Now that our annual conference has finished, I have had time to reflect over the last few days.
I spoke to many colleagues attending conference, some for the first time, and it confirmed what I said in my speech: that I have the privilege to represent remarkable men and women, the senior operational leaders of this great service, and who are themselves leading remarkable men and women.
This reinforced my statement that this is service is not broken and will not be broken long as we have brave, selfless and committed people still wanting to serve.
My Association had some important messages, things that needed saying, perhaps more publicly or more strongly than we have done in the past.
We have long been, and will continue to be, the moderate and reasoned voice of policing. We will always seek to be constructive, and work with everyone in the “blue team” and Government to serve the public.
However my description of a perfect storm is not one I used lightly. We have heard from other leaders in the service terms like “stretched” and “challenging”.
I have previously spoken about the unsustainable position of demand exceeding capacity, and am on record as saying cuts to policing have gone far enough.
But I believe we have now reached a tipping point, and I say this for two reasons.
The first was our recent Personal Resilience Survey, a credible, evidenced-based piece of research based on information from three-quarters of all Superintendents and Chief Superintendents across England and Wales.
The findings included:
I have called the current state a “perfect storm” because we are relying on a model that requires fewer people to work harder and longer, within the second reason – the context of both rising and rapidly changing demands. The sustainability of this is precarious at best.
In my speech to Conference I again raised the issues of force structures and the efforts the service has made at collaboration. Whilst there are good examples of joint force working across the country, there are also many that are propped up by the model of a single Superintendent attempting to accommodate the needs and demands of two, three, four or even five forces (and the commensurate numbers of chief officers).
As well as being inefficient, it is taking its toll on our people.
This is why I welcomed the announcement by Dorset and Devon and Cornwall Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to start approaching a full merger.
This will take leadership, determination and selflessness on the part of all, and I sincerely hope is an example for many other forces who are either at or quickly approaching that tipping point.
Because this cannot be about cap badge or identity. It must be about achieving the best way possible to meet the demands the service is facing, and of course improving service to the public at the same time.
I have called for a debate with everyone in policing, Government and the public on what we want our police service to do in the 21st century, what it should not do, and then how we structure and resource it.
The Policing Minister agrees with me that this debate needs to happen.
And it is not just me calling for it. Sir Thomas Winsor made the same demand in his most recent State of Policing report. And NPCC Chair Sara Thornton, is also showing leadership and courage in attempting to begin the conversation on what the police should start not to do.
We need that debate, because none of this is new. In my speech I quoted from the 2005 HMIC report “Closing the gap: a review of the fitness for purpose of the current structure of policing in England & Wales”. I suggest much of this is as relevant today as it was then.
But it is not all negative. Whilst we are facing a perfect storm, 90% of my colleagues also stated they get a buzz out of policing and still regard it as a vocation.
That is the spirit of British policing in a nutshell and is why we are the best service in the world.
Policing is something I feel as passionate about today as I did when I joined and I feel exceptionally proud to know my colleagues feel the same.