Direct entry – an honest and reflective perspective from Paul Clements at City Police

We at CCCU are very lucky to publish this first blog by an officer on the direct entry Superintendent scheme. This blog is honest, insightful, reflective and indicates that officers with a short time in the ‘job’ who enter at a certain level can recognise and discuss the complexities of both police work and the organisation for the public and for police officers.

Thanks Paul – Emma Williams

Paul Clements Direct Entry Blog – June 2015

It’s been 8 months since I became a Police Officer, and started my Direct Entry Superintendent journey. I’ve been sharing my experiences on Twitter @citypolicesuper and now I’m fortunate to have been asked by Canterbury Christ Church University to write a blog to allow me to go into a bit more detail on what I’ve seen, what I’ve done, and to offer some further insight into the Direct Entry Superintendent programme.

Why?

There are eight Direct Entry Superintendents in this first cohort; each of us experienced leaders from a range of sectors. I’ve heard some people doubt our motivation, but – and as trite as this may sound – I can without hesitation say that we are all driven by a strong sense of public service.  If we weren’t, we wouldn’t be here.

It was the project at Wiltshire Police, (working to make processes more efficient to release frontline officer time) that really sparked my interest in Policing. The staff and officers I worked with were dedicated public servants, committed to improving both the Force for their colleagues, and the service they give their communities. Wiltshire officers also have a wonderful sense of humour!

My wife is a Met PC in Lambeth and my father-in-law is a retired Lancashire Inspector. They helped test my motivation for wanting to be a police officer, gave me an insight into how officers could react to Direct Entry and they’ve been a constant source of support since.

I applied for Direct Entry to be able to use the skills I’ve developed through my career to contribute to keeping communities safe. I believe that my skills and experience (strategy and policy development, change management, financial management, organisational development, communications etc.) may also be of real benefit to the Service and its senior managers if we’re to overcome the challenges we face.

I think the Service can benefit from senior managers with a new take on issues and the experience to help colleagues manage the change that’s coming whether we like it or not.

The scheme is controversial though. I get that. Some will just be philosophically opposed to Direct Entry – and no number of tweets from me will make a blind bit of difference. But I won’t stop trying to change minds – and I’ll continue to engage people in open and honest conversations.

The fact that the scheme is contentious makes openness and transparency all the more important. That’s why I didn’t hesitate when I was asked to tweet. It’s a great tool to share ideas, to develop a support network, and most importantly – to engage with the public; but it’s been tough sometimes. I’ve had my share of criticism.

I am a “disgrace”; and “not fit to wear the uniform”; a “midget…with an oversized hat that makes [me] look like a Russian General” (my favourite) and a “Tory Stooge” (my wife’s favourite). But for every nasty post, I’ve had a fair few wishing me well – Thank you, it means a lot to me.

The response from my colleagues in the City of London Police has been everything I could have hoped for. Yes, there are some sceptics, but I feel tremendously supported – officers on the frontline, police staff colleagues, my tutors, my boss Richard, my Superintendent mentor, and the Chief Officers. I’m very grateful for their support and for their confidence; and for the support of the College of Policing and the Superintendents Association.

The City of London Police is a family, and I wouldn’t want to learn my trade anywhere else.

The City is a great place to be a Police Officer. It is overwhelmingly safe (thanks to the women and men in red and white checks), but I would encourage anyone who says it’s quiet to join us on a Friday or Saturday night to experience our burgeoning night time economy. Our community is 400,000 strong and I’ve personally faced an incredibly diverse range of incidents including mental health; suicides; immigration; domestic abuse; violent assaults; child protection; vulnerable missing people; fraud; racially aggravated incidents etc.

We are a microcosm of society.

 Been there, done that…

The most common reservation to Direct Entry I’ve come across is “they don’t have the experience – how will they manage a critical incident”?

I take this point extremely seriously – as I do my responsibility to take every opportunity possible to learn from my experienced colleagues and to gain whatever operational experience I can.

You learn on the streets, yes, but it (quite rightly) takes a long time and numerous assessments before someone is authorised to, for example, command a large event or firearms incident. My Chief Super is passionate about Public Order and I hope to follow that route. I’ve done my foundation training but I want to experience what my frontline colleagues do, which is why I’ve done my Public Order level 2 (at Gravesend where I spent most of the time on fire); I’m going to do my PSU Commander Course and I will have amassed a significant amount of Public Order policing experience before I embark on the Bronze/Silver/Gold courses.

