A rant. With no swearing.

Today I tried – not for the first time – to tell people who work in Policing and some who used to work in Policing, how things can be for a member of the public who has nothing to do with the Criminal Justice System unless they are unfortunate in some way. Unfortunate. Yes. Not just unfortunate if they become a victim. Simply unfortunate if they come into contact with our antiquated, eternally added to but never properly changed, Criminal Justice System.

After Soham, Police Forces began to keep local databases. Quite right too. Had there been such a database prior to Soham, two little girls would likely not have lost their lives and certainly not in the circumsances that unfolded there. Databases are not just for keeping record of sexual impropriety that does not warrant arrest. They keep information on all manner of things, including all out of court settlements – accepted Cautions to get a horrible experience over with, Formal Warnings and the like. They all go onto local databases. Then the person is told “Its ok, its not a CRO (even those who accepted Cautions, who do actually have a CRO) and it wont effect your future.” “It falls off the system in 6 years” “It wont ever be disclosed anyway.”

I really think most Police actually believe these things too. Thats because they are not part of the process beyond that point. Support staff and frequently Force Solicitors know the rest of the story though. All records involvoing sex/indecency or violence (a child throwing something and the Police being called – thats violence) will be brought up if a person later applies for a job and there is any level of vetting required. Today it was suggested to me that the onus should be on employers to understand the low level nature of such information. Incredible. Today’s highly competitve job market uses anything it can to cut down the number of applicants. The truth is, it never leaves you and in many ways can be more insidious than a conviction at Court because the individual has been told it will never effect them. Its simply not true.

That well intentioned processes have unintentional consequences is no suprise to anyone working in the Criminal Justice System. That so many people think what ‘they’ do doesnt contribute to those unintentional consequences constantly suprises me. That some Police officers and many vocal retired Officers will argue against the experiences of some members of the Public is both sad and incredible. If you care about processes, you have to listen to what you are being told. Today I was asked forceful questions, pushed to justify my stance, repeatedly asked for evidence. I am confident and knowledgeable. To an extent I am part of the Policing world.

Imagine yourself – unlikely if you are reading this, I realise – but try to imagine yourself a member of the public who knows nothing directly of the Criminal Justice System. Imagine you found yourself in a bad situation as a young teen. Imagine you discover the world isnt very fair and imagine you end up being dealt with by the Police. Whether you are arrested, held in a cell, ‘chatted’ to in an interview room or in your home matters far less to you when you are 14 yrs old. What matters is you have done something silly. No one seems to care about the circumstances that led to you doing something silly. You are part of a process now. Imagine.

Then fast forward. You are lucky. Life changed. You pulled yourself together and you worked hard at school. You are going to take your A levels next year and you want to go to university and eventually teach. You decide to volunteer at your local youth group and want to apply for a summer job at a kids camp. Thats when it all comes crumbling down. Actually, you cant do those things. Any of those things. Well, there are ways that you can, but none are easy, all are time consuming and unless you are lucky enough to be given good advice, how would you ever know what to do? Most people accept it as their fate, their lot in life. Those who do try to rectify it are left behind their peers whilst they go through yet another process. No work experience for you. And try not to worry while you study for A levels youre now uncertain will be enough for you to become a teacher.

Thats an unintended consequence and it happens a lot. I cant give figures as my chief inquisitor demanded today. Of course I cant. The public dont mobilise and count their injustices. They quietly go away and get on with life, feeling pretty negative about the Police. And here is my point. Some of you who have read this far have just rankled more at that last sentence than you have about all the difficulties Ive outlined above. As long as databases are there to protect Forces from criticism instead of to provide information, people will feel negative about them.

To criticise a process is not to criticise the people working with that process. Until Police can listen more than they talk, such processes will continue to have such consequences. How pompous do you have to be to refuse to accept someone’s personal experience or insist that it is rare? Even if it was rare, the fact that it happens is unacceptable.

I am heartened that there are people at all levels of Policing who do listen to the experience of others. They are the future and I celebrate each of them. What is really sad is that I know they exist because of my contacts and/or my knowledge of Policing. If I was a normal member of the public who only watched the odd episode of Interceptors, I wouldnt know such people existed. I would only hear the loud, angry, self protecting types. Thats a real shame.

Roll on change.

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility.

Yesterday, Chief Constable Nick Gargan was required to retire or resign by his PCC, under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011.  http://www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk/News-and-Events/News-Archive/2015/Aug/PCC-starts-process-for-Chief-Constable-Nick-Gargans-resignation.aspx That he should resign is pretty much universally agreed. That he has not, is unsuprising. Nick Gargan’s rise in Policing was fast and sure. By the time he was heading up the National Police Improvement Agency, his career seemed secure and there was much talk of him being a future Commissioner. So how did it come to this inauspicious juncture in just a few short years? The story I am about to recount features an act of adultery. I think it important, before I go on, to note that none of the allegations originally made about Nick Gargan were found, whilst the investigation did find behaviour that is unacceptable, there was no evidence of any behaviour linked to the events herein. I strongly believe every person is entitled to a private life and the purpose of this blog is not to examine the evidence but to ask why it happened.

