The Things That Have to Matter More

23 years ago, I made a promise – a promise to serve, without favour or affection, malice or ill will. It’s a promise I plan to keep.

These are challenging times for policing – arguably more challenging than at any other point in the last 70 years:

– The New Economics of Austerity
– Public Scrutiny & Expectation
– Operational challenge of an entirely new order
– The complexity of demand
– Technological development
– The changing face of crime
– The spectre of International Terrorism
– Politics and ideology
– Demographic transformation
– The impact of the past on the present (Hillsborough and Stephen Lawrence and on it goes)

The need for financial savings is unavoidable. (If the first round of cuts made your eyes water, the second will likely make your ears bleed). And, at the same time, the need for policing reform is undeniable.

But, in the headlong rush to hit the bottom line, we cannot – must not – lose sight of the things that have to matter more.

Policing is, fundamentally, about two things – and two things alone:

(1) The people we serve:
– the level of protection we offer (preventing & detecting crime)
– the quality of the service we provide
– the levels of confidence in policing that exist within communities
(2) The people we serve alongside:
– the Everyday Heroes and Heroines who police our streets

Serving the public with fewer resources will have to mean doing our job differently. Very differently. And there are some things we will have to stop doing altogether. Time for some honest, grown up conversations. Time to explain that we will always be there when men of malice or violence pose a threat – that we will always be there when the vulnerable are at greatest risk of harm. But time also to explain – to reiterate – that everything can’t be a priority.

In the midst of it all, we will never stop caring – never stop wanting to make a difference…

Whilst the world is turning at dizzying speeds, the heart and soul of policing haven’t changed for the best part of 200 years:

– It’s still about saving lives
– It’s still about finding the lost
– It’s still about protecting the vulnerable
– It’s still about confronting the violent and the dangerous
– It’s still about stepping into harm’s way in defence of strangers
– It’s still about compassion for those who find themselves stumbling at the ragged edges of life
– It’s still about justice

And the people we serve have to matter more: the beaten and the broken, the abandoned and the abused; the traumatised and the terrified, the chaotic and the confused. I made a promise to them…

Policing is also still about standing shoulder to shoulder with the very finest of women and men.

It’s a noble cause – a high calling. And it’s not for the faint-hearted.

For every story told about a bent or a bigoted Cop – and there are some – I could tell you thousands more about the rare courage and compassion of the remarkable people who stand on the Thin Blue Line.

The best of them are the possessors of virtues that you cannot put a price on – but that we cannot afford to be without. Such as that precious and old fashioned thing called Duty – the capacity and the willingness to go and go again in the face of the the unimaginable.

Police Officers pay a price for the things they’ve seen; the service they’ve given; the places they’ve been. It would be impossible to do this job for any length of time – with its repeated exposure to extreme trauma and distress – and to remain untouched by it all. Everyone has their stories and everyone has their scars.

These are the people we serve alongside. And they too have to matter more.

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21 thoughts on “The Things That Have to Matter More

    1. surman1972

      I appreciate youve a difficult job, and as a Liverpool fan Hillsborough is sonething i follow with interest, as initially the fans took the blame. I feel we are becoming raciist as a country, because the government seem more interested in appeasing the incoming rather than the born and bred brits, this needs tackling.
      I do feel we should go back to a culture where the bobby on the beat was revered and respected, whats wrong with a bobby giving a youngster a clip around the ear.
      I recall regular visits at school from police & fire crews, i wonder if these still happen.
      As a society, and a country we seem to want to apologise fir ghings our ancesters did, until these matters are addressed and ss you say matter more.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  1. James A Cowan MBE

    Sir,

    You make some very good points and I feel suure that the majority of police officers do a very good job, but the Service as a a whole is let down by a lack of visibility with many people struggling to remember when they last saw a police officer on foot patrol, even in a city centre. Then, when you do see one there’s a good chance that, if it’s a male, he’ll have ‘designer stubble’ and his hat will be in his hand rather than on his head. In a word, he’s scruffy! This lack of dress standards, you only get one chance to make a good impression, extends to the highest ramks with the chief constable of Police Scotland recently appearing on national television wearing his designer black ‘T-shirt’ with ‘Police’ written on the sleeves!

    Then, if we turn to confidence in the police, how is it possible that a membsr of the public, my son-in-law, can suffer an assault causing grevious bodliy harm, his jaw was broken in two places, and the police, in Cambridgeshire, take no further action. Even though this assault, by a gang of youths, took place at 4 pm in tne afternoon and was witnessed by a member of the public who identified some of the assailants!

    James Cowan

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Christopher Hearn

    Once again – we applaud you for a well-written article however…the UK police cannot keep doing more with less regardless how motivated or bullied each officer may be. Radical reform is required but although it may look effective on paper the reality is prevention is better (cheaper in the long run) than cure and to achieve that requires high & covert policing on the streets of this country both day & night.

