Losing the Plot

There’s a danger that I’m going to start repeating myself…

But, I wonder whether some of us have started to lose sight of what policing is – what it is that we’re here to do; what it is that we stand for…

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The job of a police officer isn’t to count things; it’s to save lives.

The job of a police officer isn’t to fill out spreadsheets; it’s to find the lost.

The job of a police officer isn’t to do what’s convenient or expedient; it’s to confront the violent and pursue the dangerous.

The job of a police officer isn’t to run round in circles in response to the latest headline; it’s to follow the evidence, without fear or favour.

The job of a police officer isn’t to satisfy the whims of the uninformed; it’s to protect the vulnerable and comfort the mourning.

The job of a police officer isn’t to walk on by… Sometimes, the job of a police officer is to risk it all.

The fact that we don’t always get those things right (and, let’s be honest, sometimes we get them spectacularly wrong) doesn’t make them any less true.

It seems to me that we may be in danger of losing the plot.

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Earlier this week, I had the privilege of attending the Commissioner’s annual awards ceremony.

And I sat and listened to the stories:

• Of the two PCs from Bexley who challenged an armed and exceptionally dangerous man. One of them was shot;
• Of the two PCs from Southwark who fought with a knife-wielding maniac. One of them was stabbed;
• Of the two DCs and a DS in South East London who entered a burning building and saved the lives of two children;
• Of the ‘Super Recogniser’ – a Police Staff member working in Custody at West End Central – who identified 368 criminals in a single 12 month period
• Of the Police Cadet who lost his Dad when he was 8 and his Mum when he was 16 – and who stood in front of us as an absolute triumph of a human being;
• Of the DI from Specialist Crime who led an investigation into an Organised Criminal Gang resulting in 68 arrests and the seizures of 15 firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and 200 kilos of Class A drugs;
• Of the endlessly brave and compassionate and resilient and brilliant and kind.

They are policing.

And I salute them all.

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At the same time, I wonder whether some of us have also lost sight of what police leadership is; what it is that we’re here to do; what it is that we stand for.

The first job of a police leader is to put people first every time – both those we serve and those we serve alongside.

The job of a police leader is to listen; and to hear; and to do something about what’s being said.

The job of a police leader is to get out of the way, to make things easier not harder – to enable our best people to keep on doing what they do best, without the endless and unnecessary obstacles that we throw in their paths.

The job of a police leader is to celebrate relentlessly the achievements of our officers and staff – whilst also challenging, swiftly and even-handedly, those who fall short.

The job of a police leader is also to challenge the hostility of the misguided and the malevolent.

The job of a police leader is, on occasions, to say sorry.

The job of a police leader is to explain why change is necessary – and how it is going to make us better at what we do.

The job of a police leader is to understand the consequences of reform, the difference between a saving and a cut – and the compound impact of all that has happened in recent years.

The job of a police leader is also to explain that everything can’t be a priority – that there are some things that just have to matter more.

At no point is it the job of a police leader to put themselves and their own career aspirations ahead of the good of everyone else.

And the job of a police leader has to be about more than just fine-sounding words.

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20 thoughts on “Losing the Plot

  1. Mark twist

    I personally don’t think the police & their leaders get the recognition and respect they deserve , with all the cuts the forces across the UK are pushed to the limit ,yet still providing exceptional service ,by keep our streets safe and helping the most vulnerable in our society ,my local force have been so supportive with all these things for. Me and my family of late ,I pay huge respect ,& gratitude to them and all the forces of the UK 🙋👮📹🚓

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  2. vjearle

    Losing the “plot”, I should think, is part of the territory. Who can stay focused when there are deadlines, personalities, unexpected complexities, and so on? I suspect that policing is a lot like teaching: it requires that you wear several different hats all at the same time.

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  3. Steve

    Policecommander…more atttitudes from leaders like you would make policin a better place! I’m sorry to say that, from my experience (23 years in policing) attituides like this are rare

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  4. Greg

    Good words….and I wholeheartedly endorse all your sentiments. Sadly, I think that your words will fall on deaf ears where the current government are concerned. I retired upon completing 30 years service in january 2010, and the writing was on the wall even then. However, even recognising that major change was upon us, I had no idea just how swingeing and dramatic those changes would be. The police service that you describe so eloquently will, within ten years, be little but a distant memory. Unbelievably sad, and indeed tragic, but this administration will not stop until they have effectively privatised every part of the police and turned it into a business like any other.

