Police Superintendents Logo

Developing leaders from under represented groups

Article reproduced with kind permission of Policing Insight

Leadership: Superintendents are key to developing leaders from under-represented groups

by Tina Orr-Monroe, Associate Editor, Policing Insight

Recruitment from under-represented communities is improving, but once in officers often struggle to progress through the ranks. A new, specially-devised coaching scheme has been launched by the Superintendents’ Association in partnership with the College of Policing to encourage and support officers in reaching their full potential.

Improving diversity in the police service has understandably focused on recruitment, but what happens once a member of an under-represented group joins the service? Do they go on to fulfil their potential? And how far do they progress through the ranks?

Official figures on the career progression for under-represented groups in the police service are scant given diversity encompasses race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities and religious beliefs and more. However, we know that although BME officers make up 6.3 per cent of the service, they make up less four per cent of inspecting ranks, 5.1 per cent of superintendent ranks and just 2 per cent of chief officers. Women fare little better. Home office figures for 2016/17 show women make up 29.1 per cent of total officer strength. However, just 23 per cent of inspectors and superintendents are women although women occupy 26 per cent chief officer roles.

The absence of ambition is not a factor in this lack of progression, says Paul Griffiths, Vice President of the Police Superintendents’ Association.  He says the appetite for those from under-represented groups in the service to advance is much in evidence, it is the support that is lacking.

He says, “I’ve met a range of under-represented groups and the same themes emerged. They tell me they just need guidance, support and coaching. The issue for them is progression in the service.”

The Superintendents’ Association believes it is in a prime position to offer the necessary support which is why it is the driving force behind developing 12 one-day coaching and mentoring workshops which were delivered across England and Wales, in partnership with the College of Policing.


The Association believes its members can be the cornerstone in offering a strong and sustainable approach to helping talented officers from under-represented groups reach their full potential.

Paul says, “Whereas recruitment isn’t something we, as an Association, can directly affect we did feel we could make a real impact on how talent is developed in the service. We can lead the way and we can bring a real energy to that.

“We’ve always been a loud voice in terms of valuing difference, raising the profile of unconscious bias and providing toolkits and action plans for the police service.

“Our aspiration now is to provide coaching and mentoring days to train as many of our leaders in the principles and approaches of coaching and mentoring as possible. Ultimately, we want our superintendents to view coaching as business as usual. This has huge benefits not just for the individuals concerned, but for the organisation as a whole.”

The Association’s members have responded positively to the offer to teach them how to coach their officers and staff. There has been a 25 per cent take up among its membership with around 290 Superintendents and Chief Superintendents attending the workshops. By the end of the 12 sessions, around 360 people will have been taught how to coach, but the work doesn’t stop there.

“Those initial one-day events are just a springboard. This is a long-term investment in the skills of a Superintendent and in developing talent through the police service,” adds Paul.

What this means in practice is that after the workshop, each delegate is expected to return to their force area and identify three talented people with potential to progress from under-represented communities and coach them through to the next stage of their career. The one-day workshop also maps across a Level 3 award which can be achieved following review, practice and reflection.

The workshops are provided by the Membership Services Team of the College of Policing who are working closely with the Superintendents’ Association. The aims of the programme align with the College of Policing’s own recommendations in its Leadership review which centre around current police leaders driving cultural change by demonstrating their own commitment to personal development and creating a new model of leadership, management and training that is accessible to all.


Fiona Eldridge is Head of Membership at the College of Policing which is delivering the workshops. She says a coaching and mentoring style of leadership can significantly influence the working environment to ‘enable people to be more autonomous, use their skills and experiences to the full and break down barriers that exist within hierarchies’. But it isn’t just the person being coached that benefits from coaching.

She says, “We want to develop the skills of leadership within the police service at all levels for a more inclusive work force. We want to give superintendents the skills they need to nurture that talent.

“If police leaders adopt and practice a coaching and mentoring style they also develop their own listening skills, use a more open style of communication and be able to act as role models for future leaders.

“It may also give them a greater understanding of issues affecting under-represented groups and enable them to become an ally of those who are under-represented. This in turn helps create a positive culture where people can be themselves and contribute to creating a richness of diversity so that it becomes the norm within policing.”

Detective Superintendent Andrew Munday from Devon and Cornwall Police, attended the one-day Coaching Skills Workshop in Exeter. He says the day has already made a difference.

“The reason for engaging in the Coaching Skills Workshop is because it was a meaningful opportunity to find new ways to support peers and colleagues.

“During the course of our working day, we do as much as we can, but having a structure that focuses us on coaching, in particular, can make a significant difference to someone.

“I found the day very useful and I’ve already started using some of the approaches that were explored during the workshop with someone I’m supporting. The course has lent itself directly to my mentoring in being able to draw out specific issues that the person has and being part of the solution.

“In terms of using the workshop to coach those from under-represented groups in policing, it is now down to me to seek those individuals and to offer them my support. Obviously, coaching can be used with everyone, but it is important to focus on under-represented groups because they have challenges and issues that we haven’t experienced ourselves.

“For me, the real value of the coaching is being able to support and coach those people that need it.”

Ultimately, the plan is to embed the Coaching Programme into Leadership Development Programmes where all leaders will commit to helping and developing under-represented groups.

Paul adds, “The hope is then that we will start to see a more diverse leadership in the Service, which will then have a direct impact on community engagement and confidence, with a cumulative attractiveness for people from diverse backgrounds to choose policing as an occupation for the future.”

What to expect from a Coaching Skills Workshop

I was invited to attend the morning of the Coaching Skills Workshop and joined a session in Exeter. The morning was a mix of theory and practice delivered in a relaxed and highly-accessible style by College of Policing tutors Clive Newlands and Karen Drury, alongside Fiona Eldridge, Head of Membership.

Clive Newlands began the session with a general, but thought-provoking introduction to the concept of coaching. His explored the Johari window model (a technique that helps people better understand their relationship with themselves and others) and discussed how sharing information about ourselves reduces a person’s façade. Other activities looked at identifying an individual’s visible and invisible characteristics ‘hidden below the water line’ and how drawing out those invisible characteristics supports effective coaching.

Throughout the morning, the tutors dealt with various questions from the floor, including one issue where individuals tended to approach superintendents to discuss promotion prospects not the possibility of being coached. However, Clive said this presented an opportunity.

“It’s a cultural shift. A person may come to you to ask about promotion. Your role as a coach would be to ask what’s led you to this decision. What’s your motivation? What’s the likely impact?  You might think they are asking about promotion, but they might want something else.”

He added that coaching was about ‘moving forward’.

“It’s a technique for change. The individual needs to know you’re on their side. It’s about developing the skills of asking the individual the right questions at the right time.”

Several different coaching models were also examined, but all are underpinned by the same principles of looking at where you are now, where you want to be, what the options are and how are you going to get there in terms of taking action and monitoring progress.

I left the workshop at lunchtime as the afternoon session shifted from a general discussion about coaching to focusing on individuals and the sharing of potentially personal information. The afternoon session explored the idea that the most effective coach is the person that has been coached themselves. This involved a series of sessions where delegates were asked to share something about their lives that they might like to change.

Karen Drury, the afternoon tutor, said the afternoon sessions were often a powerful experience for delegates. “It’s about knowing how it feels to be coached as well as how it feels how to do the coaching.”