PC Upile Mtitimila is a neighbourhood officer for Cheshire Police and a participant of Police Now’s 2016 cohort. Today he writes about his secondment with PA Consulting and how it’s changed his approach to his job.
I am a probationary police officer, 14 months into my career working as a ‘Beat Manager’ in Widnes in Cheshire and I’m out of my comfort zone. I’ve traded my utility belt for a suit jacket and my weighty standard issue, black (not so polished) police boots for immaculate, polished shoes. Being from the North I’ve also overcome one of the greatest challenges possible: blending in to the London commuter crowds and navigating the London Underground without my cover being broken. People think I’m a Londoner – I didn’t smile or engage too much at the socially unacceptable hour of 05:45 when I got up this morning but I admit I struggled to contain my excitement.
“opportunity to expand my horizons”
Weeks ago this moment seemed so far away and now I am outside the London headquarters of P.A. Consulting having been offered an opportunity to expand my horizons and see what might be learned in the world outside of policing. If you read my previous blog you’ll know that I’ve always seen myself working in the public sector but I was determined to approach this secondment with an open mind. As I ascend the various floors in an all glass elevator and pass floors which house high-profile businesses I begin to understand just how incredible this opportunity is.
Over the course of the two weeks, myself and a couple of other Police Now colleagues were thrown into a world alien to us… “consulting”. We were given a couple of projects. The first was to put together an introductory guide to policing which might be used specifically to bring people up to speed in the business who might find themselves working on a project in the Public Services Sector and a police-related project.
Police officer well-being
The second project covered an area very close to my heart and I can’t believe it! We were tasked with looking at police officer well-being; the landscape, evidence and practices undertaken across the country which seek to better support, enable and empower officers and subsequently police services. Our findings were not that surprising. While there is acknowledgement around officer well-being and there is vocal support for improvements, there are still some serious issues in terms of tackling the negative stigma around mental health and the policing culture. There is also an issue around the actual commitment to addressing the aspects of policing that cause the most harm. While ‘trauma’ and its associated impact is one of the main focuses of research in this area, we found that it is not so much ‘significant’ incidents which have the greatest impact but compounded stress. This stress is a result of systems and processes requiring duplication of information along with insufficient investment in technology and lack of a willingness to ‘push back’ against demand; these drain valuable resources and impact officer morale. The role and importance of emotionally intelligent and inspiring and empowering supervisors cannot be understated!
In terms of the methodology and methods behind the project we reached out to participants on the Police Now Programme and conducted surveys as well as reaching out to our respective forces for support. Due to the tight time-frame we had the support of P.A.’s considerable resources and access to a research centre who we tasked with looking at issues on a global as well as national scale and also responses and provision around officer well-being. We also examined the internal provision within P.A. to compare and contrast whether or not provision in the private sector is any ‘better’ or doing things which the police might be able incorporate into the institution.
“Batman vs Bruce Wayne”
We worked alongside interns from the Teach First program and throughout the project received priceless inputs to develop our business acumen and skills, including introductory sessions on ‘Agile’ working, ‘Scrum’ and of course P.A. itself. All of these have since fed relentlessly back into everything I am engaged with in the police and I would be lying if I said that the experience didn’t make me think twice about staying in policing. For me it comes down to: (1) figuring out where I can best serve the public; (2) have the greatest impact and; (3) whether I prefer to almost be Batman or almost be Bruce Wayne. For now, policing, Batman, wins.
“the importance of valuing people”
Going forward I do not know how the work we have done will be used but I cannot overstate the importance of valuing people. Having dealt with a number of personal issues over the years I know first-hand that the way in which supervisors value well-being can be critical in whether or not people access support or feel able to do so. There is so much out there and not everything will work for everyone but there is likely something that will work for you. If you need help, look for it and don’t bottle things up.