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  5. skaur01

    Boss I fully endorse what you’ve written, though unfortunately these are not the views of the majority. These days we have officers with 14 months service becoming Sergeants on accelerated promotion, I don’t blame these fine folk but I do blame the organisation for the immense organisational risk placed.

    Officers are now just looking and focusing on evidence for their next rank rather then policing, I see Excel spreadsheets being created for no apparent reasons.

    I see highly respected leaders being passed over time snd time Spain even though on many occasions they have been been in acting positions over 5 years.

    The organisation sais it supports the rank and file, unfortunately this interpretation is not believed by the majority a recent example,

    The corporate timeline for Promotion from PC to PS was to be held in January 2016, on the 2nd February a high level meeting at NSY was held where it was decided to move the start date for this process forward to May 2016 knowing full well that there 823 officers would no longer be eligible due to there Sergeants tickets expiring in March 2016, this is just 1 example of how the majority of our leaders fail us.

    Many talented officers are actively applying for external jobs and too be honest I really don’t blame them.

    The job is well and truly……… you know the rest!

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  6. Sally Benatar

    This is exactly what police leadership should be about. Very well said. This blog should be posted onto our new intranet forum to challenge and inspire all our senior leaders, not just those of us who read your blogs here.

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  7. Doc M

    Firstly, I understand and agree with all the previous posts – to some extent.

    Secondly, I truly support all your thoughts. Unlike some others, I have met other senior officers who share your commitment/ values, thankfully. And in these increasingly challenging times these values & principles are going to be desperately needed and need to be desperately defended. This needs to come from ALL of us (The police are the public and the public are the police).

    I know many forces & teams & individual officers /staff have been and are working hard to maintain a high standard of service to their public by many means. I also know that over many years officers & staff have made commitments of time & dedication that has been detrimental to their personal lives & that of their family/friends. We need to stop asking or expecting this – and challenging robustly those that assume that this is a given of the job! I know it is often part of the consequences of taking a job that is based in public service – and I salute & support those who choose that path. But I agree that we need to better support people who are willing to take on difficult and traumatising jobs, we should all fight for a better understanding/appreciation, whether in management or political roles or being a member of the public.

    Finally, the challenges will obviously continue – at the very least financially. This will impact on “targets”, recruitment, staff morale, I could go on…But I would wholeheartedly support Policecommander in his desire to do his utmost to provide the best service to the public, given limited resources & a genuine interest to protect his staff & upholding the law in the public interest.

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  8. julieutchison

    I couldn’t agree more! Well said. Leaders are there to shine the light on the talent in front of them, not to shine themselves. Leaders should enable their teams and create confident, capable decision makers who are not checking over their shoulder to see when they are going to get stabbed in the back by someone on high. Exactly why we need a new breed of leader who opens themselves up to developing a different style, collaborative, courageous leadership. http://www.transformingperformance.co.uk/blog

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  9. Mike b.

    Is there anyone who can confirm this I was considering a career in the London Met police until I did some research about it and here are some of the reviews I found….how come no one hears about this?(media,newspapers) it is really outrageous if this is true…..But It cannot be this bad? Can it?

    ”I worked at Metropolitan Police Service full-time (More than 5 years) Pros I’ve recently resigned from the MPS after a little over 5 years. If you’re lucky enough to be a graduate quite simply DO NOT join the MPS. The frustration, shifts work (7 days working, 2 or 3 days off…), exhaustion, atrocious working environement, violence, bullying senior management, absence of training etc etc etc will likely have a catastrophic impact on home-life…
    There are a few positives which are important to bear in mind, unfortunately please PLEASE ‘don’t believe the hype’!

