A hope for change: views from the frontline

In this blog one of our in-service BSc Policing students talks very honestly about the state of the police and how he has seen some light for change…

Over the last few months I have become exceptionally disengaged from the ‘job’ after 18 years of given everything I suddenly started to feel that there was nothing else left to give, no more difference for me to make. This was in contrast to 12 months ago when I had just started a degree in policing, I was full of ideas and believed I could change the status quo, maybe this was short sighted but this new found knowledge had recharged my love of policing at what was a very dark time for the profession. However any ideas I had were short lived, any knowledge that I felt I could share was blocked, new ways of working ignored and my arguments against performance culture met with stern words on how I am accountable if my team does not meet the stringent targets set before me.

There are only so many times someone can be told ‘no’ before they give up and look elsewhere for opportunities which will allow the ability to develop within in the role and one which will welcome free thinkers, something so highly thought of in the private sector. For all the talk of evidence based policing, problem orientated policing and partnership led initiatives I could not help but think those currently in the higher echelons were determined to keep things how they are and not look for new ways of working to move policing forward with the times. These are precisely the kind of people that politicians like to use to make their point, that policing is stuck in a time that is no longer fit for today. Hitting a professional brick wall made me think about my future and that of my role in policing, I really believed that this was the end of my career as a police officer. I had a professional CV created, joined agencies and applied for private sector roles. I was putting all of my energy into getting out of the job.

That was until I had a conversation with a direct entry superintendent working on my Borough. She sensed my frustration and asked to speak with me about where I saw myself in the next 12 months. This was more than any of her peers had done in the preceding 12 months. She listened with interest to my concerns, sympathised with the lack of lateral development and then gave me her take on the future of policing. This is a highly educated lady with a wealth of non-policing experience behind her, one who has entered a role where scepticism reigns and suspicion as to her position permeates around her. Despite the barriers against her she paints a very pretty picture for policing. Some might say these are the rose tinted glasses of someone who does not know ‘the Job’, to me it was a breath of fresh air. She discussed in depth how she had recently had an input from Simon Guilfoyle and where she stood with regards to performance. She outlined how she would remove performance from the agenda and move towards better ways of working which would negate the need for performance. She talked about recognising talent and utilising those with skills and knowledge in the right places at the right times. Highlighted current leaders with similar principles, thoughts and ideas and discussed how this small group was a growing voice in the organisation. She discussed her own struggles in the 12 months she has been employed, how she overcame them and how she used each struggle as a means to grow stronger and develop. What stuck out more than anything was her appreciation of those at the ground level, the PC’s and DC’s carrying out mission critical work. She was able to share with me individual examples of good work and even name the officers responsible, this level of detail shows how passionate she is about the officers that work on the front line as well as how much she cares about policing.  She is not a perfect individual by any means, in her office hangs a washing line of decisions that she made or didn’t make when she was on call Superintendent. She was analysing each decision and looking at where she could have made a better decision and what she could learn for next time, capturing best practice, learning and creating an evidence base to use in the future.

Her parting shot at our brief meeting was to say to me “don’t leave, we need people like you to mould the future of the job”. I walked out once again feeling inspired and refreshed, ready to take on the doubters and change the things that give policing a bad name and hamper us from moving forward. Many people have their doubts about the direct entry scheme, however in my humble opinion if we had more Superintendents like this superintendent, we would have a stronger, more focused, refined and capable Met, one that is ready to take whatever is thrown at policing over the next 5-10 years. I’m not saying that direct level entry is the total solution but what a direct level Superintendent brings is fresh ideas, new focus and the ability to challenge old, unproductive ways of working and the ‘that’s how we have always done it’ mentality.

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2 Responses to A hope for change: views from the frontline

  1. SJ says:

    I have been in exactly the same position as you, ie studying for a degree in policing and when challenging how we did things being told ‘ that’s how we have always done it’. (Perhaps the only difference was that I was a late joiner and therefore had known life in a different public sector organisation). Anyway, I was fortunate enough to join the HPD scheme. It has not been a perfect journey, I am not perfect and probably share similar challenges to the direct entry Supt you talk about. However, I am now in a position (Ch Insp) to make a difference and people in my area of work are benefiting from my enlightened approach. You are right to have hope, things are changing!

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  2. Having suffered similar frustrations when I was ‘in the job’ many moons ago I can empathise with you. But since retiring from the job and continuing to work (mainly) abroad in the field of leadership development, I had hoped that things had changed for the better. I am most disappointed to hear that they seemingly have not.
    For many years, including whilst in the job, I have tried constantly to influence leaders into adopting a systems thinking approach to performance management and to focus on achieving quality outcomes. I accept that quantitative output measures may be important too, and we should not ignore them, but for leaders to have to consider such measures alone or as the primary factor in the determination of success is what I refer to as the dinosaur approach to performance measurement.
    It is a continuing shame that our political masters continue to demand too much attention to such anachronistic systems and to arbitrary and unnecessary target setting; probably in order to justify decisions and opinions only, and not as a true indicator of public satisfaction, community reassurance and confidence in the police.
    But just like the dinosaur, such outmoded thinking will eventually disappear and forward-thinking, evidence-based learning and more productive ways of measuring performance will be the order of the day. But such change can take a generation. Thankfully, because the police service has the benefit of the intelligence, resilience, and moral courage of the likes of yourself and your Superintendent I remain hopeful for the long-term future.
    Thank you for sharing your concerns and, more importantly, for staying committed to your principles. Good luck!

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