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.