    1) Secure-ish employment; however, officers facing protracted disciplinary & ‘misconduct’ proceedings for the slightest of errors or percieved errors has exploded over the last 3 years in a bid to remove ‘less cost-effective staff from the organisation’ i.e. those that joined prior to 2013 & whom cost more to employ!
    2) Subsidised travel within the MPS/M25 area – costs officers circa £720 p.a currently, however likely to increase in 2016-17 to around £800 +
    3) Once in a blue moon the opportunity to help a genuine ‘victim’ or person in need. Most of the time it is the same circle of individuals involved in 95% of all crime, over and over again….
    4) Well intentioned colleagues most of whom really do did join for the right reasons
    5) Paid sickness
    6) Personal injury insurance
    7) Occasionally exciting

    Cons In no particular order:
    1) Awful training – initially very short and self-funded (£1000+). Limited further training on commencing full duties.
    2) Limited/no career progression due to contraction of manager numbers
    3) Colossal workloads, especially as a Detective
    4) Very high attrition rate from the service – in excess of 8% annually currently (My team lost 7 officers in 5 months during 2015) The MPS is losing +50 officers/week!!!
    5) Dangerous situations for which there is little decent training – you’re left to simply ‘make do’. If you make a mistake of any kind, you’ll be up for investigation which takes months and months
    6) Rock-bottom morale
    7) Absurd and increasing levels of bureacracy, procedures, paperwork and management demands – most of which are utterly unnecessary!
    8) Lack of respect between colleagues, in-fighting, politics, character assassination, rampant theft of personal items from locker rooms
    9) Bullying tactics to try and improve ‘standards’ rather than creating a positive learning environment
    10) Absence of respect from the public
    11) Micromanagement
    There are simply so many. If the salary and benefits were significantly improved, it may be a job worth considering. Simply, as it is now I couldn’t recommend the MPS to ANYONE. Show Less Advice to Management Almost impossible to start. I was lucky to have got out and would never, ever under any circumstances re-join.”

    ”Reading Alex’s article, it was as if I was reading the story of my time in the Police. I worked in a ‘County’ force (sorry, Service) and I resigned after 5 1/2 years service, having volunteered as a Special Constable for the 8 1/2 years prior. I gave 14 years of my life to the Police and when I resigned, I went with no-one noticing. No exit interview was offered, my Sergeant took my warrant card, notebook and bag of kit and I didn’t even get so much as a thank you. The lads and lasses in my Section were so busy they couldn’t even say goodbye. I had worked on a response section since joining the job. In that time I had been driven at and only because I managed to jump out of the way did I escape death or injury. I’ve been bitten, had broken bones, narrowly missed being shot, been followed home by gun crime criminals…I could go on. My experiences here are not unique and I am sure many other officers have faced much worse. In the 18 months prior to leaving I was working in a unique environment in policing which gave me the opportunity to work with other government agencies. The role was high profile and carried a lot of responsibility. The role also gave me the opportunity to work with people from outside of the police family. In fact, when I resigned, the people I had been working alongside (who weren’t from the Police) begged me not to leave. They said that I was the only decent police officer they’d ever met and they realised that you can’t tar all police officers with the same brush. When I joined the Police I thought it was going to be a job for life. I had aspirations and had a plan in mind for my future. I had been on some superb courses and was fortunate to tutor new officers. However, things started to change and we lost focus as a public service. Sir Robert Peel said that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them. However, this didn’t satisfy bosses who were still very much part of the ‘performance brigade’. Proving that the area you had been policing during your shift had been crime free was not deemed a success. In early 2011 it became apparent that Policing was going to change and not for the better. Budget cuts began to hit and an already impossible workload became even bigger. Crime figures were ‘falling’ yet my workload seemed to be getting bigger. The problem was that during a 10 hour shift I was expected to be doing 3 things at once. It couldn’t be done! My stress levels were off the chart…if I was lucky I would get 3 hours sleep a night. Why? Because despite trying to switch my mind off, all I could think of was what I had to do the next day. Of course, I knew it wouldn’t get done as something else would crop up. Finally, in 2012 I had had enough. I speak to my colleagues now and their morale is rock bottom. I have a friend who has now been in for 9 years. He has applied for a job at £19k a year. Every time I bump into a former colleague they tell me how they are planning their exit – e.g. studying law degrees, doing sports massage therapy, setting up their own business, even quitting with no plans (as enough is enough). When I read the comments of the Home Secretary it angers me. I am shocked that she is so reluctant to listen to the real life accounts of people. Unless you’ve done the role of a police officer you can not even begin to imagine the stress and effect it has on your life. Of course, when my former colleagues read the comments of the Home Secretary, they once again wonder why they even bother! They cannot believe the disdainful way in which they are treated.
    My life has moved on and I have exciting things going on. I have never been as happy and have never slept so much! You can keep replacing police officers with new recruits, but when the experienced officers have all finally gone, I hope to be in another country!”