    Liked by 1 person

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  3. Unsolved Major Crimes

    I see your heart in this and I agree 100%
    When I joined a Canadian police force in 1979 and found myself a few years later shot 5 times and left to die I also believed #1 in protecting the public.
    After all who really watches over their lives and stuff at night while they sleep?
    However in my time of need they in turn turned and looked the other way as I was setup, shot and investigators spoiled, dumped and destroyed the evidence…. the case remains unsolved and unexplained even though the chief resigned and the original cops and dispatchers were shown the door and the force was closed and disbanded. Four others in the general area were also closed and disbanded.

    No matter what happen I still believe in protecting the innocent, period.
    You may read what happen if you choose to visit my site.
    Former Shediac Town Police Officer

    Liked by 2 people

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  4. Pingback: The Things That Have to Matter More | Shediac1981; A Blue Wall of Silence

  5. Doc M

    Some thoughts on the blog and posts. I, and many others who appreciate the demands of the role, am very grateful to the vast majority of officers who commit themselves to protecting me and my community and feel their contributions and subsequent distress are often underestimated. Those that let the Forces they work for down do a disservice not only to the public, but their colleagues too.
    We are very fortunate in the UK that we have a police service that is clear it does and continues to want to police by consent of the public – hence not all officers armed, secondary authority to prosecute, etc. This is a valuable mandate for those on both sides of the “Thin Blue LIne” in my opinion.
    It does, however, present problems that many people misunderstand. The decision to arrest is one a police officer has – the decision to prosecute lies with the CPS – but only within UK law! Most of the general population have a limited understanding (including me), in my experience, of the real limits of police legal powers. Many will assume that something most people would agree “was wrong” would be “arrestable” (not sure that is a real word) and find officers not willing to be persuaded to this outcome unhelpful, lazy or callous – failing to understand that the requests made of the officers would be not be legal.
    Financial cuts are and will continue to be a reality. This will inevitably reduce the no.s of uniformed officers on the street. The nature and prevalence of certain crimes is also changing, e.g.,cybercrime, requiring a different approach. All that said “policing by consent” and effective policing in general relies significantly on having the trust of the community and the “Intelligence” that they provide (generally and specifically). This will be dramatically reduced without face-to-face contact with police officers the community members trust. Once lost this would not be rebuilt quickly, and that needs to be part of any restructuring considered.
    I think that serving officers’ and potential future officers’ views also need be to be considered. Given that they, hopefully, will be taking the same Promise – what do they need as part of their role to make that meaningful to them as they put themselves on that challenging and dangerous Line?

    Liked by 2 people

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  6. Once A Cop

    Commendable article, but as policing changes – largely due to cuts in public finance – capacity is being moved away from the often cited ‘bedrock’ of policing – neighbourhoods – which does not readily include your listed objectives. Ensuring quality of life appears to be no longer a police priority, whilst it always will be a public priority.
    In one city as an illustration a neighbourhood team has in three years shrunk from twenty to nine; alongside the abolition of ASB cars.

    Liked by 1 person

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  7. Kate Murphy

    As the Mum of a serving officer I know only too well the stress of the job and also the rewards. I was so proud the day my
    Son fulfilled his childhood ambitions. He too wants to make a difference and he cares about his position and promises with a passion. It is mainly a thankless job but there is the majority who like you care.

    Liked by 2 people

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  8. Conor Mahony

    Dear Sir,

    As a police officer it worries me that the met may consider implementing cuts in a manner similar to that of the police in the Rep of Ireland. Family members of mine who serve there have been part and parcel of cuts disguised as reform (or what their minister of justice refers to as ‘smart policing’) by slashing budgets; not supplement retirements and causing the a service to dip from 14,000 officers to less than 13,000 – and that including additional services such as border control/immigration, traffic duties and crimes which would be handled by the NCA here. Every day there are articles showing what the lack of resources has done to a country of over 4,000,000.

    If anything I implore you to not be fooled by the ‘less it more’ concept. Morale is low and cannot go lower. Vehicle procurement, personnel strength and ongoing training are essential to prevent us going down the slippery slope and losing all contact with the public.

    Scruffy or not we need to be out there.

    Liked by 2 people

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  9. policedetective

    Sir,

    Fundamentally, I agree with what you say. Unfortunately, I think the reality is somewhere else. Even if the corporate intention is to look after people, the view from the front line is that our workforce don’t matter. Every mistake is seen as a potential job-loser, which creates a culture of fear and paralysis. Those of us who “get stuck in” inevitably make mistakes, and so often this is followed up by a snotty memo or impersonal email rather than any attempt at understanding. It doesn’t feel like a supportive culture, but rather a blame culture.

    Sympathy and understanding seem to be thin on the ground and, I’m sorry to say, mainly from above. I take good care of my team and do my best to look after them, but I have one vehicle between 15 detectives. They can’t get to their enquiries even when they have time to do them. We share desks. We buy our own stationery. The promised technology we were going to get has been cancelled. Our access to specialist support services is always secondary to SC&O. “Borough,” even though we are the face of the service, are simply not a priority – yet it is by our performance statistics that the service is measured.

