Don’t Go Changing

So much of the current talk in policing is of change.

Of the pressing need for reform.

And, truth be told, there is a great deal in this job that needs sorting out.

But, amongst all the conversations about things like modernisation and transformation, it seems to me that we’re in danger of missing something of fundamental importance.

Where is the talk about all that is precious in policing?

About the things that must never change? About the things you cannot put a price on, but that we cannot afford to be without?

Things like…

(1) The simple desire to make a difference

Ask most good Coppers why they joined and the answer will be a simple one. They just wanted to make a difference.

They still do.

It was never about money or status, recognition or reward. It was just about changing the world, one life at a time.

It still is.

(2) The privilege of public service

As the old wisdom suggests, ‘whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant…’

That precious and old fashioned thing called duty. That willingness to spend yourself on behalf of a cause that truly matters.

(3) Discretionary Effort

Policing is built and sustained on the willingness of our best people – officers and staff – to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Endless unpaid hours, countless sleepless nights, unnumbered dawn starts and late, late finishes.

That willingness to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go again. Even if you’ve only had a couple of hours’ sleep.

(4) Police Culture

I can’t remember the last public conversation about police culture that didn’t begin with a presumption of the negative – that it’s a bad thing, something to be done away with at all costs.

But here’s the thing… In my experience, 80-90% of what makes up police culture is deeply good.

It’s what persuades remarkable women and men to do extraordinary things.

Police culture is brave. Endlessly brave. It is patient and kind. It is compassionate. It pursues justice. It stands in harm’s way. It runs towards.

It is an admirable thing.

(5) The willingness to take on more

As if the day job weren’t challenging enough, there are so many in policing who offer themselves up for more.

Public Order officers are volunteers.

Hostage & Crisis Negotiators are volunteers.

Armed officers are volunteers.

They take on even greater risk and even greater responsibility – and all for no additional reward, save the satisfaction of knowing that they have given their all.

We would be in a whole world of trouble without them.

(6) When to act / When not to

Perhaps the most significant power given to any police officer is the power of discretion: the choice of when and how to act – without fear or favour.

Used wisely and well, it changes lives.

It’s a simple as that.

(7) GSOH

So much of policing is laugh or cry stuff.

And I have laughed longer and harder in the company of Coppers than perhaps anyone else.

God forbid they ever lose the smiles on their faces at the end of another long shift.


In all this inevitable talk of change, it seems to me that there are some things that we must never lose. Things that matter more than I can say.

Police Memorial


6 thoughts on “Don’t Go Changing

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  1. Sir. I was in a meeting with you and others when you told a DCI to stop talking when you were addressing the room. Wow .I thought. MD has not been the same since you left the place.
    Thanks for the memory.

    DC Paul Smitherman.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great overview John, with read across into the FRS, Ambulance Trusts and fellow Emergency Resonders. Far too easy in the current climate to adopt the negative viewpoint and bemoan the performance, culture and ‘perceived’ ambivelance of hard working dedicated staff, who go to work every day, contribute fully and are driven by a desire to make a difference.

    Whilst reform is essential in responding to emergent risk, changes in legislation and in ensuring we remain focussed on providing the very best service for our local communities; what we should not lose sight of is the ability (and flexibility) of our frontline and support staff in delivering within the business as usual offer and the demand that places upon them collectively and individually.

    Thanks – Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  3. When greeting brand new cops at the start of their career I always welcomed them to a fantastic opportunity to do the right thing and reminded them that this would not be a nine to five, Monday through Friday experience. Always expect the unexpected. Just because your tour of duty is scheduled as 0700-1600, or 1400-0000 or 2200-0700, this is just a rough guide, we aim to let you go home at the designated time fit and well, but as they often said on “Stingray” “anything can happen in the next half hour”. #Job like no other is correct.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thing that have to be reformed in the police force must start AT THE TOP. First by getting rid of the unwanted PCC’s. Total waste of tax payers cash. Do we need two ACC’s. Why are HR depts. so over populated. Not harping on but in my day we had a Personnel Dept. Made up of mostly bobbies with injuries that get thrown on the scrap heap now. How to retain experience. The police service also needs to go back to the days before being politically correct stopped you doing your job. You also got backing from most shift sgt’s and shift inspectors. I feel much better now


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