officers’ thoughts about DE entrants coming in from the private sector – particular at inspector level. There was a perception that the skills required to be effective in areas such as risk assessment, in the context of growing numbers of vulnerable people and perceived dangers, can only be built through experience.

“You cannot beat experience, managing police is not like managing Tescos”

As we were analysing the data we began to realise that some these perceptions of ‘not enough time doing to job’ linked quite clearly into an element of resentment that serving officers had about supporting DE entrants in their role. Firstly there was the issue of trust, and officers being confident in DE officers’ operational decisions without having the craft knowledge they rank as ‘high value’.

What resulted from this was officers offering assistance to and support these DE officers which they felt was not recognised by supervisory staff. It was clear from the data that a sense of not being valued was relatively strong and these feelings were compounded by their frustrations abut limited internal opportunities for serving staff and blocked career progression.

“It’s like people like me who’ll be bailing them out when they can’t make a decision due to lack of experience and knowledge”

Therefore officers talked about providing resilience, bailing people out and their subsequent frustrations about not being recognised either pay or management wise.

The impact on them personally

There was no doubt from the analysis that morale and (more practically relevant) de-incentivising had occurred for some as a result of the support they had offered others and the lack of information about what this meant for regular officers in terms of their access to progression. Direct entry was described as a ‘kick in the teeth’ and as the opposite of The College wanting to professionalise officers as they ‘parachute people in’.

What this ultimately led to was a sensed of unfairness amongst respondents and a feeling that whilst they were being told to gain more qualifications to build on, what should be accredited, experience, these DE officers were being welcomed with potentially neither aside from experience in another sector.

The extent of these feelings should not be underestimated and are important to hear. The inferences arising from this quote were not uncommon in the data:

“There are plenty of officers with wasted skills and who are ready for promotion in forces. They are blocked by the culture of negative attitudes and poor people development in the force. HR people do not develop people and the PDR process does not recognise those that are ripe for development.  Introducing external candidates at middle management level further blocks opportunities and closes doors for promotion in the force”.

Whilst there was some recognition that at high level (superintendent) external officers could bring different skills in terms of management and leadership styles, at warranted rank level DE was seen as a risk and incredibly frustrating for these respondents.

The fact that these perceptions linked to other officers, beyond them as individuals, clearly highlights the sense of unjustness of this decision across the whole. This was not a sense of unfairness for the individual but for the collective. Considering the literature on organisational justice this has huge implications for the wider sense of identity officers have with the organisation and their willingness to buy in to and support priorities and change.

Current processes for progression

What was interesting in the analysis was how the frustrations extended to the systems in place for them to achieve promotion inside the force.

“Why don’t we look at what we already have first rather than employ people who know nothing / have no experience of policing?”

“Why not change the promotion process to one which attracts and promotes good leaders who care for their staff and the public not getting onto the next rung of the ladder”

The PDR process was seen as defunct and also the sense of this and the current promotion process being partly responsible for a perceived need to employ from the outside as the right people hadn’t been given the chance inside. This should be considered as critical learning from this research.

What does this all mean?

We feel there is some key learning from this research which extends beyond the DE scheme. We will be publishing another blog with more demographic data, additions from a recent Twitter poll and also some other important findings from the survey relating to officers views having actually worked with officers and whether their initial perceptions had changed.

However from this initial blog it is clear that the lack of engagement and limited information available on DE had resulted in a void being filled with fast spreading information about what it means for regular officers.

In every area of change communication is the most important factor. In policing information travels fast in policing particularly now through social media networks that offer officers and others a space to voice questions, frustrations and thoughts about different police issues. The College of Policing has, in ways, recognised the need to engage more with the front line but perhaps there is a lesson here about who they engage with about different issues as opposed to just getting a load of information out there to everyone. Tailored messages are evidently in need here about the effects some change or initiatives might have on certain officers and how their fears might be allayed. On a number of levels this is important given the findings here about lack of incentive, lack of recognition and lowering morale. We know from all the excellent work being conducted on officer wellbeing that such factors may well impact negatively on productivity.

Finally and for us, one of the most important issues, is that individual professionalism is being impacted on here. It is undermined by officers’ perceptions of DE and conflicts with what the College are selling to officers about the importance of their experience and the fact it deserves formal accreditation through academic acknowledgment – hence professionalism. We think this is likely worsened by the lack of information forthcoming from the College about what this scheme means in the wider context.

