Dear Alex

Dear Alex –

Your article for the Guardian has been read by a lot of people. And rightly so.

The thing is, you’re not one of those embittered souls with an axe to grind and scores to settle. You were one of the best PCs I’ve worked with during my service – and you remain a very fine man. I know you give a damn – which is precisely why you were so good at your job and why we all need to listen to what you have to say. Even if it’s uncomfortable. Especially because it’s uncomfortable.

I’ve been involved in a career-long love affair with policing – and with the Met in particular. Over the last 22 and a bit years, I have seen it from the most privileged of positions – from the inside. And when it’s good, it’s very very good – in fact, nothing else comes close. I talk often about the ‘everyday heroism‘ of the people who police our streets – and it is my privilege to serve alongside the very finest of women and men. They go into places and do the things that are beyond most of us – and do so with a mixture of humanity, courage, compassion and true brilliance. I will never tire of saying how proud I am of them.

But the fact remains that this is a time of extraordinary challenge for policing – certainly the most challenging I’ve know since I started out. And it’s not just about austerity – though the numbers are eye-watering. It’s also about the changing face of crime, unprecedented variations in demand for police time, demographic change and the need to act and adapt at a speed that feels faster than is good for anyone.

Much of it is beyond our immediate control – either as individuals or as a service – but the one thing we have absolute ownership of is the way in which we choose to respond. And the way in which we choose to treat people along the way.

Policing is all about people: the abused, the abandoned, the lost, the hurting, the addicted, the afraid – those whose calls we answer. And, of course, it’s also about those we serve alongside – those extraordinary people with whom I have shared some of the greatest adventures – and deepest sorrows – of my life.

To misquote a former US President, ‘It’s people, stupid’. That’s all it’s ever been about….

And that raises a critical challenge for police leadership.

I have always held the view that the first responsibility of a leader is to serve – to bring out the best in those around them; to get out of the way and enable their best people to give their best on behalf of the public that we are all a part of. I fear that too many of us lost sight of that somewhere along the way.

There’s a difference between listening and hearing. And there’s a world of difference between hearing and actually doing something about what’s been said.

For my part, I promise to do all I can. And I know I’m not the only one.

John

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7 thoughts on “Dear Alex

  1. Janet Davies

    Our elder son has just read this; his exact comment was, ‘ I wish he (yourself) was my Commander. He read, understood and replied to the letter.’ Thank you for writing what you did and raising the spirits of a fast becoming disillusioned DI.

    Liked by 2 people

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  2. Adam B

    You have a long way to go John, wife left this week after a combination of 30 years Police Officer and Police Staff service. She became staff after an injury on duty caused her to leave as a Pc (Wpc!). Anyway, due to a stress related illness she has been off sick over six months, so was on half pay. She saw the CMO who couldn’t have cared less, and made my wife feel even worse about herself, and the day after seeing the CMO, Dr L, she handed in her notice.

    Her reply from her line manager (by text, not to the email to his job account) was, “you’re doing the right thing” and “it’s only got worse, I wish I could join you”.

    So my wife gave what she assumed would be her month’s notice. A few days later a letter arrived from an HR department somewhere saying, “you’ve given your notice and *will be finishing on day x” *day x was three days before the letter was dated, so my wife had been “ex-Job” for three days without even knowing.

    She emailed her line manager who was also surprised and completely unaware.

    Long story short, when she went in to give in her staff pass and locker key, not a single person of the dozen or so she said goodbye to had anything but words of support and good humoured jealousy for her “lucky situation”…..Something is very, very wrong in the culture of the organisation, I can vouch for that from my own experiences too, but I was just using my wife’s example as it is more recent than mine.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Adam B

    Sorry, one other point, no one above her Band D/Sgt line manager made contact at any time during her six month absence, since she gave her notice or upon her leaving….30 years service, seen off the site and thanked by her Band D/Sgt.

    Liked by 2 people

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      1. Johan

        I read the letter and before even seeing the profile picture I knew it had been written by you sir. Much admired leader and I know you’re not just paying lip service having only briefly worked with you at NI.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Kris

    How many more dead bodies in a shift? How many more call-outs per shift? Today was 140 – not including inherited ones from previous shift.

    This is unsustainable.

    Then, to top it off, we have Theresa May et al advising officers to “stop crying wolf”.

    I would invite her to stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    I would also invite many senior officers to wake up and speak up.

    Liked by 1 person

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