Since long before I retired from the police and like many others, I became increasingly disillusioned by the levels of inept management within British policing. Although I often expressed my views on the matter, they were often ignored. This was mostly due to my lowly position in the hierarchy of policing, along with a (perceived) lack of any formal qualification actually ‘allowing’ me to formulate or have an opinion…
When there was any interest expressed in my opinion, it was usually shown by platitudinous (deaf) ears. I had to do things differently, firstly I sought to add credence to my opinions with academic study. Secondly, I turned to blogging and social media where I set about trying to publicise the issues I was concerned about, the ones that were impacting on operational police officers and the public they serve.
I engaged in regular debate and contributed to various blogs and forums looking at policing in general, police reform in particular and got my head around some management theory. I started to take an even greater interest in the wider public sector issues, government austerity measures, politics and the policies impacting upon police service delivery.
During this mostly educated (but also sometimes anecdotal/opinionated) engagement with others, I have found some very interesting, knowledgable and highly experienced people on my virtual travels. In addition to all the somewhat simplistic (but still valid) opinion of many, I found the views and sound observations of Inspector Simon Guilfoyle to be of great interest.
I contend that all numerical targets are arbitrary and cause dysfunctional behaviours, but argue for relevant and proportionate performance measurement within a systems context…(InspSimon Guilfoyle)
Simon, in a similar vein to Steve over at The Thin Blue Line Blog (but by different methods), seeks to cut out the cancer of current management methods in policing. His ‘systems’ thinking, in addition to being interesting, is also presented in a manner which is very easy to understand.
Simon produces ’evidence’ based and ‘academically’ sound information and opinion, often published in humourous manner via his blog on the subject (see here). He has highlighted many of the issues currently driving the predominant management methods within policing today. He previously pointed out how; the impact of targets on policing delivery are a crime in progress. There is (thankfully) an increasing group of people within policing who are now in total agreement with his views, I would also count myself as part of that group.
In addition to the interesting and acclaimed pieces of work he’s done on the subject recently, Simon has now produced a book about ’systems’ in policing (see below). His book is receiving some great comments and many recommendations; it has to be commended to anyone responsible for management within policing.
This book could be game changing for the police service. Systems thinking theory can be viewed as complex and challenging, but not for Simon Guilfoyle. In this book he provides a comprehensive and cohesive explanation of the theory based on years of research and his practical experience of applying systems thinking in a policing context…(Ch.Supt. Irene Curtis)
Simon’s book is also available as an Amazon Kindle e-book (click image) and more reviews can be found HERE.
Intelligent Policing: How Systems Thinking Methods Eclipse Conventional Management Practice by Simon Guilfoyle - A Triarchy Press Publication
Foreword: John Seddon
Book type: Paperback (and e-book)
Today, despite mostly trying their best, many police managers are actually prevented from doing the ‘right’ thing for their officers, for policing delivery and for the public they supposedly serve.
On this morning’s Chris Evans Breakfast show (BBC Radio 2); Baroness Julia Neuberger, whilst discussing the news of Margaret Thatcher’s recent demise alluded to a predominant problem here - ”If you want to lead, you won’t always be liked.” Too often, our political ‘leaders’ (and police managers) are far too preoccupied with public opinion and press relations. They are so tied up with pandering to that opinion, be it actual or perceived, they end up being just too busy to actually do their job.
There is no doubt that management within any public sector organisation is an undertaking that is an onerous task these days however; the most important task is simply to manage the delivery of a good ’service’ to our society, nothing more and nothing less! Perhaps the time has come for police ’managers’ to try some new methods?
You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew…(Albert Einstein)
Try some ‘systems thinking’ in your police leadership and management, not for you but for us!
Random examples of previous articles from my blog
- Police Scotland: The way forward for British Policing? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- #SocialMedia: Inspector Gadget and Satyagraha (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- British Policing: The Engineer of It’s Own Demise? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- #Policing – Hard times ahead but still got my fingers crossed (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- #Policing – The fallout from #Bettison (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- British Policing: (Avoidable?) UKcop #FAIL (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
I read an interesting Guest Blog by John Clifford at No Offence, the award-winning cross sector criminal justice community. Whilst examining a recent report by Lord Stevens, Clifford raised some interesting and pertinent issues, ones that are having a significant impact upon policing in the UK…
Although I partly agree with Stevens I have to say I also tend to agree with some of Clifford’s observations. But many of the points raised by both gentlemen although valid, only partially hit the proverbial nail on the head when trying to understand these issues. There are many varied and undoubtably problematical factors having a negative impact upon our police service today, officer moral is merely symptomatic of the remainder of the issues.
