Rumours and Reservations

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Today Chief Superintendent John Sutherland is our contributor to the Police Now blog. He is perhaps best known as the @policecommander but previously he has been the Borough Commander for Camden and Southwark in inner London. From January he will join the Police Now team as our Programme Director.

 

The continued development of Police Now has stirred up all sorts of healthy debate – and prompted one or two cracking rumours along the way. Having been asked to join Police Now as the Programme Director and looking forward to starting in January I’ve been listening to some of the rumours and thought I’d get to work by looking at some of our favourites as well as considering some of the different sides of the debate.

Rumours

(1) The founder of Police Now is the Home Secretary’s niece

  • This is our personal favourite
  • The origins of the rumour are unknown
  • We have to report that it is entirely untrue
  • We should also report that Police Now actually has two founders, one of whom is nobody’s niece – on account of his being a man
  • Before anyone asks, he is not the Home Secretary’s nephew

(2) The founder of Police Now is the Home Secretary’s Goddaughter

  • We suspect this rumour came from the same (unknown) source as the first one
  • Unfortunately for the soundbite writers and mischief makers, it is also entirely untrue
  • We should also point out that the co-founder of Police Now is not the Home Secretary’s Godson

(3) The promise of promotion for Police Now recruits

  • Police Now recruits have received no promises with regard to future promotion
  • Neither have they benefited from any corridor agreements or back room deals
  • When they finish their probation, they will face exactly the same career choices as every other police officer – and be expected to work just as hard

(4) The promise of platinum career alternative for PN Recruits

  • It is true that Police Now is developing a number of partnerships with private sector companies
  • This is for a number of reasons – not least of which is the opportunity to secure alternative funding sources at a time when policing budgets are stretched as never before
  • As with promotion, PN recruits have been offered no promises or guarantees about future employment in other organisations

Reservations

Amongst a huge amount of very positive feedback concerning the programme, some colleagues, critics and commentators have expressed a variety of reservations about Police Now – including:

(1) Police Now will just go the way of every other new-fangled idea

  • By which, we think people mean that failure is an inevitability
  • This seems a bit pessimistic
  • It also ignores some of the early evidence and feedback that we have received
  • A few numbers might be helpful:

– 56% of the first cohort say that they would not have considered a career in policing were it not for Police Now

– 92% of their Sergeants have rated the early performance of the first cohort as either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Good’. The remaining 8% rate their new charges as ‘Alright’

  • Our early evaluation suggests that the individuals recruited through PN have a more positive approach to the public and public service than other entrants to public service.
  • The Summer Academy was open to visitors throughout and the feedback from observers has, overwhelmingly, been extremely positive
  • But, it is still early days – and the success of the programme will be measured by the operational effectiveness of the officers
  • We ought to give them a chance to succeed before we call Police Now a failure

(2) Having a degree doesn’t make you a good police officer

  • We agree
  • We have worked with graduates who are clueless – and any number of outstanding officers who have never troubled the university examiners
  • Amongst the most important qualities for police officers are:
    1. Courage
    2. Compassion
    3. An ability to communicate with anyone
    4. Common Sense
  • You should probably add ‘good sense of humour’ to that list
  • Police Now isn’t the only route into policing – and we don’t want it to be. We want policing to attract the best of everyone – graduates and non-graduates
  • Just having a degree doesn’t make you a good police officer – but it doesn’t make you a bad one either

(3) Are you saying that the rest of us are thick?

  • No – absolutely not
  • See responses to (2) above

(4) Why are Police Now recruits getting special treatment – what about the rest of us?

  • The simple answer is that they aren’t actually getting huge amounts of special treatment
  • The training course is extremely demanding (not least in terms of hours and intensity) – with no guarantee of success
  • Police Now recruits are offered no special treatment when it comes to promotion or future career development. Once they get to the end of their probation, they will be in the mix with everyone else
  • That said, there are elements of their initial training and personal development that are new and different
  • As Police Now develops good practice, it will be shared with the rest of policing

(5) Police Now training is too short

  • It is true that this year’s Summer Academy was six weeks long
  • That said, it involves a significant number of extended days and weekends (not dissimilar to most policing roles) – and operates at a pace and intensity that is demanding for all concerned
  • The course is being evaluated independently – early feedback is positive
  • Ultimately the test of the course is the quality of the officers it produces. It is still early days, but initial feedback from supervisors so far has been positive (see (1) above)

(6) Police Now recruits are being put into critical roles with a lack of frontline experience

  • We agree that the roles are critical
  • We also agree that they are inexperienced – but no more so than any other probationary officer
  • All of the first cohort had achieved Independent Patrol Status by the end of the Summer Academy – but all are working with more experienced colleagues on the frontline
  • Their inexperience does not appear to have been problematic so far – but time will tell.

(7) Police Now is doomed to succeed

  • We would have to disagree with this one
  • Within the next 12 months, Police Now will be delivered by a Social Enterprise
  • A Social Enterprise is a not-for-profit business which is registered as a charity
  • This means that it will operate independently from the police service – albeit with charitable objectives that are completely consistent with the policing ‘mission’
  • This in turn means that it will have to stand on its own two feet – without being propped up by any vested interest

(8) What is the point of recruiting and training people if they’re just going to leave after 2 years?

  • Our hope and expectation is that a significant majority of Police Now officers will choose to stay with policing – in fact the early evaluation bears that out
  • However, we actually want some to move on – not least so that they become advocates for policing in other walks of life
  • One of our long term ambitions might be to see a Police Now graduate as a future Home Secretary or Policing Minister
  • As an aside, we should also recognise that the ‘job for life’ aspiration common to so many serving officers is not necessarily shared by some younger workers – and we ought to be prepared for that.

Hopefully these observations are helpful. If you want to get in touch to discuss Police Now or in fact anything else then you can find me on twitter at @policecommander.