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Longest ever serving PSA national officer retires from the Service

Today, April 8th 2024, marks the last the final day in Assistant National Secretary Paul Griffiths' Service as a police officer.  This also marks the end of his tenure as the longest serving national officer in the history of the Police Superintendents’ Association.
Paul, who served as an officer for Gwent Police throughout his operational career, has been a branch secretary, a member of the Panel of Friends, vice president, president and most recently, assistant national secretary.
We asked him to reflect on his time as a superintendent, as an active member of the association, and on his thoughts on the future of the organisation.

How much did you know about the PSA when you became a super?

At the time of my promotion, Ian Johnston QPM was the president of the association, and was also a Gwent Police officer, so I had watched him from afar and therefore knew a small amount about what the PSA was. I remember watching him in the media with some awe in terms of what he was doing as president. When I look back now, I never anticipated I’d be following in his footsteps.
In some ways it felt like my path towards being an active member of the association was laid out before me. A very short time after being promoted to superintendent, I was elected as the new branch secretary when I hadn’t even attended a branch meeting! This was because my superintending colleagues had known me as a chief inspector and clearly felt I had something to offer. I would never have known that this would be so pivotal in shaping my future.
How and why did you become so active in the association?

The more I got involved at a branch level, the more I got drawn in and pulled towards the positive work that was going on.  I could see the real difference the association could make, through helping and supporting colleagues who were at risk in some way, and I became more interested. That led to me attending events and meetings at a regional level.

I went through a phase in my own career where I had need to call upon the services of the PSA to help and support me. As a beneficiary, I then saw it as a logical and a clear progression to translate this experience into something good and try and do more things to influence at a higher level.

Once again, it felt like the path was laid out for me. I was supporting someone who was going through the process to put themselves forward for the vice president’s role. They then stepped away to accept a different promotion, and suggested I should think about going for the post myself. 
When the opportunity arose, it didn’t take a lot of thinking about on my part – I wanted to go for it and was delighted to be elected as Vice President in 2019. 

What did you wanted to achieve in the vice president’s role? 

Thinking back to my ‘pitch’ to the National Executive Committee – which is responsible for electing members into the president and vice president roles, I spoke about my belief in the importance of diversity, equality and inclusion, of workforce wellbeing and in influencing policing at a national level. These were the things I was personally passionate about, and things I could really put a lot of time and effort in to. I also knew, that if I followed ‘tradition’ and sought election into the president’s role too, I would have six years to try and make an impact. That’s important in policing because many projects take a long time to develop and see through to implementation.
How successful do you think you were in achieving what you set out to do as vice president and president?

I’m pretty proud of what we’ve all achieved as an association. For DEI, I managed to work with the College of Policing to train over 1000 leaders as coaches and mentors to support officers and staff from under-represented groups. The success of this led us to develop a more bespoke support offering through the Future Supers Programme, which gave targeted help to colleagues from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in year 1, and then to anyone from an under-represented group in year 2. This was hugely successful and I’m pleased that the College of Policing has now taken this on as a national offering. 

I think it’s really important to understand the individual impact of major programmes such as these, and I was privileged to coach and mentor two female officers from ethnic minority backgrounds as part of the programme. Seeing them both go on to successful promotion was fantastic – of course this was down to their own hard work and professionalism, but I hope I was able to play small part in this. 
Future Supers really took hold around the time of the anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, so the spotlight was rightly on policing once again when it came to race and representation.  We heard the impact of Future Supers being reported in the House of Commons, which was a particularly proud and positive moment for the association. I really believe it has been one of the few tangible projects to push towards change in representation at the senior ranks. 
Receiving an award from the National Black Police Association was humbling, and testament to our entire membership. Whilst I was the catalyst for change in the development of the programme, if people don’t come with you, you can’t make that gravitational change. Future Supers depended entirely on our own members giving up their time to voluntarily coach and mentor colleagues, which they did in their droves. There’s something very special about the fact that there is a lot of people in the PSA membership who are trying to do the right thing for the service and the public.

As a staff association, we are rightly ‘inward looking’ a lot of the time. We exist for our members, we represent them, and it’s our job to deliver for them. That’s why I worked with the College of Policing to develop a learning platform, solely designed around the rank of superintendent. I also supported the development of the public protection leaders programme to plug a gap in the training provision that had been highlighted by our teams.

I also secured funding for health screening for 6,000 current and retired Welsh police officers. For some who received this, it was life changing and life saving.
What are some of your most memorable moments from your time in the presidential roles?

There are many!  
One of the most memorable has to have been our role in the policing response to the Covid pandemic. I still remember being on the phone to colleagues in the Home Office Powers Unit late into the night in the early days, as we gave our insight into the various legislation being proposed. Then of course we did everything we could to support our members through what was such a difficult time for the nation and for policing, by updating them regularly with everything we knew and responding to any requests for help.
I gave evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee on the policing response to the pandemic. I also contributed to the Thomas Commission on Justice in Wales, national reviews on race and spoke regularly at the National Policing Board, chaired by the home secretary. Until you’ve been in a position like that, the pressure is difficult to describe. However, it really was a privilege to be able to influence members of parliament who carry your word back into the house.

Also during Covid, we welcomed the home secretary to our Pangbourne HQ to formally open our refurbished building. She took part in a meeting with some of our members – just one of the really significant moments in our history. I’m an avid follower of police history and so it was fortuitous that during my time as president, the association hit some important milestones, such as 100 years of our district meetings, 100 years of the Police Council and 100 years since the first president was elected. It was an honour to be leading at that moment in our history.

Not much is known about the one-to-one work of the association via the Panel of Friends. How important do you think this role is?

This is one of the biggest strengths of the association. Our panel is made up of members who give up their time to help their peers who are facing difficulty. Throughout our careers, we all need to seek a little bit of help, guidance or support and that’s the very essence of teamwork. 

Every person’s situation is different. Our panel members may be helping someone navigate the challenges of being under investigation, others may have their careers ending. It can get a very lonely place for those going through times like these and people can feel very isolated. For the PSA to come in and help at that difficult time is really important. 
The majority of officers, including those at risk, go out every day to do a good job, and every now and then need support. There are very few that we support to the point of exit. So, whatever the outcome is for their own situation, help can be crucial. I formally friended three people up to the point of become vice president, and also supported colleagues informally. Taking on the role of assistant national secretary, after finishing as president, means I have come back into the world of directly helping people which is rewarding. The feedback is always incredible.

How important will the PSA be as we look ahead to the future?

The association has lasted over 100 years and it will continue to last another 100! That’s because it’s a really important part of the institution of policing, and is part of the fabric of the policing landscape. 
The nature of policing means that senior officers, and colleagues at all ranks, lack employment rights, so having a staff association to represent and support the best interests of our people is crucial, there will always be a role for it to play. 
We know now more than ever, the very real impact that the stresses of policing can have on our people. Going forward, whilst we continue to push for fair pay and reward for our members, it will be just as important for us to do all we can to help and ensure that the right support services are in place for police officers.
We know we make a difference in these areas and more, so having been part of it for so long has been amazing. It’s been the most fitting end to a career I’ve loved.