The messages presented here from an analysis of officers voices are important for development of communication / engagement and the imparting of knowledge about new schemes.

These people are the workforce. They are what makes policing work at a very difficult time and treating them properly is vital for a number of practical and personal well-being reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Defining ‘Elderly’ in the Prison Context – Kelvin Robbins

Huge thanks to Kelvin for adapting this really interesting blog for the site from his excellent assignment submission for his MA programme!

This blog, adapted from a November 2017 postgraduate student admission, explores the definition of elderly within a prison context, the issues surrounding the incarceration of elderly people, why these issues are increasing, and the current efforts to address the issues.
There is little consensus to what constitutes an elderly prisoner. The definition of “elderly” in prison research literature ranges from 50 to 65. This lack of clarity in defining ‘elderly’ is an issue. Whilst age provides a simple measure of chronological progress since birth, it is a poor measure of life stage and ability. Therefore, allocating resources on the basis of chronological age could give unnecessary benefit to some and disadvantage others, and it makes meaningful comparison difficult for researchers as well as for policy makers. Matters are further complicated in that there is some evidence physiological deterioration is more advanced in an inmate compared to a person based out in the community, and this is put forward as an argument that incarceration accelerates the ageing process. However, this can’t apply to an elderly person committed to prison for the first time. Overall, there is no clear chronological point a person becomes “elderly” in the criminal justice system. Perhaps it is unsurprising defining the elderly in a prison context was identified as a top priority in developing national US policy in 2012.
Reviewing the literature relating to the imprisonment of the elderly reveals a number of clear themes. Firstly, society predominantly associates criminal behaviour with youth. It is described as a young man’s game, with prisons designed around fit young men, not for those with deteriorating health and physical ability. Prisons are institutionally geared towards smooth running and self-maintenance. This lack of consideration, or “institutional thoughtlessness” results in elderly prisoners being invisible in policy.

Expecting elderly prisoners to follow the same rules as younger prisoners could even be described as discrimination. For example, withdrawing access to media has been found to be more impactive on the elderly. Elderly female prisoners, as a minority within a minority, suffer more from this institutional thoughtlessness. Elderly female prisoners are described as forgotten, but some go further in describing a “pattern of malign neglect” in programmes and policies.
Another key theme is dementia. Prison systems are unprepared to handle this condition, as are earlier stages of the criminal justice system. Research indicates dementia can be devastating if undiagnosed in a correctional setting, but there is a lack of data about its prevalence in prison. Evidence shows younger adult prisoners are more likely to have chronic illnesses and psychiatric illness, so elderly prison populations may be more likely to suffer dementia. Certainly, healthcare planning for elderly prisoners cannot be extrapolated from estimates based on elderly based out in the community.
A third theme is the cost of elderly prisoners, disproportionately higher for elderly prisoners compared to their younger inmates. Financial issues seem to feature more in American literature, as responsibility to provide healthcare for inmates moves from the individual to the state for incarcerated persons in the USA, but there is also increased financial burden associated with elderly inmates in the UK.
Elderly prison populations are rising. Prison populations globally have grown, and within this there is a sustained surge of elderly prisoners, who are the fastest growing subgroup of prisoners. However, there is no clear consensus as to why. Some academics argue it is simply reflective of the increasing proportion of the elderly in wider populations, but this is dismissed by others. A potential reason may be the increasing length of sentences, yet as long ago as 1984 41% of prisoners were over 55 at their first committal to prison, and other schools of thought consider sentence length as a marginal contributor to increasing elderly prison populations.
UK courts have become increasingly preoccupied with retribution and risk, and there may be a societal shift to incapacitation models of crime control rather than rehabilitative approaches. There is also a greater readiness to prosecute historic offences, particularly sexual offences. This rise in elderly prisoners has led to established criminological theory of criminal involvement declining with age being questioned and re-examined.
In response to the rise in elderly prisoners, there are calls for sentencing reform. The established rationales for imprisonment are stretched to breaking point with the elderly. Sentencing guidelines underestimate the impact of imprisonment upon the elderly, and evidence suggests they are much less likely to reoffend. A key call is for Alzheimer’s screening or functionality tests for prisoners, but prison environment based functionality assessments must be developed as existing community based ones cannot easily translate into prison settings.
Whilst there has been good work by non-governmental organisations responding to elderly prisoners, action by responsible authorities lacks consistency with only pockets of good practice. Most positive approaches identified are due to individual improvisations by prison staff. The Prison Ombudsman has called for a national elderly prisoner strategy in 2017, repeating the little heard concern of the HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2008.