Bathsheba syndrome is a relatively new concept, coined by Americans Ludwig and Longenecker in their paper on the ethical failure of successful leaders. Although even the naming of this syndrome displays, to my mind, a lack of understanding of basic power play. The Bathsheba link comes from the Biblical story of King David – a good man, an ethical and unswerving man, who was granted great power because of his deeds. He sends all of his soldiers to war but uncharacteristically, he doesn’t go too. Whilst they are working hard for him, he is wandering at ease through his Palace. He sees Bathsheba, the wife of one of his most trusted employees. Her husband is with the other men, at the war front.

David sleeps with Bathsheba because he wants to and because there is no one around to stop him or check his behaviour. This is perhaps shocking behaviour from a man who has thus far shown himself to be morally and ethically true, but the real issue begins from here on in. David didn’t need power to sleep with Bathsheba (although it often helps!) but he did need power for the decisions he made next. Bathsheba falls pregnant and David creates a ruse to cover his own behaviour. He calls her husband, Uriah the Hittite, back from the battlefield, lavishes praise on him and tells him to take the night off and sleep with his wife. Uriah refuses, as it is the practice of all the people not to sleep with their wives whilst they are at war. He stands by the rules and refuses David’s apparent kindness. This leaves David with a problem. He cannot pass off Bathsheba’s child as Uriah’s and is forced to take further extreme action. He orders Uriah to be posted in a position which is very vulnerable and manipulates the fighting in such a way that Uriah and his accompanying soldiers are killed. Then he takes Bathsheba as one of his wives.

David appears to have become relaxed in his role as King and somehow has behaved in a way he would never have done previously and indeed would not expect of his people. (You may see why I think this should really be called the David Syndrome – as more women reach powerful leadership positions, we will doubtless see such lapses are not confined to men, but in this story the responsibility is all David’s!)

It might be a quote from Spiderman, but Stan Lee really did coin a perfect phrase – with great power comes great responsibility. The Code of Ethics is firmly embedded in Policing now and in fact CC Gargan was the first to announce his Force was adopting the Code, even before the work had finished properly. Such was his keen attitude to bring change to his Force. It is telling that in the IPCC report  https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/sites/default/files/Documents/investigation_commissioner_reports/Chief_Constable_Nicholas_Gargan.pdf all witnesses interviewed who worked directly with Nick Gargan spoke positively of him and said they enjoyed his presence in their workplace. It was the people slightly more removed but still in the organisation who appeared to be unhappy.  Leaders cannot rely on their personality alone. Especially if they might, intentionally or otherwise, use their personality to smooth the way for behaviours which they would find unacceptable in their colleagues. The Policing landscape has changed hugely in recent years ands there’s a lot more change to come. I don’t imagine there was much ethics input on Nick Gargan’s Senior Command Course though maybe someone from his cohort could enlighten me. Certainly the new Senior Command Course seeks to address such matters with sessions on culture, unconscious bias, ethics and some interesting input via Olivier Mythodrama – for a snippet, see the clip playing here http://www.oliviermythodrama.com/

The College of Policing is clearly aware that more needs to be done, both to encourage individuality in our Police leaders but also to support them to uphold the high ethical standards we must expect of them. Last year, the College commissioned an exploratory study into Chief Officer misconduct in Policing.  The study, available here http://whatworks.college.police.uk/Research/Documents/150317_Chief_officer_misconduct_FINAL_%20REPORT.pdf produced some very interesting, if not really suprising, information. If you don’t want to read the whole report – although I highly recommend you do – I would draw your attention to two points in the summary on Page 1. Firstly, that there is a huge appetite for change. Secondly, the finding that absence of challenge led to more unethical behaviour. I think this is key. Let me take you back to David and Bathsheba, because the story didn’t end where I left it.

Bathsheba’s baby died, which David took to be punishment for his behaviour, but this was still not the end of the story. Nathan was a trusted advisor who had the best interests of the nation at heart. He did not shirk from his responsibilities, even when it meant he had to have uncomfortable conversations with David. Nathan told David about a man in the city who was very poor. He had one lamb, which he treated like a child. He loved that lamb and it was his joy. A rich man, who had several lambs of his own, took the poor man’s lamb to feast upon. David was outraged and said they must find this rich man – he must pay the poor man back plus more. Nathan then explained that the rich man was David.

Leadership is not easy and success can lead people to overestimate their ability to manipulate outcomes. It is human nature to err and good people will always be at risk of making bad decisions. What appears to have been missing from the Nick Gargan story is a trusted circle who could positively and confidently challenge. There was plenty of dissent, but it was removed from him and largely appears to have been ignored. Dissent is the grit in the Oyster. If we want a pearl, we must accept the grit. I hope to see the Senior Command Course cover the need to challenge colleagues but also the requirement for leaders to listen to dissent. It is not always a negative element and can almost always be used for some positive. In the case of Nick Gargan, maybe the unfortunate details which came out in the IPCC report could have been entirely avoided and a whole workforce might have been saved the difficult times they’ve had to endure.