Both observers agree that “police morale is low“ (for differing reasons) and I (like many others) am also convinced that assumption is actually a resounding fact, but also for some differing reasons.
Let me start by saying that, contrary to popular political (and media) lead belief, the vast majority of police officers are not resistant to organisational or process change. It’s one of the aspects of the job that attracts many recruits in the first instance and that constant change was evident throughout my thirty years of service. That said, many of the causes for poor morale currently revolve around the constant state of flux that officers find themselves trying to work within.
Much of that ‘flux’ is down to poor management skills at various levels within the service; management and direction delivered by individuals trying to sell themselves (or ‘their’ service), as opposed to the political and/or financial influence from external sources that many police managers try to suggest.
Even with the current personal impacts of changes to their conditions of service and remuneration, most police officers are still stoic about the situation and continuing to deliver service to the best of their ability, whilst enduring all the mostly politically driven service reform. “I’m not happy but, unlike many, I still have a job” as one serving officer pointed out to me the other day when I asked him how things were going.
Getting back to the blog penned as a response to the recent report by Lord Stevens, Clifford’s opinion is that Stevens was inferring that; the low morale of the police is entirely a result of the failure of politicians to offer them unqualified support. Lord Stevens expresses his viewpoint based upon statistical data from a workforce survey.
The statistic comes from a survey of 14,000 serving officers, from constables to chief superintendents. The research was led by a Professor Jennifer Brown of the London School of Economics…(telegraph.co.uk)
The survey data tends to suggest a large proportion of police officers would no longer vote for the Conservative Party (as many have traditionally done in the past). More worryingly, “fifty-six per cent of those surveyed had recently contemplated leaving the police” and “Ninety-five per cent of serving officers do not feel the Government supports the police,” says Lord Stevens.
We have a national crisis of morale which threatens to undermine the work our officers are doing… (Lord Stevens)
Whether or not the data is anything more than indicative remains to be seen. As I’ve observed on numerous previous occasions; statistics (especially those commissioned by the government or agencies of that government) are often manipulated and/or presented in such a manner that tends to ”prove’ the particular point being raised. But Clifford is also correct when he says:
It is my experience that people who are aware that they are providing a bad product or service in their work do indeed suffer from poor morale, and I do not believe police officers to be immune from that…(John Clifford)
Now I’m not suggesting that this research, led by Professor Jennifer Brown of the London School of Economics, is anything less than factual and accurate but I would ask; is a survey of 14,000 out of a possible 134,101 officers a sufficient slice from which to inform the assumptions being made?
Police officer numbers in England and Wales have fallen to their lowest level in nine years, the Home Office says…(bbc.co.uk)
The full-time equivalent (FTE) officers in the 43 forces of England & Wales is in decline, it stood at 134,101 at the end of March – a fall of 5,009 officers (3.6%) compared to a year earlier (see here) and that decline appears to be continuing. Who knows, perhaps the continued decline will prove the statistics to be even more valid in the future?
There are two main paragraphs in Clifford’s piece which (in my opinion) sum-up where his viewpoint is coming from. The content suggest there is not only a government ’hatred’ of police but also a public one.
I think that the best response to the [Stevens] article is that, if he is correct in the inference that the government hates the police, for once they are in accord with the general public…(John Clifford)
I agree with Clfford in the first of those two paragraphs when he says; “there are several reasons for this” but, like so many other commentators, he appears to skirt over the significant negative impacts generated by the methodologies of our media machine. A press where even the so-called broadsheet types tend to operate with tabloid mentality when it comes to talking about our police service.
Clifford is also right when he says ”increasing incidence of police officers policing the policeable” are impacting upon public support for the police. He points out how ”pursuing prosecutions of basically law-abiding people for minor offences” and “one-off offences by people defending their person or property” has alienated the public from the policing process.
He is again correct in his assumption that too often; “if one tries to report an escalating pattern of threat, the police are [often] powerless to take preventive action.” More worryingly he describes how the police are “disparaging and unhelpful toward those who report it, often turning on the person reporting the issue with threats about what will happen to them if they were to take action themselves.”
In the second of those two paragraphs Clifford outlines his next point about the lack of respect for police officers. Clifford says that Stevens (read police) wrongly believe that this lack of respect is “a product of societal and governmental reductions in standards.”