In the evolution of the experienced Gold Commander, there was a time when she or he took the reins for the first time.

Our training

My programme is made up of a number of elements: First, the learning (superbly) delivered throughout the course by serving and retired experienced officers at the College of Policing. We’re lucky to have Chief Superintendent Dale and her team to provide us with a strong foundation both in terms of frontline policing and at the more strategic level. The College modules prepare me for the Work Based Assessment, which is made up of three ‘rotations’ to ensure I have the necessary operational context.

The first was the PC rotation. I think my tutors (Neil and Liz) were sceptical at first, both of me and of Direct Entry. On my first shift, a drunk and disorderly musician wanted a scrap and instead of getting ‘hands-on’ I was left holding his guitar while he was restrained by 3 officers. The CCTV is hugely embarrassing. Despite that inauspicious start, I gained confidence throughout my time on Division and I do feel that I turned them round.

They epitomise what we hope for in our officers: kindness, empathy, bravery, and self-sacrifice. I’m honoured to have worked with them.

I’m currently on my Sergeant/Inspector rotation, ably guided by new tutors Kerry, Graham and Andy. I’m spending time in Custody and fulfilling the Duty and Patrol Sergeant roles. Following this will be the Superintendent rotation.

I have to pass an OSPRE type exam covering legislation, and deliver business improvement and community engagement projects – in addition to successfully completing my work-based assessment. The whole programme is externally accredited and subject to a comprehensive evaluation.

The operational elements are the most important for me. When I take up my Superintendent role, accepting that my time on the frontline will have been comparatively brief, I’ll be able use the experience I had with my colleagues, to keep my awareness of the day-to-day pressures they face and their needs and welfare – at the forefront of my mind.

Colleagues, victims 

While it’s important to highlight the rigour of the training and assessment, it’s the experiences that I’ve had in my short policing career that I’m taking the most from. As well as preparing to use my skills and experience as a Superintendent, I’m also learning to be a Police Officer.

On a night shift, I arrived at the scene where a young woman had been punched in her face, to the ground, by her boyfriend. My colleagues arrested him and PC Mark and I took her to A&E, it was a Saturday night so the hospital was packed. I spent all night with her, hearing about her previous injuries at his hands; hearing about her miserable childhood; and hearing about how she had a record for assaulting police.

I tried my hardest to get her to make a complaint about the assault, I really did. She wouldn’t.

I eventually convinced her to help me complete the DASH book (a means of assessing domestic abuse risk). In the morning, at least I got this from her – “I used to hate Police, but you and Mark are all right”.

I’ve been reflecting since this early incident whether there’s a place for emotion in policing. Should police officers show our emotions, or should we keep that stiff upper lip? I think victims and those we manage need to know we care. There’s a time and a place of course, but I’m not afraid of showing my feelings.

After that night shift, my emotions surfaced. Tears of anger at the boyfriend, tears of frustration over her chaotic life and her future, tears of desperation at how powerless I felt. I asked a colleague how they get over this kind of thing – “you don’t. You just cope”.

We ask our colleagues to bear a heavy burden.

Targets

Thankfully, despite the fact that the victim didn’t make a complaint, we charged the boyfriend with assault. But I’ve had similar incidents where we didn’t get to charge suspects – to be recorded as ‘undetected’ crimes.

It would be easy to use such statistics to make assumptions about what we do and how well we do it. What if we hadn’t have charged the suspect, what if he isn’t convicted? That doesn’t tell half the story about what we did that night – the care we gave her, the time spent making her and her kid safe, taking her home, and investigating him.

As a Service, we need to get away from the culture where ‘output’ is a proxy for ‘performance’.

Recorded crimes, arrests, convictions, traffic tickets, stops & searches, PNDs, etc. This quantitative focus can’t be the only way we measure what we do and how well we do it. It potentially acts as a perverse incentive to officers and it could mean we reduce the time we spend on victim care, community engagement and all the other core policing responsibilities that are harder to measure.

Supply and Demand

I’ve also been struck by how much of what we have to do is not crime-related. There’s clearly a disequilibrium between supply (resources, officers) and demand (what government, partners and the public request and expect of us). But we don’t have our hands on either lever to reduce this gap. Funding is mostly set by central government and how can we, in isolation, affect what the public asks of us?