To conclude, elderly prisoners are a global, cross-discipline issue. Research and concern spans legal, nursing, geriatric, mental health, sociological, and criminal justice literature. National level responses are beginning to emerge, but a clear consistent theme across all the research disciplines is that research is too sparse, and whilst pockets of good practice exist, national policy is inadequate, if it exists at all.

 

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End of 2017 round up! Happy New Year

I just read the blog I wrote at the end of 2015 about police workload, resulting stress and the growing and unrealistic expectations placed on cops. As I start to write an end of 2017 blog I am depressingly aware that this year’s little round up will likely focus on extensions or worse news stories about exactly the same issues I wrote about then. Therefore, the concept of news or whatever is news, is kind of what this blog is about – news stories that have perhaps served to do two things. In many cases they seem present a very false picture to the public that the police are, in various ways, to blame for issues around the reduced service delivery to communities and secondly they often hide the realistic picture of crime and ‘other demand’ the police now deal with. Conveniently perhaps…………

Officers continue to face the same increasing workload issues and, related, wellbeing and stress factors. Budgets remain tighter than ever in our ongoing era of austerity and an announcement recently about police funding suggests that promised increases will be dependent on rises in local council taxes, which in some areas will place increasing pressure on already struggling communities as a result of stagnant wages, cuts to the welfare system and rising inflation. Whether this results in a postcode lottery in relation to who gets this ‘extra’ policing is yet to be seen but, if so, it is likely that those areas and communities that (perhaps) less need visible and proactive policing may have more accessible funds to cope with the rise in council tax rates coming.

Interestingly, 2017 saw a decision by the government to cut back questions in the Crime Survey England and Wales (CSEW). This vital survey has for many years provided a far more realistic picture of the crime and disorder some individuals and communities face daily. Indeed, the cynics amongst might ask why the reduction in questions has ‘really’ come at this time. This same year, the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, the head of the one single establishment that has decimated policing, announced that decreasing police numbers would not impact on rising crime rates. Following that, Nick Hurd at the College of Policing conference, told delegates that there was no more money, the police needed to be more innovative when dealing with the issues they face, utilise more technology and essentially, in so many words, do more with less through innovation and good ideas. That is absolutely another story!

This week we saw a leaked report from the NPCC suggesting that the reduced police capacity to be proactive is impacting on levels of anti-social disorder – something regularly revealed as blighting communities in the CSEW strangely enough. And critically can often be indicative of other more serious embedded issues that link to hate crime and the targeting of families and individuals. Moreover, there are a number of other examples that could be cited to highlight the impact that reduced resources have on the ability to investigate crimes (recent focus on mistakes made in rape investigations), manage offenders, engage with communities, be proactive and deal with certain ‘lower level’ crimes (the most recent concern being raised around shoplifting). Indeed, nowhere is this more evident than when we see the revolving door of priorities that police forces are told to deal with cyclically as per ‘insert subject’ report is published damning certain forces for not dealing with a, b or c effectively. This year alone has seen criticism about neighbourhood policing, rape investigation, being visible, mental health, domestic violence and child sexual exploitation……..
I am not one to deny the important role technology has in the world of criminal justice. Undoubtedly in many of these areas of police work mentioned above new technological innovations will assist the police in doing their job but what has run true so much, also over recent times, is the need for human police resources in communities. Humans that can explore what the needs are of those communities and areas, engage with them and keep them informed about what they are doing to try and deal with those issues. It isn’t even simply about being visible as mountains of research will tell us, this is about interactions, engagement and working with different communities with differing needs. Technology may assist in part but the public still want to see and engage with cops.

It was The Mirror that published some information from a leaked NPCC report warning that “the legitimacy of policing is at risk as the relationship with communities that underpins all activity is fading to a point where prevention, early intervention and core engagement that fosters feelings of safety are at risk of becoming ineffective. “Forces have “increasing difficulty in sustaining local policing” and “the degradation of this capability is accelerating.” The document predicts that this will lead to increases in crime, a reduction in offender management and the protection of vulnerable people. Arguably here when we read of vulnerable people we refer to both potential vulnerable victims and indeed those vulnerable and at risk of becoming offenders themselves.

