Tribe: A social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties
Police Family – YOU.
When you read the word ‘tribe’ do you associate yourself with it? Or do you think of others? Other people are in ‘tribes’. The Amazonian tribes or the African tribes and other indigenous populations might spring immediately to mind. However, as the dictionary definition above shows, tribes are much further reaching than that. I have watched the Police Family go through the most trying of times in this last year or two. And we all know it’s not over yet. I have written some pointed and often unpopular pieces in an effort to push various groups to be more outspoken or innovative in their approach. I then stopped writing such things for a while, watching and supporting where I could, as the various groups within the Police Family retreated and licked their wounds from the sound political beating they have all received.
Why am I talking about tribes? Because what I am seeing emerge after the wound licking is a variety of tribes. If you are reading this, it is likely that you are part of the Police Family and therefore you are almost certainly a member of one or more of the tribes I see. These tribes could be the making of a new, vital Police Family. Or they could be its downfall. Let me explain.
There are four large tribes within the Police Family. There is ACPO, the Superintendents the Federated Ranks and the civilian workforce. I could write a whole piece on the relationships between these tribes, but to do so would be indulgent and missing the point. Within these tribes are further off shoots. People with different outlooks, or experiences or needs. There are differences – or perceived differences – between men and women, those of differing sexual orientation, those of differing skin colour or cultural background. I could go on. In fact, I will. There are differences – or perceived differences – between those with different educational or socio economic backgrounds, even those with different qualifications. There are differences – sometimes perceived – between different Forces. There are differences – sometimes perceived – between each rank. So there are tribes. And then there are tribes within tribes.
If I may, I’d like to use the Police Federation of England and Wales as an example of tribes within a tribe. The Federation is made up of Constables, Sergeants and Inspectors. It is one organisation. Or is it? Is it in fact three organisations under one umbrella? How it operates, how effective it can be, is largely dependent on how the three groups work together and support each other. I don’t see a lot of support for each other these days. I see quite a lot of self protection. Not of the individual so much as the group. I’ve been thinking about this recently and I’ve been observing behaviours in these and other groups. I was surprised to see self protection – or perhaps better described as group protection – in most areas I looked. Every group, without exception, has recently shown examples of two things. A clear wish for a new and more positive future and a siege mentality where criticism is deflected and self protectionist behaviours become entrenched.
Watching the way the various groups interact and operate together and against each other could be a very depressing exercise except for the fact that they very clearly all want the same thing. They each come at it from a different angle, a different experience or outlook, but ultimately every member of the Police Family wants the advancement and enrichment of modern Policing. They want to see each other protected from the vagaries of Political interference. They want a modern, well maintained and supported Police body, fit to do its sworn duty for the public of this country. Every single member of the Police Family wants this. Every. Single. One.
No one is going to do this for you. Yes – you. You PCSO, you constable, you DS, you civilian office staff, you Chief Superintendent, you DCC….am I making my point? YOU. Those outside the Police Family seek to meddle and change and experiment. You know what works. You know change is needed. You know change is upon you whether you like it or not. Do not retreat into your tribes where you are with like minded people or where others assume you belong. You are all one body, one family. There is strength of feeling, a passion in you all that many modern companies would pay good money for. You have a devotion to a single cause. You all seek the same end. History will look back to these years as a pivotal time. It doesn’t have to be the end. It can be the beginning. Together you are an unbelievable group of people, one tribe, the Police Family. My appeal to you – yes, you – is to try really hard to let go of the protective behaviours and take that scary step towards openness. Listen to each other. Engage and discuss. Many are trying to already. More of you can. You don’t all have to agree all of the time. But never forget you are one family and as George Bernard Shaw said, If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.
So now – let’s talk!