I recall my early years as a WPC (yes, I said it – not a PC) as a roller coaster of emotional and intellectual learning. One of the most important influences on me then was the camaraderie on relief, a sense of belonging. There was only a handful of girls. Off duty, we socialised almost exclusively with our colleagues and one of the other WPCs became a very good friend. Our personal circumstances were similar with our new husbands doing the same job and often the four of us worked together. During this time our relief went through an immense tragedy which had a negative impact on us all and not long after most of us moved on, some left altogether. I lost contact with my friend.
Life happens and my chosen path changed dramatically. My friend’s path never wavered. She is now a very high ranking officer. My husband sees her from time to time but I have not seen her since those early days. I am incredibly pleased for her and a little bit jealous whilst also feeling sorry that she will never have the things I have at home, such has been her sacrifice to achieve what she has so far.
My husband tells me she commands respect, in that people are nervous around her and the atmosphere changes when she enters a room. No one wants to be seen to be lacking. No one wants to incur her wrath. This appears to be the same from PC rank right up past Superintendents.
Before I jouned the Police I worked for an American company in the city. The partners of the firm were formidable, high powered and high earners. They were loud, sometimes brash, often challenging. BUT their office doors were only shut when a private meeting was taking place. At all other times their offices were open to all employees. Ideas and opinions were welcomed at all times from all employees. The boy who brought the mail trolley was as valuable as the secretary or the trainee or the manager. In this way, creative solutions were always being formed. Every person was valued.
My friend is now a member of ACPO. Her door is never open. There is no chance for a lowly employee to pop in and tell my friend about a great idea they’ve had. ACPO wear the uniform of a Police Officer but show no wish to be associated with those who carry out the duties of that office. There is a wish for many at this level to show they are comparable to the high flyers in other industries. They compare themselves and ultimately believe themselves to be the same as those in the private sector. This is a mistake.
I have a message, in the hope that at least some from ACPO may hear of and read this blog. You are not the same as those in the private sector. Just as they are not the same as you, in the public sector. You chose Policing for a reason. Most of you experienced those early years on relief or team, growing emotionally and intellectually with the onslaught of reality. Just take a few minutes and think back. Think of your colleagues back then. Think about the essence of Policing. What is left, when you strip it back to its basic form? It’s the job you began with. That can never be lost.
The partners in my old city firm didn’t get to that level by being aloof, unapproachable and singular. They climbed through really really hard work, sacrifice and a good smattering of humility. They did not stand on the shoulders of their colleagues, they joined to hold the whole group high. What I see in many ACPO officers is a very poor grasp of this concept, or none at all. My old firm was worldwide, so no excuses from those of you in the bigger forces (ehem, Met, yes I’m looking at you now!)
Take an hour and go into your closest Police Station. How many sector or team officers or PCSOs or Specials know who you are? Talk to them. Listen to them. They will inform you in everything you do. Do this regularly. You need to remember that you BELONG to these people. You are their leaders. They look to you, not for guidance but for support. You would do well to look to them not for support but for guidance.
On May 10th many of YOUR workforce will be marching in London. If you can’t join them (why not?) then at least speak out, as one or two of your colleagues have. Let your staff know what you think. Debate with those who agree and disagree with you. Seize this unique opportunity for an ACPO rank officer to show True Leadership.