    ”I have been working at Metropolitan Police Service full-time (More than 5 years) Pros I’ve been a Police Constable, and now a Detective Constable, since 2008 having worked in West and North London within a number of departments. Prior to becoming an officer, and after leaving University, I worked in the City and for a Media company.
    The MPS is currently experiencing the highest number of officer resignations in its history – in excess of 60/week. This is up from circa 4 per week less than 3 years ago. Personal exit interviews are no longer being undertaken due to the number of officers leaving, with a survey being undertaken by a private company in a bid to keep the catastrophic attrition rate ‘managed’ and ‘out of’ the public domain.
    This report, which I’ve tried to ensure is as fair and impartial as possible, is designed to be a short insight into the world of the ‘modern’ MPS.
    Along with this report, please read ‘Why I Quit the Thin Blue Line’; by Alex Stewart (The Guardian) which provides an exceptional and real insight into the reality of working at the MPS.
    1) Relatively secure job
    2) Subsidised travel within London (MPD)
    3) Sickness pay – full pay
    4) Some interesting experiences
    5) Occasional camaraderie
    6) Standard Annual Leave provision + 22days/year on commencement of service
    7) Possibility of on occasion, assisting a person in genuine need of help.
    Cons There are considerable and ever increasing negatives to being a member of the MPS which I’ve done my best to list below in no particular order:
    1) Astonishing micromanagement
    2) Salary decrease, reduction in London Allowance is pending and significant pension changes resulting in substantial financial loss and additional 5yr working life.
    3) Shift work (Day Shifts e.g: 7 – 4PM, 2 – 10PM, 3 – 11PM Night Shifts: e.g 7PM – 7AM, 10PM – 7AM) with many days working and very few days off in-between.
    4) Little/no career progression due to budget cuts; significant reduction in manager numbers across all departments.
    5) Daily threats of violence & physical abuse 6) Absence of managerial support and proportionate & sensible decision making
    7) Bureaucracy is truly staggering. The simplest of job is as inefficient as it is humanly possible to make. Words fail me here.
    8) Long, long hours due to: delays and cuts in services of partner agencies (solicitors, NHS, mental health teams, interpreter services, custody services)
    9) Reduction in staff numbers and loss of experienced staff result in significant absence of
    10) Atrocious quality, or entire absence in employee ‘training’ schemes – e.g. no training scheme to assist with the ‘Trainee’ Detective scheme resulting in officers thrown in at the deep end and expected to ‘work it out’.
    11) Terrible work-life balance & challenges to marriage and family life.
    12) Staggering incompetence
    13) Despicable bullying culture from management teams with simple bureaucratic errors now routinely resulting in officer ‘misconduct’ proceedings lasting weeks, or months.
    14) Morale at its lowest level in MPS history
    15) Daily increased in pressure and individual workload
    16) Revolting, 3rd world working conditions – filthy, rat-infested buildings; broken kit, and equipment strewn across offices, few suitable eating areas….words fail me here but the working environment has to be seen to be believed.
    17) Highly-fractious & largely negative relationship with the public
    18) Little or no support and positive encouragement from Senior Management
    19) Staggering workloads – front line Detectives simultaneously investigating 25+ protracted and significant crimes.
    20) Absence of any public recognition or respect for hard work.
    21) Routinely expected to work for no overtime ‘just to get the job done’ with limited or no support Show Less Advice to Management Too many to mention, it is an insurmountable task in reforming the MPS.

    Advice to ALL applicants considering applying to join the MPS:
    1) review the above report fully 2) speak extensively to police officers directly 3) DO NOT belive the positive rhetoric projected by the organisation 4) Read ‘Why I Resigned from the Thin Blue Line’ by PC Alex Stewart”

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    1. policecommander Post author

      It is undoubtedly very challenging at the moment… But this remains the best job in the world. Over the last 24 years, I’ve met some idiots – but the vast majority of people I have worked alongside are amongst the finest women and men you could hope to meet….

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  10. Pingback: Losing the Plot | nickongoya

  11. Sweet Nan

    There are so many variables to police work, and differences in the multitudes of locations all over the world. As an outsider, I can only express my appreciation for the difficult and dangerous work officers do to protect the public.

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  12. Pingback: Losing the Plot | thegentlemancaller100's Blog

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