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Purdah (she wrote)

Since writing this blog I have thought a lot about influence and freedoms and responsibilities. I feel it important to state that by no means am I encouraging any Officer to act against Police Regs. I believe in upholding the Regs as a condition of employment. My blog is meant as a technical and informative addition to the Political climate within today’s Policing landscape. If you are taking the time to read this blog, please do re-familiarise yourself with Regs.

http://library.college.police.uk/docs/college-of-policing/pre-election-guidelines-2015.pdf This link gives you the most current advice from the College of Police. Section 12 applies to all serving Police Officers and there is some guidance there for Police Staff too.

As we draw closer to the General Election, I have been pondering purdah and what it really means for Police, both as individuals and as an organisation. We expect UK Policing to be above Politics, the epitome of impartiality. Yet the truth is that Policing and Politics are inextricably linked. The advent of Police and Crime Commissioners served to concentrate the minds of many both within the Police Service and those who have interest in the field. Suddenly every one knew about purdah and the restrictions it placed upon serving officers. Except….does it actually place those restrictions on officers? What is purdah really? What happens if you break it?

This year, purdah begins on 30th March. It is not a law. It is described as a moral obligation and is employed to avoid Political one upmanship in the run up to an election. In simple terms, Local Government stops announcing new initiatives until after the election, so as not to appear to advantage one candidate over another. Its not quite as innocuous as it sounds, given that if advantage can be proven, prosecution is possible under the Local Government Act 1986.

Police Forces are not part of Local Government although they are part of the State. Why and when did purdah become so essential to Police behaviour? I am largely unaware of purdah being discussed around Policing prior to the 2010 election and even then it was minimal.

Schedule 1 of Police Regulations 2003 states that a member of a police force shall at all times abstain from any activity which is likely to interfere with the impartial discharge of his duties or which is likely to give rise to the impression amongst members of the public that it may so interfere; and in particular a member of a police force shall not take any active part in politics. This is not purdah. This is a constant expectation of all sworn officers. They cannot canvas for any particular Political Party or, if their role is such, they cannot act in a manner which might lead to suspicion of Political interference in their decision making for instance. In 2012, ahead of the PCC elections, Kent Police Federation pondered the meaning of Schedule 1. http://www.kentpolfed.org.uk/chairman0812.htm     No talk of purdah though. For the most part, I agree with the Chairman’s thoughts and believe that Police Officers are citizens too and as such must be able to speak out about policies within Policing. How else will the public know about the efficacy of new (or reshaped old) ideas?

The College of Policing has guidance on Force requirements during and after an Election, https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/policing-elections/key-roles-and-planning/?s=purdah here. It is the only document I can find which mentions purdah. You can find the single reference to it under Impartiality…near the bottom. It correctly notes that Local Authorities are subject to purdah restrictions and provides a link for further reference. Even this is called Recommended Practice on Local Authority Publicity. Recommended Practice. In otherwords, guidelines. Unless the action is proven to give a specific advantage to a candidate, there is nothing illegal about a civil servant breaking purdah. Which is most fortunate, as in 2008, the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was accused of breaking purdah by announcing 300 Police officers and staff were going to be moved to anti terrorism duties in the run up to the last election. This is notable for two reasons. Firstly, she was not prosecuted and secondly, Labour went on to lose the election so any advantage which may have been assumed by angry Conservatives (notably Eric Pickles, who accused Labour of using the announcement to hide the fact they were cutting Police numbers!) was null and void anyway.

So, what do we know? We know that purdah is not legally binding, although there is a facility to prosecute should the action cause significant advantage to a candidate. We know that it is seen as a moral obligation, although the definition of a moral obligation probably deserves it’s own blog. We know that even when a Home Secretary broke purdah, nothing actually happened and in fact it didn’t help the outcome of the Election. We also know that it has never been written out to cover Police Officers. Over and above their requirement to remain impartial, purdah doesn’t even hold a moral obligation over Police.

This http://www.acpo.police.uk/documents/futures/2012/201207FBAGfIwPCCs.pdf     ACPO document written to prepare for the PCC Elections in 2012 suggests that a ‘transparent approach’ would be to follow Local Authority guidelines. Evidently purdah is not binding, it has never covered Police officers until the Politicisation of Policing governance brought in by this current Government and nothing bad will befall you as individuals or organisationally, if you happen to find yourself on the wrong side of purdah. Obviously, this does not mean that Forces or individual officers can unfetter their Political selves. Police are a professionals operating successfully both locally and nationally and as such, understand the need for impartiality and the importance of their role for all of the public, without favour.

Of course, PCCs are a different matter. They are most certainly subject to purdah and I will be watching with interest how the more political of that group conduct themselves in the coming weeks. There are increasing examples of PCCs saying what they like and simply ignoring detractors when challenged. That kind of behaviour might trip a few up before May if they are not careful.

