Neyroud’s Vision: a bridge too far?

The quality of police leadership, or as I’ve previously said, the often distinct lack of it, is something that has been the subject of hot debate in the service for some time. It has long been my view that the process responsible for selecting leaders is at fault however, others suggest the problem starts with the initial recruitment and selection of police officers.

Academics in policing (like the one below) have suggested; there is a distinct lack of evidence based intellectual ability in the service. Given the numerous examples of new recruits who are unable to spell, or construct a grammatically correct sentence, I would tend to agree somewhat.

That said, policing requires a lot more than just academic ability. There is also a need for some life experience, a reasonable understanding of social issues, a personal desire to provide a service to others, some ethics and a good measure of empathy. These traits and skills are all areas that are often lacking in today’s police officer, both at leadership and ground floor level.

So after some delay, the Police Leadership Report, prepared by Peter Neyroud, the ex-CEO of the NPIA is finally available for open scrutiny.

The main recommendation is the establishment of a professional body into which the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) should merge but not be recreated. It should be a chartered company accountable to the Privy Council through an executive board with independent members and be responsible for leadership development, training and standards for the whole service… (policeprofessional.com)

Before looking at the proposals in any detail, I wouldn’t be me without adding my flippant and cynical observation; I hope this didn’t cost the public purse as much as Neyroud’s last bridge. 😉

The report actually hit the Home Secretary‘s desk in the Home Office back in February however I suppose realistically, it was probably too much to let it loose at that time, better to let the dust settle a little after Tom Winsor’s police pay review and the Hutton Review into public sector pensions. After all, how much radical change can you realistically expect one particular group to soak up and deal with all in one go?

As I’ve said, given the so far hotly debated subject matter of Neyroud’s ‘visionary’ report, it is hardly surprising there is already some equally hot initial comment, even before the outcome of any public inspection or stakeholder consultation…

…Publication of this review marks a key moment in the debate chief officers have been having over a long period about how to secure the necessary reform to ACPO that we seek. We note the review places ACPO as the “head and heart” of a professional body. As leaders of the service we recognise such a body must be open to all who deliver policing and its inspiration shared across all ranks and grades… (Sir Hugh Orde – President of ACPO)

Given ACPO’s somewhat self-important status in the past, and Neyroud’s previous position in the ‘old boys (and girls) network’, it is hardly surprising they like his appreciation of their self-appointed ‘voice of the service’ status however, it is also refreshing that they (ACPO) acknowledge the remainder involved in the service are also important stakeholders in the equation, for a change.

…The most radical and far reaching recommendation is to create a service wide Professional Body. We support this proposal in principle. However, for this to happen it will be important to recognise that this should actively engage all parts of the Service and will fail if it is seen simply as a re-branding of the current Association of Chief Police Officers… (Police Superintendent’s Association)

The Superintendents have offered a broad brush comment of basic approval. What I find interesting (when reading between the lines and reading other sources of comment recently) is; despite their expected SMT aspirations, the Superintendents actually appear to be airing more on the side of the rank and file than has previously been the case. What a refreshing change.

…If implemented, this report stands to have a huge impact on police officers and the structure of policing in England and Wales, so it must not be viewed in isolation. Within the space of a few weeks police officers have been confronted with the Winsor Review of pay and conditions, Hutton’s report on pensions and now this.  If ever there was an urgent need for considered and structured reform through an open and public Royal Commission on Policing, it is now… (Simon Reed – Vice Chairman, Police Federation of England & Wales)

Simon highlights, confirms and sums up the malaise of issues currently impacting upon our police service. Contrary to popular media led public opinion, the British police service is not and never has been, an organisation resistant to change. The problem for many years has been the quantity of change, some good, most not so good and inevitably, implemented for reasons of political and/or personal self advancement and popularity.

The time is probably right to implement change however just for once, let this time be for the benefit of the organisation as a whole, along with the society it serves, instead of furthering the career of some bloody politician or senior police officer!

It remains to be seen if Neyroud’s answer to police leadership is simply another academic fake representation of the Bridge of Sighs or, could it be a piece of educated guess-work? Either way, many will still see it as simply, a bridge too far!

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About Dave Hasney

National Coordinator for UK SMART Recovery - Previously a Recovery Worker and prior to that a Management Consultant and H&S Practitioner - Kept sane by Angling, Good Food, Real Ale & Wine - Cynical thoughts sometimes developed from others.

Posted on 06-04-2011, in Leadership & Management, Police, Public Service Babble and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. A comment that I read today over at Inspector Gadget kind of sums up how changes to police training thus far have been delivered and received…

    Probationer Training – Another Fine Mess: The ELP had an emperors new clothes feel about it from the beginning. Something about replacing the traditional National Police Training College system with a mixture of Higher Education College based nonsense, some ‘e-learning’ packages and a small amount of diversity rubbish before being thrown head first into a patrol team, being immediately snatched for prisoner handling teams and then emerging after two years never having really learned anything of consequence.

    Eventually (and predictably) after accusing anyone who challenged this nonsense of being ‘resistant to change’, ACPO themselves saw the ludicrousness of this folly and sacked the whole idea, but not before blowing loads of tax-payers money and driving off all the mature candidates, who immediately rushed off to forces not engaged in this nonsense to start the proper business of being a real police probationer.

