@wecops – An honest and open debate about the National Crime Agency

 

With thanks to host Lynne Owens 😊

NCA #WeCops

Before I start this most recent blog I would like to say a few general words about @wecops. There has been some negativity concerning the usefulness of @wecops since it started. This feedback has related to privacy, inclusivity, what the aims of debates are and indeed questions about the outcomes of the debates aside from the biweekly blogs. I like to think that we, as a team, have responded openly about these concerns but whilst there have recently been some fantastic outcomes from the @wecops debates (particularly information sharing on CSE, further articles on the use of Twitter as a way of gathering practitioner voice and the influence they have had in the development of evidence cafes with the OU – to name but a few), this week for me epitomised what I personally got involved in the group for and I hope others can see it too.

Frontline cops have felt disenfranchised and disengaged from reform decisions happening to them for a while and this is reflected in research findings from the PFEW, the PD Trust, local staff surveys and universities. This is complex and not for this blog but when I met with Irene Curtis (Barrackslass), Helen King (@HelenKingMPS) and Kevin Purcell (SuptKevPurcell) to initially discuss this idea, the outcome of this most recent debate was what I think, we all hoped would come from the concept. Senior leaders asking questions, listening to the responses and taking them forward in their own workplace. This is what happened this week I believe – thanks to Lynne Owens.

This is a blend of my own analysis of the debate and Lynne’s summary document (which has already been posted). In this, Lynne has already thanked contributors from the 28th September and we thank them also. More importantly in this summary Lynne highlighted the usefulness of the information gleaned about a range of areas associated with the National Crime Agency which extended way beyond the three questions posed. The information has already fed into a meeting (which Lynne openly tweeted about) about improvements, communications, recruitment issues and career pathways. We all know that feedback is not always easy to hear but the response given to this feedback is vital as is what is actually done with it. Therefore I for one applaud Lynne for following these issues up so openly too.

Lynne has also promised to keep officers up to speed about any decisions made concerning this feedback in the future.

So to the debate…. It was hard to keep up but this is the summary. Whilst so many issues were raised there were common themes which I hope are reflected here in this blog.

Question 1: How well do you understand the role of the NCA?

The results on this were mixed. There was more clarity of what the agency did at higher strategic level but perhaps more confusion about how their work linked into the local forces and their priorities. I find this particularly interesting having just come back from a European police conference (CEPOL) and quite clearly hearing about what occurs at a global level impacting on the local and how key that knowledge is for policing in the future. I guess the NCA came to mind whilst I was there particular in relation to how this, as a national resource, has a key role in connecting the local information with the national and the link this then has further at an international level.

As @SgtSteveHaywood tweeted it would be good to understand the operational links and pathways between forces and the NCA. This was considered more invisible for the frontline and it was described by @DannoReynolds as a closed world and not that well publicised. However I must add that this was not a universal opinion. Indeed officers from Norfolk and North Wales for example, voiced that they felt more informed about the links between the two.

One option for raising awareness was voiced by @NWPEastern who tweeted about the deployment of trainee investigators from the NCA spending time in local CID which raised awareness on both sides. There is actually a lot of research on this. Inclusion and involvement can help with buy in, it makes issues and people real and engages those that perhaps usually feel less involved in these issues. This seemed to be a positive idea in the main and is something perhaps that that the NCA could move with as an option to improve communications with local forces. Local SPOCs were also suggested which has occurred within other areas of policing in the past quite successfully. @SgtJoeSimon stated you can’t beat a visit and an NCA face for forces. Webcasts were also suggested and again certainly after hearing about some really innovative training ideas last week at CEPOL this may well be worth exploring.

It was great to see Lynne stating in her own summary about how she wants to hear more about the services provided by the NCA being relevant to the current needs of policing and how they are thinking through how to consult on that (at every level).

Communication issues also extended to recruitment, pay, the advertising of roles and fairness related factors. Lynne has already fed back in her summary that recognising the best talent from all backgrounds is critical and the NCA are now working with the College of Policing about becoming part of the secondment scheme that the College is working on. Given the issues with sharing of information and the perceived disparity in communication across the country this seems like an excellent idea for both parties

There was also some discussion about the possibilities around becoming an NCA special. As @NickDowningMPS tweeted about placements etc. – “that would enhance skills, build relations and potentially raise morale. Win, win for all”! Lynne was very positive about this and again this is something that has been fed into her summary and after @wecops internal conversations. She acknowledged that the process of placements and specials is not entirely clear and this conversation helped clarify that and point out the level of interest in this as an option.

What was also very positive was the NCA twitter account was tweeting links to the process of actually becoming a special as the debate went out. This is very encouraging and highlights how this debate was listened to during and after the debates happening.

Question 2: What threats do you think need a national focus and national crime agency capabilities?

This raised many topics that officers felt should be a priority for the NCA. Interesting from @skii39ffk3f3g3s was the mention of how capable local forces are to deal with some of the growing issues like, for example, cybercrime issues. As @CmdrChrisGreany stated – local issues need to look beyond what happens geographically (locally). I refer again to the recent CEPOL conference where the link between local and global was mentioned constantly – a critical point and links to evidence based policing / research options and indeed actions. The local factors are now often related to the global and therefore working together is key. Perhaps this is something the NCA can use to communicate and sell their role and services at a local level?

Protection of the vulnerable was raised and cross border issues that can go missed locally with the resource issues at play in the UK. Vulnerability was a key factor and as Lynne stated it “is littered throughout the threats we consider. It needs to be more in our language”.

@Inspmarkevans raised the critical point about joined up thinking and approaches. Indeed considering the discussion about cross border working and the need for increasing communications and understanding of how the local and national work together this is a critical point. You have to get the communications right initially.

Lynne Owens acknowledged that there could be more done with evidence based practice and an acknowledgement that much local in force research is very locally focused, on local issues and initiatives. I think this is something that requires further thought in the future.

Question 3: How can the NCA work better with police forces?

Many of the issues raised in the first question were raised again here. @SgtJoeSimon said “make sure we know how to get hold of you and what you can do. Then we will use you more and build relationships”. Again face to face engagement came up, liaison officers and the need for increased communications generally.

One of the most positive issues in this debate was how many people tweeted about this being such a great discussion, if not one of the best held on @wecops to date. Given the main issues raised were about engagement it seems this forum did its job tonight. @wecopsCaroline requested more transparency to help police generally understand how to connect with the NCA. Others mentioned open communication at ALL ranks and forums to share ideas and information. Participation is key here, engagement, inclusion and all the factors that @wecops are trying to achieve in line with the overall aims and initial proposal for the scheme.

@SgtJoeSimon raised a key point about PCCs, their local prioritising and the need for them also to be more knowledgeable about the role and priorities of the NCA. This is a key point for joining up the local, national and beyond. @PCTristanB – great point about victims being based in local communities but with the technology the offenders can be global. Hence the join up is vital!

Perhaps quote of the night which summarised the key themes of inclusion and communications came from Lynne herself – “We do great work but gain legitimacy if the public / colleagues know and influence what we do”. In line with ALL the evidence base about gaining buy in from external and internal influencers this is really organisational and procedural justice summarised in a few words.

It was hard to keep up with the threads happening on the night and many excellent points and ideas were raised. I think the most obvious and clear thing for us as a team was seeing the level of engagement / feedback / further questions coming from the host. Thanks again for a great debate.

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