When I began to look into purdah I expected to be writing a blog heavy in disapproval of the tight restrictions placed upon Police Officers.  What I have discovered is that nothing really has changed and I suggest you all carry on as you did before….before PCCs, before the Political creeep. You were impartial then and you will remain so now. And if you’ve made it this far, have a little light relief on me   http://youtu.be/2fx7p7TEi6M   Purdah She Wrote. Chaka Demus & Pliers.

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A change is as good as arrest

Today I tweeted that I believe it’s time for PSD/DPS departments to be disbanded. I said they rarely support the public in a positive way and that they frequently damage officer’s touched by their ‘investigations’. They are not trusted from within or without the organisation and frankly they are very poor value for money. It amazes me that the press in particular have not picked up on the broken bridge that is Professional Standards. Steve Evans, from the Police Federation rightly called me put on my sweeping statement. He asked what I suggested should replace PSD. So, not being one for empty words, this is my reply to you Steve.

Currently, PSD investigate individual wrongdoing. They actively look for misdemeanours and corruption. They are a conduit for Police Discipline. Everything about them is negative. Much of what the public complain about – or want to complain about but don’t – is not due to individual wrongdoing. It is due to skewed practices or unintended consequences. Disciplining an individual officer changes nothing but frequently reinforces negativity in other officers.

What is needed now is a department that looks at good practice and poor practice. It reports back ways to improve poor procedures, thereby better protecting the public as well as Officers and it communicates findings of good practice so others can learn and improve on the back of current successes. Officers communicate with a flexible, positive department which aims to support and improve their work rather than merely punish their mistakes.

The public would be able to report good and bad experiences to one department. The emphasis on communication rather then complaint. I believe that a reinvigoration with more positive actions and a wider view to making improvements rather than simply punishing or preventing
individual issues would be a change worth making and would be far more cost effective than  current arrangements.

What do you think? Please start a conversation in the comments. It’s a hugely important area and I think it’s overlooked.

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To the Membership of the Police Federation of England & Wales

Last time I wrote about the Police Federation of England & Wales I wrote directly to them, with them in mind and with care for their feelings. There have been numerous times since when I have wanted to write more but I have refrained because of the furore I caused last time and the hurt I seemed to have dealt some of the reps.  This time, I am writing directly to the members. 

I was recently added to a list kept by the twitter account of the PFEW, @PFEW_HQ. Its not unusual to be added to a list but this one caught my eye because it was called ‘Negative Mentions’.  An odd name for a public list.  An odd endeavour for a Comms Dept, to keep a public list, on line, of people who say negative things about them.  @PW0559 noted that the list must surely be a very long one whilst in reality, @TimesCrime pointed out I was one of only four accounts on said list. A person I do not know and two eggs were my compadres in negativity. Suddenly I received a private message from PFEW. It was polite, although I was never told who was speaking to me. I never discuss Direct Messages with others.  I believe anyone should be able to speak to me freely and with confidence. Anyway, I felt Id like to respond to the rather hollow salutation at the end of the message.  I couldn’t because the account does not follow me. So back on the public TimeLine, I had to appeal to the mystery tweeter to follow me or give me permission to converse further publicly. I received another Direct Message from the mystery tweeter, suggesting I use an email address for my reply.  Back to the TimeLine I had to go, where I explained to @PFEW_HQ that Twitter was a tool for conversation and replies via email rather negated the point of tweeting. Then, a hallelujah moment.  The Police Federation of England and Wales finally – finally – followed me. I sent my response. No reply was forthcoming. Unsuprisingly.

The list got scrapped and a new list was made. ‘Regulars’.  Not ‘regulars’ as in the old Policing vernacular, meaning fully paid Police Officers rather than Specials or volunteers or whatever other form of free bodies there might be today.  Regular whats? Myself, the person I don’t know and the two eggs are now joined by none other that @ghostedme, @Peter_Kirkham, @bish1964, a generic police back slapping account, the deputy chair or West Midlands Federation then most confusingly of all, @roamingroyston and @SyreetaLund.  The latter actually being the Editor for the Federation’s magazine. What draws this small group together? I have no clue. None at all. They have three more lists, do have a look.  They are illuminating, in a dim, batteries are about to die kind of way. In recent days it has come to my notice that other ‘negative commentators’ have received private messages from an unknown person at @PFEW_HQ. No engagement in public, individuals dealt with in private. Not a very modern stance.

This very poor attempt at using Twitter tools without learning the basics served to draw my attention to Leatherhead, with their impending Conference. And I got thinking. Now, given that I am apparently a Negative commentater, that’s not the most tactical move.  What that person managed to do was draw my attention to himself and his organisation so much so that I am going to take this opportunity (perhaps for the last time) to issue another salvo at the flanks of the Federation.  However, this time, I am not speaking to the denizens of Leatherhead, I am speaking to the members.  Every Constable, Sergeant, Inspector and Chief Inspector.  This is your representative organisation.  Does it represent you? Are you happy with it? Have you had your say? Do you feel heard? Valued? “All feedback is valued”…or so I was told the other day.

