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.