Sun headlines such as the ‘dim blue light’ and ‘cops letting crooks get away with it 50% of the time’ are unhelpful to everyone but more critically they present an unrealistic and unfair picture that the police themselves somehow ‘chose’ do this. Such depictions have implications beyond the headlines as they imply incongruence between what the public want the police to do and what the police want to do for them. Conversely and for a long time the police have been attempting transparency about the risks thee extreme cuts have on the public and their ability to do their job. A job that is ever changing along with the expectations placed on them. Cuts have consequences campaigns and a number of @wecops debates are prime examples of where the congruence between want the police want to do – indeed issues that were core motivators of them joining the job – and what the public want them to do is clear. The concerns raised by the public are the same concerns as those raised by many officers daily about their ability to do ‘it all’ effectively and yet we continue to see blame placed at the door of the police when most of these new reports and subsequent critiques are published.
We constantly see denial from this government about a number of issues but Rudd’s statement was at best not thought through and at worst, completely incorrect. Police legitimacy is SO VITAL because of the link it has with compliance to the law and therefore crime levels. The recent report from Ipsos Mori highlighting the perceived lack of visibility and information provision from the police in some areas did not discuss the huge implications this has on public confidence in policing or legitimacy but if analysed in the context of all the research literature there are huge issues here both for relationships the public have with the police and their ability to understand local needs and problems – and subsequently, crime levels. How the government can continue to state that ongoing austerity will not impact on crime is incredulous.
Of course the growing social problems in the UK are contributing hugely to crime as are cuts to diversion schemes, increased poverty and cuts to the welfare state. What this government never did when they made these decisions to cut the public sector to the core was think about the, obvious to most, impact this would have on a police service also being cut to the bone – and the police people themselves. When May was Home Secretary she stated that the decisions to cut police budgets was viable – it clearly was not. It was not viable for the public, the police or anyone else and yet heads remain in the sand and there is no admission from anyone that the country is at breaking point and so is policing.
A few years on from May’s speech and the cracks are becoming huge pot holes- into which the public and the police are falling. Vicious headlines by unethical papers like The Mail and The Sun have other implications – on the police themselves. Police who spend their Christmas period and New Year looking after us, looking after and dealing with the most vulnerable victims and offenders, the lonely, the homeless, the mentally ill… need I go on.
I for one want to say a huge thankyou again for keeping me and my family safe in the most dreadful of times. Such incorrect headlines are damaging and deny the fact that many (most I speak to) officers only want to do more for the public. This is not an active decision to stop core policing tasks but it has becoming a measure to maintain functionality both practically and mentally for the officers struggling with the in-congruence and cognitive dissonance that they experience now when doing their job.
Someone please publish that in their papers.. well maybe next year!
Happy New year from us all at Canterbury and thanks for letting us into your fascinating world.

Emma

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Reflections on my journey so far with PoliceNow – Nick Falconer – Avon and Somerset Police

Huge thanks to Nick for writing this blog.. I hope we can get more as his experience advances…. I worked with Nick in the MPS and when he asked me to be a reference for him I was only too pleased! A great guy with a good future in policing ahead of him!

 

I have been asked to write a short blog by Emma Williams from Canterbury University, detailing my experiences so far as part of the 2017 Police Now cohort.

Before Police Now

I’ve had an interest in policing for as long as I can remember – I listened to the stories of a family friend who was a response officer in Torquay; thinking that one day I would do something similar. I went off to university with the intention of joining the police after university, but due to the stop in recruitment around 2010 this never happened. I was fortunate enough, however, to secure my placement year from Aston University with the Met Police in 2008. I worked alongside Emma and her team in the Strategy, Research and Analysis Unit based at ‘Met HQ’. I was able to see the professional work that goes on behind the scenes that contributes to everyday policing. What made my year even more unique is that our boss, Prof Betsy Stanko, allowed me to take a month off and train as a Special Con-stable too. This enabled me to see both sides of policing. I’ll always be grateful to Betsy for letting me do this!