Recently, Leatherhead was the subject of a TV programme.  Even though it wasn’t exactly complimentary, it still didn’t show you the reality of the building. It didn’t show you the etched glass door through which access must be gained on the first floor, to the Constables own private area.  It didn’t show the balcony with tables and chairs where the Constables can sit and look down upon their colleagues below. It didn’t show the contrast to this, with the shared facilities and staff of the Sergeants and Inspectors, in their much more modest office space. Its about time you all knew these things.

With an election for a new Chairman just around the corner, this type of information might be important.  Except that you, as members, don’t actually have a vote. How is that fair? Do you believe you are best served, best represented by the highly undemocratic process your Federation is about to undertake?  Do you not want a say for yourselves?  Do you want to be heard?  I think you do.  And I think you deserve to be heard.  So – is it not time that you made a lot of noise and demanded change?  The would be leaders of your Federation will tell you that change is afoot, that if you just let them stick to the old ways for now, the Review will bring in the changes you want. That is not true.  If you do not have a say, if you do not push for change and for your voices to be heard, the best case scenario is a long drawn out and painful death of your Federation.  I believe YOU can make a difference.  Conference is in two weeks time.  Your voices will not be heard at that conference, but they should be. What can you do about that? You are capable, dynamic, intelligent men and women.  Your JBBs need to hear you and if they wont support you, then you must make a noise that Leatherhead cannot ignore.


Almost a year ago to the this day I
talked to Steve Williams about the speech he was preparing to give at Conference. I told him he should walk onto the stage with his speech in his hand, then rip it up and throw it away in front of everyone. Then I told him he should talk directly to the people who were not in the Conference. To the members. I told him to have ready a variety of routes for you all to contact him and that he should tell you to email, call, write and tweet. I told him to promise you all that he would read every single comment and that he would represent you, the members, and your wishes. I talked to him about the possibility of his position being a poisoned chalice and suggested that if he thought he might crash and burn, perhaps he’d like to do it in style. Of course, Steve didn’t take my advice and he didn’t appeal to you, the membership in the style I had suggested.

Whoever follows Steve MUST speak for YOU. Not just the Constables. Not just the Sergeants and or Inspectors.  All of you.  An inclusive leader. So – over to you. What are YOU going to do about it?


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Walls of Silence

I left the Metropolitan Police less than half way through the career I had hoped to have. I left because I couldn’t set foot inside a Police Station without feeling sick, faint and unable to function.  I left because I felt I was a lone voice with no supporters, even though I had made my stand on behalf of some of those others.  I left because I was unable to fight the wall of silence and still function as a Police Officer.  My career ended prematurely and my confidence was hit so massively that my whole life changed. 

I stood up for what I believed to be right.  A more senior officer disagreed with me and so began a battle of wits which ended in him winning.  I went on to win the war but it was an empty victory.  My career had gone and with it my sense of identity. The details of that sorry story are private and I have never spoken of them publicly.  The senior officer who directed a huge campaign against me, died from illness a year later and it is difficult for me to speak of him with respect, so I try not to speak of him at all.  The cowards who fell into line and did his bidding?  Well, I’d love to talk about them, but what’s the point? It was years ago and everyone has moved on.  Most of them will have left the Met by now, the main players’ careers having benefitted from the cushy postings they all got after the Tribunal.

Essentially my fight was for the public I dealt with, to give them a better chance of real change in their lives.  However, my solutions meant that my CID department would lose out on the figures, most particularly clear-ups, which made them look good on paper in those meetings everyone is now trying to stop.  That the public would get a better service didn’t matter.  That my life was irrevocably changed didn’t matter. That I was scared I would lose my house because I couldn’t afford to pay for it anymore and that I had a one year old child, mattered not.  The only thing that mattered was the figures and the senior officer in question advancing his career on the back of them.

If you were to read the papers for the Tribunal that happened two years later, you wouldn’t know that was the issue at all. The Met churned out allegation after allegation about me.  As an officer, as a person, as a mother, as a wife. They sought to sully my character and obfuscate the real issues. They managed to do the latter, if not the former.  At my Tribunal I was cross examined for two and a half days by the Met’s barrister, who accused me of lying, of starting work late, finishing early, failing to complete work.  She produced information about calls that I had made from the Police Station and she ‘found’, on the morning of questioning, files that had been missing and therefore unavailable for me to use in my defence.

I sat in that Tribunal with only my husband and my barrister.  The rest of the room was filled every day by my ex-colleagues and ex-friends.  Every one of them gave evidence against me. Every one of them sweated as they did so. I know this because I was seated within touching distance of them as they spoke. They looked as sullen and under pressure as I did. They had been through their own awful challenges.  The wall of silence was imposed upon them all. The weight of expectation, to fit in, was extreme for them.  No one wanted to go the way I had. Yes, together they could have stood tall and strong but they had already been divided.  That’s the way it works.  Who can trust whom? No one really knows.  So they each found themselves walking a very fine line between their values and the expectation of the men above them.  The men with the power, who had already decided what people needed to say in evidence, who had already made their minds up about me and who didn’t care for those they used as pawns any more than they cared for me.