I don’t think it is wrong to believe it is a societal issue. There is a commonly held understanding that our police should (and mostly do) reflect the standards, ethics and morals of the society from which they are drawn. That fact alone also helps to endorse Clifford’s final observation of the paragraph in that; “…the actions of most MPs is certainly evidential of a considerable gap in morality between them and the general public too.” The ‘gap’ to which he refers, in a society of predominant self-interest and self-importance of the individual, perhaps isn’t actually as wide as he would like to think it is.
Clifford continues by saying that; ”erosion in the respect in which the police are held is [in his opinion], rooted in their steadfast refusal to address failures within their own ranks.” This may be “an attitude that began a very long time ago but, were the cases of “officers fabricating evidence against people whom they regarded as deserving of their comeuppance” really as prevalent as he suggests? I doubt it and again, it’s another factor that in many respects, is yet another reflection of predominant traits in our society.
Clifford does mitigate this claim by pointing out the fact that (in many cases), they were quite correct in their assessment of the individuals concerned but that is neither a defence nor relevant. In order to maintain integrity in a free society with democratically defined legal system, one which is based upon ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and relies largely upon judicial precedent, we have to have the belief that it is better for ten guilty people go free rather than one innocent person being convicted.
Clifford rightly suggests there is a separate argument to be had as to whether our legal principles remain practical or appropriate today. In a society that is as dysfunctional as it now is, with as many ethical and moral standards as there is diversity of ethnic and social standing, can we still be confident in saying what is/is not ethically or morally correct, let alone criminal?
That said, we would also do well to consider the fact; many of those so-called ‘travesties of justice’ in the past have only latterly been succesful at appeal due to advances in forensic science, and/or the presentation of some new ‘evidence’ being presented, that wasn’t available during the original court cases.
Around 7.30pm last night I saw a police van drive up the High Street without any lights. The vehicle was driven up onto the footpath and pulled up outside a shop where the alarm was sounding. The officer got out of the vehicle and briefly looked into the shop window, tried the front door then drove off along a pedestrian area before turning back onto the road, still without lights.
The above type of incident does just as much (if not more) to undermine public support for the police. Although relatively insignificant, it unintentionally displays a ”do as I say, not as I do” instruction. It suggests that there are rules for the public and a different set for police officers.
And each time a group of off-duty officers get together for a night out on the town, have fun and get loud and leery, they would do well to remember the eyes of the public are upon them. When interacting with members of the public officers should ask themself; “would I be happy with being spoken to in such a manner?” With or without the uniform every officer, on or off duty, are ambassadors of the service.
Society observes your every move when you become a police officer; you can’t be a diligent professional at work and then a total arse off duty. Or worse, be an arse on and off duty!
It wasn’t (and still isn’t) the odd bent detective who accepted a regular bung from some drug-pusher, fence or dodgy car dealer who have scuppered support for the police. Thankfully that type of individual is so rare as to be insignificant in driving public opinion. No, all those officers who thought/think they can simply behave as they wish, on and off duty, are the ones who have screwed public support for policing!
- Police morale is plummeting, says Lord Stevens (telegraph.co.uk)
- ‘National crisis’ in police morale says former head of Met (independent.co.uk)
- Ask police for help? I wouldn’t bother, Met officers tell poll (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Morale crisis’ hitting police (bbc.co.uk)
I’m often branded as a Time Waster by my family and friends. I like to think they look upon the trait as an endearing factor but who knows? Whatever the real root of the descriptive, it was one that was reinforced this Christmas with a gift from a friend. This ‘basic guide to basically doing nothing’ suggested I would be provided with the opportunity to ‘bone up on being bone idle’…
Being well versed at taking procrastination to new levels, this hopefully tongue-in-cheek gift, invoked a wry smile when I received it. But as the well-known proverb actually points out, in reality time and tide wait for no man, which is probably one of the main reason why so many of us are so preoccupied with the management of our time, especially in business circles.
Time management: the act or process of planning and exercising conscious control over the amount of time spent on specific activities, especially to increase effectiveness, efficiency or productivity. Time management may be aided by a range of skills, tools, and techniques used to manage time when accomplishing specific tasks, projects and goals complying with a due date…(wikipedia.org)
Whilst those who observe society can see, much of mankind is generically obsessed with time these days, our business anylysts are continually crying out; Time IS Money! That may be so but isn’t the obsession many of us possess actually with the money and not the time per se? Especially for those who live in environments governed by profit and loss.
