Much talk at the moment about the future of policing.
Amongst the headlines and proposals:
- New recruitment processes
- New entry routes (three of them – and much animated talk about degrees)
- New approaches to assessment and professional development
- New role profiles
- New Licences to Practice
- New ideas about pay and reward – including the introduction of Accredited Practitioners
- New submissions to the Pay Review Body
And then there are the ever-new challenges of technology, of cross border criminality, of international terrorism – and of the complete unknown. All the while, police officers of the immediate future will be expected to deal with the long term costs to society of short term cuts to frontline services.
But there is a danger that all this talk of ‘policing future’ sidelines the very pressing concerns of ‘policing present’.
It’s been said before, but it bears repeating:
- Crime is rising – particularly crime of the most serious kinds
- Demand is rising – not least as a consequence of the gaping holes that have appeared in the delivery of other critical public services
- Complexity is rising – as crime crosses frontiers both geographic and digital
- Risk is rising – and every officer remains an explicit terrorist target.
Just as money and police numbers are falling to levels not seen in a long, long time.
In the midst of all this, the pace and scale of change has been absolutely relentless: in the view of many, too much, too quickly and not all of it for the better.
We now have fewer people, with fewer resources, doing a job that is more difficult, more demanding and, frequently, more dangerous than it has ever been before.
But there are still more than 120,000 of them out there: the everyday heroes and heroines who police our streets. And, amongst the talk of degrees and detectives and direct entry, we need to be doing a whole lot more to invest in and look after and celebrate the people who are already there. The people who are policing.
Then there’s policing past.
And really, the heart and soul of policing hasn’t changed in almost 200 years. It’s still about saving lives, finding the lost, comforting the broken, defending the weak, protecting the vulnerable, confronting the dangerous, risking it all.
There are a handful of fundamental qualities that have always marked out the best police officers:
- Communication Skills
- Common Sense
These are the things that never change – that you cannot put a price on and that we cannot afford to be without. These are the things that make policing extraordinary. These are the things that make the best police officers the very best that people can be.