I had my medical records picked over in public in that room. I had been sent to see psychiatrists from both sides – the Police side to try to prove I was unfit, my side to counter any evidence gained by the Police side.  I was repeatedly asked if I felt like killing myself – I was a brand new mum and my future had fallen to pieces because I stood up for what I believed was right.  I didn’t feel like skipping through a field of spring flowers. It was a horrendous experience and I will never forget it but ultimately I am glad I went through it.  Why? Because I told the truth.  Repeatedly.  I was cross examined for a ridiculous length of time.  It didn’t matter.  I couldn’t be tripped up because I just kept telling the truth. It’s what I promised when I took my oath and the fact that by then I had been stripped of my office and my warrant card didn’t mean that I had stopped living by that principle. Not a single colleague spoke to me when we shuffled in and out of that room, or along the corridor. We took up residency at opposite ends of the waiting room and avoided looking at anyone for fear of an honest moment.  Such was the pressure that the men in power had exerted on all of us. 

So, when I see others (still) being treated in a similar way, I find it difficult to countenance.  When I see that wall of silence come down, when I know how that individual will be feeling, when I know most of the people behind the wall don’t actually want to be there, when I see the whole process starting yet again, I despair.

The imposition of PCCs was supposed to usher in a new era of transparency, to sweep away the years of secrecy. But recent events have indicated that, despite this change in governance, nothing has really changed.





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G4S and Lincolnshire Police. A Modern Romance?