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  2. A number of points spring forth from all of this.
    1. Spot On Dave. Acadedic qualifications do not automatically imbue the candidate with the common sense and other practical skills to fulfil the role of police officer. Neither do they guarantee the candidate will be a natural strategist with people skills to inspire confidence in and command respect from subordinates. In full agreement that the service should always be looking to improve the standard of candidates, but like you, I fear that Mr Neyroud adopts the elitest view that academic achievement will naturally bring practical ability. A far more valuable measurement would be the practical abilities derived from assessment of a combination of Knowledge, Skills and Attitude.
    2. Frankly, I am surprised that Theresa May chose to commission Mr Neyroud for this important review. As the former head of the NPIA, allegedly responsible for setting the highest standards in policing, and then repeatedly courting contraversy with profligate spending (he talked of inheriting consultancy arrangements… why did he not simply stop using them?). His Westminster apartment was paid for by the tax payer who also paid the associated benefit in kind tax for him. He oversaw a set of accounts that was perpetually millions in defecit, again all paid for by the tax payer. His retirement was conveniently timed prior to the demise of the NPIA he was responsible for creating. Why would Theresa May force closure of the NPIA criticising it as an expensive quango whose functions could be conducted elsewhere at far less cost, and then when the dust settles, appoint its former head to conduct this report? Stinks to high heaven.
    3.ACPO as an organisation were instrumentally synergised with NPIA, as brother organisations. Messrs Neyroud and Orde will undoubtedly look out for each other and their “muckers”. The recommendations about ACPO within the report are a joke. Whatever his protestations, it will be just a rebrand. If the recommendations are accepted, what’s the betting that the existing ACPO members move over to the newco club? Yes, the structure of ACPO is all wrong, but that isn’t the only wrong that needs righting here. If all that happens is that ACPO rebrand under a different name, the malpractice will continue and the Government will have supported it.
    4. One major point has been overlooked in the report. My cynical brain can’t help but feel this is deliberate. We all know there are “Too Many Chiefs” both at ACPO and SMT level. I have covered this in detail previously. The report represents a convenient smokescreen to deflect attention away from this basic fact. The structure of management within policing needs looking at before leadership and training. The costs and cuts program should look at how the forces can merge or collaborate more effectively first, reducing the hieracrchy within top heavy organisations, before even considering how to improve the leadership skills.

    It all seems arse about face. Surely the first priority MUST be to trim the fat, then optimise the resources that remain? But no, as ever, the ACPO & SMT boys look after themselves first, protecting their fiefdoms and benefits for as long as they possibly can, using Peter Neyroud as their academic persuader with Theresa May and Nick Herbert.

    Until and unless there is some dratsic culling at the top, the rank and file will see this review for precisely what it is, yet another deflection from the priority and painful task that should come first.

    Rant over.
    Best regards

    Steve
    Thin Blue Line

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  3. (Ad hominem ad nauseum…. Shazbot – do you have anything to say about the ~report~?)

    The main point of the report is that the police should aspire to be more like the other major public professions such as nursing, medicine, teaching etc. We expect teachers, nurses and doctors to have a degree these days – why not cops? As a taxpayer I want my police to practice the best policing possible, based upon a mixture of judgement, experience and evidence based research.

    Whether this report’s recommendations are a bridge too far, of course, remains to be seen. The question is – if not these recommendations – then what?

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    • The tone of Shazbot’s comment would tend to suggest some personal axe to grind perhaps?
      As I’ve said previously, I fully support the ethos of a fully competent/qualified and professional police force and, to a certain extent, I agree with your comment; “we expect teachers, nurses and doctors to have a degree these days – why not cops?”
      The problem with that broad brush expectation is often the quality and content of degree level study today. Avoiding the ‘dumbing down’ argument about our nation’s education system, we appear to have fallen to a level where we almost blindly accept academic qualification as proof of overall worth. Where as, a proven academic ability is only one small aspect of a competent and efficient police officer.

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  4. Neyroud is a self serving, self important Home Office clone.
    Because he is an academic he feels everyone should be so they can aspire to be as bright as him..
    He proposed the NPIA ( No Point In Asking, No Policing Input Apparent, Not Pertinent Idea Academic ,National Pointless Idea Agency, Neyroud Proves Irelevant Again…I’ll stop there) because he wanted a job that was notionally more important than any Chief officer and showed everyone how brilliant he was.
    I remember him on the news after they had that shooting in Thames Valley where the firearms team were held off because the policy said they shouldn’t go in. A woman died as relatives tried to give first aid because the ambulance wouldn’t go in ‘cos old bill wouldn’t.
    Neyroud blamed national policy for the inaction. Guess who wrote that policy when head of ACPO Firearms.
    Tail end of last year just as he retired as a Police officer (!?*) or COP as they like to call them these days , he did an article on how police pensions needed reforming, just as he collected his, complete tool.
    He actually stated on the radio the organisation needed to be BIGGER than NPIA/ACPO combined.
    If you ever see a group of modern Chief Constables together make a mental note of how many of the male ones are short blokes with very large heads for their very large brains full of home office arse kissing ideas and sound bites.

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    • Although Neyroud doesn’t appeal to me as a person (comes across as lacking any genuine personality), and many of his ideas don’t sit well with me (too full of pomposity and methods designed to promote self-importance) I have to agree with the need to further develop a ‘professional’ and ‘qualified’ service. Preferably one that has a set of qualifications that are universally recognised and transferable (where possible) to the world outside of the police.

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