    Training is now almost non-existent. NCALT has taken over and course allocations for anything are almost impossible. I accept that we are building a new training centre at Hendon on the site of the old one, but right now we are letting our people down by not investing in them properly and they are being sent out to do the job with inadequate preparation. When they get it wrong, it is they who have to carry the can – not the organisation for letting them down. Our WBA process is in tatters with assessors carrying in excess of 100 candidates each that they are supposed to be supporting; this is the process by which we are supposed to be training and developing new leaders of the service.

    I recently came off a course where I met a fellow DS whose team had been 1 + 7 strong. It is now down to 1 + 2, with four of her team off sick with stress. One of her remaining team is on anti-depressants. On my team of 1 + 7 (now down to 1 + 3), I have lost three to stress and my own marriage is on the rocks as a result of the long-hours culture I have been forced to adopt in order to try and get the job done. My service ethos has cost me dearly and I’m far from the only one. Occupational Health, the support network that every organisation needs for its own staff welfare, has been all but wiped out. One of my team, referred for post-natal depression, received her first “telephone consultation” three months after she had already been back at work.

    Our canteens have all but shut – although, of course, not at NSY, Hendon or ESB. Our sports teams and clubs have almost drained away to nothing. For staff associations, we are referred to join the Civil Service ones instead. In the grand scheme of things, these may seem like minor points – but they are all intangible little benefits that shape the culture and morale of an organisation. They make people feel valued. I’m afraid, at the moment, most of my people feel that they aren’t.

    Throw into this a culture of relentless attack on the service from the media (often with scant regard for the truth or facts), politicians and pressure groups and the end result is a very demoralised service that is losing good people hand over fist. It’s all very well to say that our people have to matter more and I agree with you, but I don’t know where the leadership is going to come from to change this situation. You were one of the most caring Chief Supt’s that I ever met and I don’t doubt that there are many others. Help us.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. policecommander Post author

      Really, really grateful to you for taking the time and trouble to set out your concerns – and for doing it so honestly and constructively… For what it’s worth, I hear you. And I promise do do all that I can. Challenging times…

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  10. Shijuro

    Simply: we are being destroyed. I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories but it seems clear this is for some purpose- probably to privately fund us in some way.
    An oft said cliche but this is not the job I joined more than 28- years ago. We don’t investigate things anymore. It was once true that you had to chase any and all leads to get an enquiry past your sarge…not anymore. Now it’s harder to keep enquiries running! Quantity and cherry picking are the name of the game.
    In my experience welfare is entirely dependant on how lucky you are when you get assigned your sarges and insp…
    Personally I’m lucky…now…but I’ve had some corkers…
    When I joined this was a job people hardly ever left before retirement… It was so rare it made for big gossip. Not any more. Now we all know people going even long serving- I know of one chap I joined with that left after 20-years to be a repairman for the council on a third of the money… Less stress …
    So… We are now the last of the long service bobbies. The future holds short term contracts and no pension … Still… I could be worse- I could hav just joined…

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. Adam B

    “Those of us who “get stuck in” inevitably make mistakes, and so often this is followed up by a snotty memo or impersonal email rather than any attempt at understanding.”

    So, so, so true…before I left, I sent an email to an individual that had sent me joining instructions for something or other, asking why there was a whole paragraph, in red ink, telling me what would happen if I failed to attend, who would be notified of my failure to attend, possible disciplinary action I could face, etc etc.

    I hadn’t said I wasn’t going, I hadn’t failed to attend, and yet, as usual, after 25yrs, was still being treated like a naughty child again.

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. KristinHeimark (@stokenewington)

    Beautiful blog.

    And what exactly is the leadership – scratch that – “management” – doing about abysmal morale?

    Your post starts with the false premise that the policing budget must be cut. Please don’t trot out the doing more with less mantra when every call out requires human interaction. People have two eyes, two hands and one brain. Try talking to a DC about her workload. Try talking to a response team duty officer. They are at breaking point – and they want out.

    Please tell me someone has a plan, because words aren’t cutting it.

    Liked by 2 people

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  13. Edward Cully

    Why then, do we (increasingly) treat ‘our’ people so badly? I recently had to serve a letter on one of my officers that said in longer words “please stop being deaf in one ear or we will soon take 6% of your pay away”. In the comments section I recorded that in my view the letter was a clear breach of the DDA and would be happy to attend any future tribunal to say so. However the effect on the officer was the same!
    Certain Seniors , particularly those recently released from Bramshill like to talk about procedural justice. They seem less keen to discuss organisational procedural justice. I don’t know why , there is a ready evidence base in the staff surveys..

    Liked by 2 people

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  14. Patrick Cassidy

    Your personal values of commitment to community leap out and to the strong helping the weak.
    Management of sickness ,effectiveness in evidence gathering ,and still the problem with sexual and racial stereotyping are not addressed I your piece.Would you accept that these need to tackled ?

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Pingback: The Things That Have to Matter More | Shediac1981; A Blue Wall of Silence

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