This time last year Lincolnshire Police were at the beginning of a journey many did not want them to embark on. The groundbreaking contract between the Force and G4S had just begun, to a background of Olympic controversy and impending PCC elections. Policing was in flux. The people of Lincolnshire could be forgiven if they found themselves worrying about the service they might receive from their Police Force and the officers and staff were rightly nervous but also demoralised. The partnership was in a harsh, unforgiving spotlight and the pressure for both sides must have been intense. Privatisation of Public Services became seen as a stick with which the Government was beating the people and most especially, public servants.
Reality is almost always a hop, skip and a jump from popular supposition. Lincolnshire Police is still Lincolnshire Police. It has not been privatised. Outsourcing has been common practice in all Public Services for many years now. So why the furore over the Lincolnshire/G4S partnership? Well, the partnership is extensive and the timing of the new contract really couldn’t have been much worse. The reputation of G4S was taking a very public hammering and Political manipulation was playing right into the hands of the majority of public service workers and users who were ethically opposed to private companies making profits in public services.
Time passed and other scandals took the limelight. One year into the ten year contract, I wondered how things were coming along in Lincolnshire. I spoke with a few officers, a few Lincolnshire residents and I spoke with John Shaw, who is Managing Director of G4S Policing Services and Health businesses. John suggested I visit and see for myself how the partnership was working out, one year in. So I did.
Upon arrival at Police Headquarters, I drove along a row of parking spaces with shiny signs saying ‘Reserved for Visitors of PCC’. The next row said ‘Green Card Visitors’ or something similar. I knew I didn’t have a blue card, so I assumed I wasn’t one of ‘those’ visitors. Logically, I thought I must be one of the ‘other’ type of visitors and I parked in the former row. At reception I was hastily told to move my car into the other row, as that first row was exclusively for the PCC and his staff. So I trotted back to the car park and put myself in my correct place….further away from the building than the PCC and his staff. This was pretty much the only time the presence of the PCC had any influence on my visit. It didn’t leave a good impression with me and one of the first things I asked John Shaw, was about his own parking space. He looked a little non-plussed then said ‘I don’t have one. If I get to work early enough I get a space easily. If I’m not here early enough, like everybody else I have to look for a space. Why should I have a space over anybody else?’
The lady at reception who hurried me out of the PCC parking space talked to me about how it had felt to move over from being Police Staff to G4S staff. There was a definite ethical and personal identity issue and these should not be negated but the reality months later, was that things had gone smoothly and in her particular role she had noticed little if any change. After making me a cup of tea and chatting with me in his noticeably modest office, John took me to meet Helen Wilkie, the Firearms Licensing and Explosives Licensing Manager. I have to say from the outset that I really liked Helen and her enthusiasm for her job and Lincolnshire Police was infectious. Helen retires this month having worked for Lincolnshire Police since she was 16. Personally, I’d have tried every bribe I could to keep someone like Helen for a few more years. Both John and Helen would probably agree that neither saw the other as a likely ally this time last year. Helen told me that she was extremely upset when she first heard that Firearms Licensing was going to be put out for tender. She expected things to go from bad to worse. She already worked long hours under great pressure. She was understaffed and the unit was permanently behind with the workload. Sounds familiar to many I am sure.
The contract between Lincolnshire Police and G4S ensures high standards from the outset with an expectation of continuous improvement from G4S. Targets (I know, I know) are monitored monthly with G4S having to pay Lincs Police if they fall below the agreed level of attainment. Helen told me that almost immediately she felt a positive difference with G4S, in that all of the personnel side of her job was taken away. She was freed up to get on with the active part of her role, allowing someone else to now manage the staff in her department. Helen is also the chair of Unison. She was opposed to the outsourcing both on a personal and on a professional level. Yet today, Helen is enthused and reinvigorated. She described G4S as espousing a ‘tighter’ work ethic to the staff in her department. Something which she thought came as a bit of a shock to the team, but which has ultimately brought positive results for the majority of staff. She told me that her fears have not materialised, that she is personally happier and that people in her team now understand that they are accountable – something which had not been so clear before. She also told me that she encountered as much fear from the public as from the Police when G4S took over and that she still fields calls from worried members of the public from time to time. Helen said to me ‘I’m about solid evidence – all the stories I’ve heard are not evidenced. My experience is highly positive. It’s pepping up everybody. We are spending public money, so let’s do it the best way possible.’ Very soon after G4S stepping in, the unit was ahead of demand on all licences and has remained so ever since. The public are getting a better service than before. Surely that can’t be all because of a ‘tighter’ work ethic? Well, not entirely. It was agreed that a new computer system would be provided and G4S had an idea which system they intended to buy. Helen wanted a different, more expensive system and she found she was able to explain her reasons and make a case for the better system. Helen got her more expensive system. That’s a relatively rare experience in Policing. I could have happily spent all day with Helen, listening to her talking about the before and after of her department and her personal experience. ‘I’m excited by this relationship. I believe Lincolnshire will be a leading Force in Firearms Licensing in the future. We will secure local jobs and bring more jobs to the wider community by bringing in more contracts through the IT and our expertise.’ For a Unison chairperson and lifelong Police employee, that’s quite a statement.
Next I visited the Force Control Room, which is overseen by Andy Jolley, an ex Chief Inspector from a different Force who was specifically employed by G4S for this role, thus utilising Policing expertise and knowledge. I liked Andy and I can see why he was chosen for this role. He bridges a divide between the private company and the public service. Quite a challenge, I would imagine. The Force Control Room (FCR) is, in my opinion, a very important area. It is the first point of contact for many service users and the time it takes for their call to be answered and then how that call is handled, sets the scene for the rest of the user experience. The G4S plan was to lose 35 staff from the FCR whilst changing some systems and increasing the work ethic. It soon became clear that this would not work and due in quite some part to the very tight contract written by Lincolnshire Police, it is in the interests of G4S to provide the very best service they can. So the decision was made to only lose 9 staff from the FCR, with G4S absorbing the cost of the remaining staff. They did this because ‘it was the right thing to do’. They were able to look at how the FCR functions are make some changes to aid the staff, for instance they increased the dedicated 999 call takers by 50% and introduced more movement between roles, so that staff become omnicompetent. The baseline measurement in the FCR is a 10 second call pick up and this is much improved on the last two years. The room is operationally overseen by Police Inspectors, with one Chief Inspector in strategic control for Lincolnshire Police. As with Helen in Licensing, the Chief Inspector has lost all of the HR work in the department, freeing time and energy. To this end, Lincs have been able to extend the role of the Chief Inspector from simply FCR to an umbrella Criminal Justice role, benefitting the organisation and the person in that role. A new Chief Inspector is taking on this wide remit and it might be interesting to revisit this situation in 6 months to see how things are going. Andy told me that he arranged for regular meetings with Sergeants from across the county and that fears and worries were largely alleviated. He explained that ethos is to recognise a problem and then solve it. The Sergeants don’t bring issues to him anymore and they are generally happier than they used to be. Andy was proud that the FCR is achieving increased public satisfaction alongside happier officers.
The FCR felt happy and industrious – I could have spent longer in there chatting with staff, but lunch beckoned, where I had the slightly surreal experience of sitting with John whilst watching Chris Grayling live on TV exercising his Parliamentary privilege to make damaging claims against another branch of G4S, the ramifications of which will rumble on for quite some time. To discuss this ‘as it happened’ with John, allowed me to see another side to the story.
Parliamentary intrigue and lunch dealt with, I was taken to meet with the Federation representatives. This was interesting as I was at first quite surprised to hear a positive view even here, in the Federation offices. I spoke with Jason Kwee who told me he felt G4S have a ‘can do’ attitude, that IT was already much improved and the use of video conferencing had been extended to negate extra travelling hours across the county. The r message I picked up from him was that ‘things happen quicker now’. I then met with John Hassall, who had a slightly different view. He acknowledged the changes and positive aspects of the strategic partnership that had discussed with me, but concentrated more on details that he felt weren’t working. The “Street to Suite” custody van introduced by G4S to enable officers to stay out on the streets rather than spend hours transporting and booking in prisoners has proved popular and beneficial. However John explained that he did not like the battenburg livery on the van as it looks like a Police vehicle even though it is not manned by Police Officers. He felt this was misleading the public. His cautious air cut an intriguing comparator with the generally positive tone that I had hitherto heard within the building.
I spoke with Chief Constable Neil Rhodes who told me he was finding the relationship with G4S a positive one and that he was looking forward to further benefits as the contract continued. It was a rather comical meeting as I trotted down several flights of stairs with him and out into the car park, in an attempt to gain some insight. Whilst interesting, I found far more useful information from staff in departments physically effected by the partnership. That being said, his strategic view of the partnership was reassuring to hear.
John then took me to see Sergeant Adi Wootton in the Commercial Partnership office. He told me the general feeling was that this partnership had been forced upon them, in that the budgetary constraints meant they had no choice as a Force but to look at extreme measures. He said that if the situation had not been forced upon them, ‘dialogue may have been more gentle’ and they ‘wouldn’t have lost the extended Police family’. I questioned him on this, as the same people are largely doing the same jobs as before. He agreed that it is largely an emotional response rather than something which can be evidenced. He said that historic staff still see themselves as Lincolnshire Police staff even though they are outsourced and that this is largely because the change has been very well managed. He explained that the contract ensures that G4S ‘is the fall guy instead of Lincolnshire Police’ if standards drop and that the benefits outweigh any problems or concerns.
Back in John’s office, we chatted about what I had seen and heard during the day. John was open and welcomed any subject I brought up. I sat at the desk with the contract in front of me. It is so huge, it was almost higher than my head! We talked about the difference between customers, service providers and partners. John sees himself (or the company) in partnership with Neil (or Lincs Police) and Alan (Hardwick), the PCC is a customer. I’m sure we could all get hung up on the rights/wrongs or otherwises of this but I am equally sure that it really doesn’t matter. What matters is whether the staff and officers are feeling the benefit and most importantly whether the people of Lincolnshire are getting a good or hopefully improved service. The contract has 236 KPIs (performance indicators) written into it and these have to be met by G4S each and every month. Failure to meet any of the KPIs results in payment from G4S to Lincolnshire Police. This arrangement was described to me by several people as a ‘win-win’ for the Police. The contract is written as a continuous improvement model and G4S have to reach higher each year of the ten year contract. Some of the KPIs are already much higher than many other Forces are achieving and G4S are consistently meeting these targets. Some former police staff have benefitted from becoming G4S employees too. I met Angie Driver, who has been put on to the company’s high potential scheme. She is benefitting from this, taking on extra responsibilities and can confidently expect a much brighter future than would have been likely previously. Obviously this is not the story for everyone, but I wanted to find good examples of personal and professional progression and Angie certainly filled that role.
I asked John what Lincolnshire Police could learn from G4S and he immediately replied that they can learn to manage budgets and to live within budgets . Financial management training is an important part of the ongoing development for staff who run departments and this was not a common practice prior to G4S involvement. I then asked John what G4S could learn from Lincolnshire Police. He immediately brought up the situation in the Force Control Room where he realised that the plan to drop so many people was inappropriate. He talked about the need to be flexible and although G4S thought their plan would work, it became obvious this was not the case. They learned, readjusted and moved on. He then talked about ethos and about trying to be as efficient as possible so that time and money can be freed up.
Whilst I and I think the majority of people who are drawn to public service feel ethically opposed to the profit driven private sector having any part to play in the public sector, it cannot be ignored that outsourcing has been happening for many years now. The concept is not new and the debate had already passed us by before we realised. It is not the lucrative contract I had imagined it to be. Profit is capped at 8% and anything over and above that mark is ploughed back into Lincolnshire Police itself. The contract is key and this contract is a tight one which Lincs should be very proud of.

