A continuation of my posts on the theme of engagement.
Stop making decisions. Or at least stop taking all the decisions yourself.
Stop thinking that the police have the monopoly on all the good ideas. As one commentator on part 1 of this series said:
“[police] systems reflect a style of policing from at least 30 years ago in the days when it was considered the job of the police and not the public to solve crimes. In fact, it was seen as an admission of failure if the police turned to the public for assistance.”
We need to move on (or perhaps it is move back to when the police were the public and the public were the police), and accept that no-one knows the local community as well as the local community.
Activities such as virtual ward panels can spread the involvement to the wider community. This approach has been tried in Kensington and Chelsea in London, and has delivered some good results – real community intelligence leading to detailed community focussed priorities. In simple terms these are regular online surveys completed by a panel of people (which can be several hundred strong) in their own time, and providing real opportunities for them to influence the areas of questioning, and thus police activity.
A few things to remember:
- The questions must be local, specific and timely
- The process of creating them can be useful in itself
- The panel should be made up of a variety of interests…or you can have several panels (for youth, businesses etc).
The effect on the public of just reading the questions is often to increase confidence in neighbourhood policing – the police are obviously aware of the details of what is going on, and are keen to ask the public’s opinion on local matters.
There are many ways of widening involvement – we just need to actively encourage them, make them real, make them meaningful. Other methods include Twitter/Facebook accounts, live online beat meetings, street surgeries, and yes, even traditional village hall neighbourhood meetings.
So think: How clear is your force on the decision making process, and where decisions can be influenced and by whom?
The ultimate aim should be to only take decisions where professional knowledge is essential, and even then in conjunction with the public where necessary. We should flood our decision making processes with the public…and not just the usual suspects.