But I wonder whether we actually can do something to address the demand side of the equation.

For example, data suggest that between 4000 and 5000 people were taken to hospital by police officers in the last 3 years. We can probably agree that this isn’t necessarily our job, but are we victims of our ‘can do’ attitude? When officers see someone in distress, they instinctively want to help – in the most efficient and effective way – and if that means transporting someone to A&E, so be it.

But are there also other reasons that could account for this? Is this a by-product of a culture of risk aversion?

As senior managers, we should reflect on the support we give frontline officers to empower them to say “no” to things that we shouldn’t necessarily be doing. If officers make decisions, with the best of intentions, and using the right decision-making processes, – we should support them, regardless of what happens. Otherwise where is the incentive for officers to do anything other than ‘cover their backs’?

In the City, I’ve seen the very best of this decision-making, the courage to say we can’t respond to everything, the support to our frontline officers when they take the responsibility to manage demand. But can we all do more of this? It’s never been more important.

I’ve no regrets about the move I’ve made. The challenges the Service faces are significant and we’ll all have to adapt to change. Bringing in senior managers who have experience of delivering similar change in other organisations can bring real benefit, complementing the Service’s existing talent.

We’ve a long way to go on our journey, but judge us on what we deliver.

That’s all I ask.

These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of the City of London Police or the College of Policing. 

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5 Responses to Direct entry – an honest and reflective perspective from Paul Clements at City Police

  1. Rob Flanagan says:

    Very interesting blog to hear about the experiences of someone who’s actually going through the process. Is the programme perfect? Probably not yet. Will all bobbies accept it? Certainly not. But policing is changing and despite the negative challenges to this and other processes everyone will eventually “Get it”. I once heard someone say something like – “it isn’t change people don’t accept, it’s just the speed it takes them to personally change before they catch up” and for me this is where we are at within the policing family now. Everyone no matter of rank or geographic location is adjusting to change – professionally and personally. Once the 2 changes align with mutual understanding, we can continue to grow with new methods etc.

    As a final note, it’s refreshing to see a new/future Supt. saying – “As a Service, we need to get away from the culture where ‘output’ is a proxy for ‘performance’.”

    Like

  2. Irene Curtis says:

    Thanks for this Paul. As all of the DE Superintendents know, my concern about the programme was always about how much Superintendents rely on their operational experience when making difficult command decisions. However I can honestly say that I’ve been so impressed by just how much Paul and his colleagues are desperate to make the most of their short(er) operational deployments and to learn from others too. One thing is for sure, this scheme has the best possible chance of being a success thanks to the determination of the DE Supts on it.

    This is a wonderfully honest blog, and if you don’t already follow Paul on Twitter, then you really should!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ian Hesketh says:

    Paul, I must say on first mention of this scheme, like others, I saw opportunities slipping away for a lot of budding Supts. However, there is something fundamentally flawed about how the current system practically works, opposed to how it should work. For me, the main point being that across the country forces are littered with what the NHS would term ‘bed-blockers’ in the rank. And bed-blockers with power; unfortunately. The power to influence the next generation of leaders. To expand on this, what I am saying is that the ability to spot talent, people who think differently, who act innovatively is lost on some of these folk. Rigidly thinking inside the box, because it is safe and has worked in times gone by…long by. Sometimes it takes a new alpha to break the cycle of nepotism. I am quite sure execs are fully aware of this, but are compelled to follow ‘the process?’ As I finish my PhD I recall vividly, as a PC, my Supt returning my HPDS app with an explanation that in their opinion I wasn’t academic enough! Point in case, they’re still in the rank (bed) some 10yrs later.
    Anyway, welcome aboard, and I wish you well.

    Ian Hesketh

    Like

  4. andrew fyfe says:

    I was very interested to read Pauls thoughts about how we measure the range of roles the service is required to perform, as below:

    “As a Service, we need to get away from the culture where ‘output’ is a proxy for ‘performance’.

    Recorded crimes, arrests, convictions, traffic tickets, stops & searches, PNDs, etc. This quantitative focus can’t be the only way we measure what we do and how well we do it. It potentially acts as a perverse incentive to officers and it could mean we reduce the time we spend on victim care, community engagement and all the other core policing responsibilities that are harder to measure”

    I wondered if he has had time to come up with any answers?

    Andy Fyfe

    Like

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