I’ve never had any inclination or desire to spend hours and hours with my head buried in self-help books myself, certainlynot ones which tell me how to manage my time. That said, my working life is and always has been governed by time. But it’s all about awareness, priorities and importance as opposed to obsession.
I’ve always been a good time-keeper, I’m never late for work or appointments and I usually complete all work tasks correctly and in a timely fashion. I’ve always been organised with important information but here’s the rub, what others find important may well be irrelevant to me. I don’t believe I need ’self-help’ however; judging by the sheer number of such publications, I can only assume that many people actually do?
People like David Allen, ‘the guru of personal productivity’ (according to the Fast Company Magazine), is one of those who has made a very succesful (and profitable) business out of telling other people how to manage their time.
The author of bestsellers like Getting Things Done et al, inspires us all to work better, not harder. Now that is a sensible idea and also, one of those principles which I’ve actually spent a lifetime perfecting.
I do believe in getting a job done, whatever that job may be but why work at it harder than I need to? I always aim to do any job to the best of my ability, what I don’t like doing is working any harder than is absolutely necessary to complete the task, if at all possible. Failure is often due to some blithering idiot or lazy arse not fulfilling their role in the task at hand. You then end up working harder to mitigate against or disguise their failings, especially if those failures are likely to have a negative impact upon how you are valued or perceived by an employer for example.
Learning these ‘principles’ must obviously be a time-consuming task in it self, else why would there be any need for a Time Saving Summary of David Allen’s Book on Productivity? I for one much prefer a slightly more simplistic ethic for time-management.
Although slightly off track (in a literary sense), my work and life ethic can probably be summed up in the title of a book by Janet Street-Porter – Life’s Too F***ing Short. I don’t need some self-important business ‘guru’ to explain to me how to manage my time because, at the end of the day; one man’s waste of time can actually be another man’s productive time. You see the importance of ’time’ is also relative to the individual.
Building Resilience by Wasting Time: …research suggests that engaging in some activities we assume are nonproductive—as tiny exercises—may actually be a smart way to spend time, especially at work. These practices can make people more-resourceful problem solvers, more collaborative, and less likely to give up when the going gets tough. In other words, they can make people more resilient… (Harvard Business Review)
Aside from all the clap-trap ’science’ of business, human beings are not robotic machines; try to push them too far in that direction and you will never get the best from them. It is said that, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy, the secret is to ensure that the individual can differentiate between which time is right to do either.
I’ve often found that the ‘science’ of time-management (or any other business ‘science’ for that matter) tends to be about; training people to do something they lack appropriate skills (or inclination) for in the first place.The driving force for that training being maximum productivity and profit.
So often these days, mostly due to poor selection processes, many organisations appear to have a constant battle on their hands, trying to make square pegs fit into round holes. They are unprepared to accept they may have recruited the wrong person in the first place, either by mistake or after having been duped by the applicant. It’s a common situation these days in the often less than honest quest for the higher salary. Also often, current employment laws prevents any speedy remedial action but is that such a bad thing? After all the original mistake is usually an organisational one.
You can apply all your X verses Y theories, add in a little theory Z and be an expert in Maslow’s hierachy of needs but if you can’t even select the right person for the job in the first place you’re kind of stuffed. In addition, if you don’t (can’t or won’t) empathise, understand and effectively communicate with those who you manage, you may as well pee in the wind. The application of more Scientific Management is unlikely to be the saviour you desire, in any business.
The 1st requirement of any good manager (to my mind) is first and foremost; be a human being, one that people can like, relate to and actually be inspired by. Don’t act like a bloody machine and remember, those you manage aren’t robots. They won’t respond to a constant barrage of electronically communicated instructions and unattainable targets, at least not productively. Especially when those edicts have originated from behind a “do as I say not as I do” self-important closed-door.
I’ve never seen the point in rushing headlong and lemming like towards death, no a more leisurely and methodical pace, with time to enjoy the experiences along the way is much the better option for me. Why spoil the journey for the sake of a little extra cash?
It’s time to call a halt to all this overt Taylorism which unfortunately tends to be embedded in the work ethic of so many of our organisations and their management today; much of it is almost bordering on eugenics. We all need a work-life balance where the sanity and health of the individual must come before the organisation and cash.
Signed: A Productive Time Waster!