Leadership – no place for police staff?

The Neyroud report on police leadership.

Last week the long awaited report on police leadership was published for consultation. It was written by Peter Neyroud, the ex chief constable of Thames Valley Police. The report is intended to propose a way of managing the professional leadership of policing for the challenges that policing faces in the modern world.

The report is in the main very good – it argues well for ACPO to be made an institute rather than continue to rely on the nonsensical but unavoidable cover of a limited company, and it makes a good argument for professionalising police in a number of ways, including appropriate qualifications for police officers – some achieved at their own cost, which have received some media coverage.

I particularly welcome the sections on building a more reflective service. On page 23 the report promotes coaching, 360 degree feedback and reflection, and page 99 argues for a culture shift if people are to develop as professionals. I also welcome the recognition that leadership is relevant to the whole organisation. The report quotes the Centre for Creative Leadership: ”the challenge is not simply to develop individuals but to develop the leadership capacity of a whole organisation”. For me this is key, as leadership occurs at all levels in policing.

The report also mentions (page 115) something I have blogged about in the past – value for money as a personal value. “One of the key values that needs to run across the service is the effective stewardship of the public investment in policing. For this to be effectively done, every role within management in the police service, every leader, needs to have a clear understanding of where they fit and what the expectation of their role is.”. I am excited by the prospect of this being developed further within the service, as I feel it could lead the way in the wider public sector.

There are some questions that I feel are unanswered – what ‘grandfather rights’ would exist for current officers and staff wanting membership of the new professional body for example? I am also unconvinced over the argument against multiple points of entry – it works well in similar organisations such as the military, and I fail to see why it could not enrich the police service in a similar way, especially as police careers move from 30 to 35 years long, and possibly if the Hutton report is accepted much longer still.

There is however something missing from the report; something that from my own perspective as a member of police staff I feel is a major omission. Ultimately it stems from a confusion in the report between ‘police’ and ‘policing’. Police in my view refers to the office of constable, whilst policing is an activity that is undertaken by police forces – police forces that today are nearly 50% police staff.

Police or Policing?

Police staff are mentioned throughout the document, and there is recognition of their importance – for example on page 54 the report states “A key issue raised with us during the Review has been the role of Police Staff within the Professional Body. There has been long standing debate in the police service since the first moves to civilianise roles about the status of police staff and their relationship with attested police officers. Police staff perform a wide range of roles that have become increasingly frontline, many of them supported by specific powers to seize evidence, enter premises and make arrests. Many police staff now have a significant professional qualification such as the Crime Scene and Financial Investigators, and many more are members of other Professional bodies such as the CIPD or CIPFA. It will be crucial that the Professional Body enhances cohesion in the workforce rather than provides a exclusive club solely for police officers, so we propose that the Professional Body provides a framework to recognise police staff qualifications that will see some roles attracting membership and others associate membership. We would also encourage wide representation of police staff across the Professional Body’s Council and business areas.”

On page 47 “…a substantial amount relies on the contribution of members of the police service from all ranks and from police staff. Therefore, whilst ACPO provides the leadership, existing development of professionalism within police service has and will be a collective effort. There are over 230,000 people currently working in policing in England and Wales, over 140,000 of whom are police officers and over 90,000 of whom are police staff,. These staff work in across a range of specialist, professional, uniform and investigative roles; they would not only benefit from a Professional body but also can and should contribute to it.”

There is however (at least it seems to me) a failure to carry through this intention in the detail. The membership levels proposed on page 70 appear to exclude the majority of police staff from membership (apart from a few who are already members of other professional bodies). The analogy used several times within the report is of medicine – but then to extend the analogy, this report tends to focus on the role of Doctors and forget the importance of nurses, midwives, anaesthetists and other professionals. In other words it focuses on police and neglects policing.

A ‘Whole Profession’ view

It is telling that the service, as reflected in the financial tables (table 9) doesn’t even seem to know how many ACPO level police staff there are. As an indication of how any new representative professional body is to be run, that is not encouraging to me. Given that leadership training bleeds across into police staff functions, in a way that the other three areas of development mentioned on page 94 rarely do, it is a shame that the service fails to recognise the professional needs of senior police staff in this process.

Another example is in the discussion of governance – which in most other respects is excellent. Page 53 talks about a Professional Body for policing (note the use of policing) needing “a strong diverse board in order to be truly representative of its members and I would expect to see a high priority placed upon on ensuring a diverse membership both amongst the nonexecutive directors and amongst the police service members … I also see substantial advantages for that President to be supported on the Executive Board by Vice-Presidents from serving Superintendent and frontline roles and Chief Officers – a Police Professional Body that was able to present a consistent ‘whole profession view’ on key issues will be immeasurably stronger and more likely to enjoy the support of the service” Maybe it was unintentional, but there seems to be no obvious place for police staff in this governance structure. Without police staff I am not sure we can have a ‘whole profession view’.

I could go on – Peter Neyroud mentions on page 23 “leadership in policing is a function exercised at all levels of the service; all police officers, from the police constable to the Chief Constable” , and page 121 talks about PNAC with again no mention of police staff, but some might accuse me of looking for offence where none was intended. If that is the case then some reassurance for people like me – a senior police staff graduate of the Strategic Command Course – and my colleagues at all levels and in all areas of policing, supporting the police, would be gratefully received.

After all, if we are to develop policing professionally, rather than just focus on police, we first need a clear understanding about what a police service actually includes – both the roles of police officers and of police staff.

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One Response to Leadership – no place for police staff?

  1. Donald Anderson says:

    This is the key weakness of the review which I have analysed in some detail as part of my full-time role. Sadly, it is reflected in much other literature in the policing leadership cannon despite repeated efforts to remind authors of the divisive effect of allowing it to persist. Any membership framework for a professional body should have unity at its heart; failure to make this explicit will only serve to fuel those feelings of justifiable paranoia!
    Donald Anderson
    Head of Leadership & Staff Development
    Wiltshire Police

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