Yesterday, HMIC highlighted Lincolnshire Police as one of five Forces who will struggle to meet further budget cuts. The Force undoubtedly faces challenges but the partnership with G4S provides a bolster which HMIC, in my opinion, fails to understand. G4S are providing Lincolnshire with modern IT solutions, better business practices, more engaged staff and a flexibility as yet unseen in policing. I believe that the next few years, although challenging, will allow a small Force which quietly outperforms many bigger, brasher Forces around the country to shine and become a model for others. This would not be possible without the contract with G4S and the goodwill the company are showing over and above the contract requirements. I will be watching with interest and rooting for them all, as ultimately their success will be realised in better public services for the people of Lincolnshire.

Adendum: Since publishing this piece I have been asked who paid for my visit, which has also been referred to as a ‘guided tour’. So, for those readers who do not know me well, I feel I need to indulge in a little self description. I have done nothing for money or any other inducement since beginning this blog. I visited Lincolnshire Police and G4S because I am interested and because I have built a level of respect for several people working in that partnership, based largely on conversations begun via Twitter over more than 18 months. I did not go with the intention of writing anything in any particular vein, other than the truth as I found it. I am buoyed by the positive comments I have received from serving Lincolnshire Police Officers of all ranks. Theory, ethics and practicalities rarely walk happily, hand in hand. The only question remaining in my mind is why can’t public sector do what G4S is doing? That’s another blog, but I already have some idea why not. Cate.

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