After graduating, I was accepted onto the graduate scheme for a major international supermarket. I spent three years there, and was able to travel all over the world helping to grow their international online business. I then moved to another supermarket and accepted a position in their head office look-ing after a key part of their online business in the UK, before moving again in 2016 to become an area manager for a discount supermarket. During all of this, I kept my position as a Special Constable, work-ing alongside a response team and doing a few shifts with neighbourhood as all Specials do.

I remember enjoying my jobs in retail, but I got bored quite quickly and would soon be seeking my next challenge. Surely, I couldn’t keep switching between supermarkets for the next 35 years – there were-n’t enough brands!? I was coming home from my police duties feeling that I had made a difference to someone on most of my shifts. Literally, every day was different, but I was not brave enough to make the jump permanently.

The Police Now Application

After a particularly demanding few weeks at work last year, I came home and saw an advert for Police Now online. It offered a different entry route into policing; seeking graduates that could work on com-munity problems from day one. I decided to apply, and after a few application stages that were very similar to what I was used to first time around when I applied for graduate jobs, I was informed that I was successful and was being posted to Avon and Somerset Police. I accepted their offer, left retail and started in the 2017 cohort in July this year.

The Police Now Summer Academy and force induction

In July, I joined 230 other new recruits from forces across the UK. We stayed for the whole summer on a university campus in London and trained five days a week in Central London. The training was tough, we worked long hours and had a number of knowledge assessments and physical training sce-narios to complete. Our first knowledge check was on day one, testing our understanding of the pre-learn content from Blackstone’s and other online training packages. Training was different from my peers who entered through the traditional route. It was condensed, and was often conducted in a lec-ture room format compared to the classroom setup. We worked in syndicates of around ten officers, supervised by a sergeant. We had regular pastoral support from our syndicate leads too, who provided us with feedback as we progressed through the training.

Much of the training that we received had a neighbourhood focus. We had content on partnership working, and law was often based around offences that we may be encounter when we arrived on our beats. Some of the most engaging sessions were from ‘visiting staff’ who provided insight into their ex-periences and previous involvement with the police. One talk – from Paul Hannaford – remains with me to this day; so much so that he got a standing ovation from all of the officers in the room and I am look-ing to book him to give a talk at the secondary school on my beat next year. We also went out with re-sponse teams across London to consolidate our learning. At the end of the summer, all of the new re-cruits returned to their respective forces, and we then had our force induction.

Force induction for my colleagues and I in Avon and Somerset consisted of a week of getting to under-stand force IT systems back in the classrooms. We were issued our Airwave radios, body-cams, note-books and station passes and were sent out to work with our mentors in neighbourhood teams across the force.

Arriving at the station

When I arrived at the station, I was unsure as to what greeting I would receive. We had been told at training that some officers may not know what the scheme is about, and that we may experience some hostility in the early days. For me, this may have been even more apparent as I was the first PN officer posted to Weston-super-Mare.

I received a warm welcome from my colleagues. Despite working in our own office on the estate on which I patrol, we brief daily with the response team at the main station. I spent a couple of sets out with the response team, and was able to start building some good working relationships early on (there is no better place to explain what Police Now is all about than when you are sat in the response car waiting for the next ‘code 1’ call!). I can honestly say that the support that my mentor, PC Stephens and my supervisor PS Batchelor have given me has been fantastic. Despite a few teething problems, they have really embraced the Police Now process and enabled me to continue my learning on the job.

My training enabled me to start to be a great problem-solver. I hope to bring across skills I learnt in re-tail management too. As an officer in a non-metropolitan force however, I still need to do more ‘on the job’ learning to ensure that I am competent enough to deal with whatever the community calls us for. The division between neighbourhoods and response policing in my area is not clear-cut, and as a result I could be called to assist with any 999 call that we receive. Some of this learning comes through experience – I don’t think we missed out necessarily because of our training path, we just need the op-portunity to put our learning into practice on the front line.

My reflections three months on

I’ve been on my beat now for three months. I’m still enjoying policing and the opportunities to get in-volved in some intergenerational neighbourhood issues. When I look back at what I was doing six months ago, I can’t believe how much my career path has changed. I was looking for a job that will keep me interested for the rest of my career, and I hope that policing will be able to give me that. As I was looking for, every day is certainly different (the other day I identified a corpse in some woodland, and twelve hours later I was in the primary school on my beat eating Christmas dinner!)

I definitely made the right choice – this scheme is delivering what it said it would – and I’m looking forward to our next 100-day impact event early next year.

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