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President's 2018 conference speech

Good afternoon colleagues and guests, and of course to you Home Secretary.  You are most welcome at our annual conference.

Home Secretary, you hold one of the most important Offices of State and are charged with keeping our country and its people safe.

My Association has always enjoyed a productive relationship with your predecessors and with your officials.

I believe this is important and I can assure you that my Association will always endeavour to nurture that good relationship.

We may not agree on every issue, but I think the hallmarks of a healthy relationship are respecting each other’s perspectives, valuing each other’s expertise, and working transparently together.

I also believe it’s important that my colleagues once a year hear directly from their Home Secretary.

It reinforces that we all have the same goals: to serve the public and keep them safe. So I hope you find our conference a positive and valuable experience.

I stand before you this afternoon with some mixed emotions and thoughts.

This will be the final time I address you, my colleagues, as your President at our Conference.

The last two and half years have gone so quickly!

Change has been a constant throughout my tenure: at the highest political levels we have seen the EU referendum, a new Prime Minister and a general election and changes to the Cabinet, as well as new Mayoral systems across the country, new Police and Crime Commissioners, changes at Chief Constable level, changes to crime patterns, changes to budgets….as I say, change is a constant.

What has also been a constant is the relentless increase of pressure upon the police service in this time.

We have seen this manifested in capacity, demand and people.

Put bluntly, policing is now utterly reliant on fewer people working longer and harder.

For you, our members, this has resulted in a major increase in expectations on you.

Bigger commands, both in size and scope.

More complexity, more risk, and more demand.

Smaller teams, fewer resources, less support.

And as I have stated on many occasions your tireless commitment to getting the job done whatever the consequences for you.

Our most recent personal resilience survey, completed by 75% of Superintendents in England and Wales, provided the most worrying set of results since we started doing this survey in 2010.

  • 50% of you have signs of anxiety
  • 27% symptoms of depression
  • 59% of you are on call on your rest days
  • 94% of you are working or contactable on holiday
  • And only 27% of you say you have sufficient resources to do the job properly.

I want to acknowledge your contribution, your passion, and the way you live our values to serve the public as members of the best policing service in the world.

I also want to set out what we as an Association are doing about this situation.

I have previously welcomed the Home Office announcement of £7.5million funding for a national wellbeing service.

We are working closely with them on the development of this service and to ensure that the Superintendents’ perspective – as a rank and as senior leaders of others in the service – is well represented to Ministers.

I am also on the steering group of the Police Minister’s Front Line Review. You will have heard from the Minister that this is an important initiative to represent the views from the ground and ensure that invaluable experience and insight informs policy making and decisions.

Your association has also been highlighting the pressures and strains many of you experience every day in trying to make collaborations work.

Our Vice President Paul Griffiths spoke to you this morning about the work he has lead on, asking you and our colleagues for their views and experiences on collaboration. 

96% of you stated that you had to invest more of your time in negotiating and influencing than you would in your previous force role to try and make it work, and that it had an adverse effect on how you lead on these collaborative roles, your private life and health and wellbeing.

What that says to me is that we are trying to make collaborations work when the evidence suggests this is a sub-optimal approach to reform.

This is the same conclusion that HMIC said in 2005 and yet we are still trying to do this with the hope for a different outcome.

And 82% of you agreed that force amalgamations should be considered as a more effective governance arrangement.

We’re also revisiting the work from three years ago into Public Protection Units, which found 82% of those leading these commands had received no training for it.

I’m grateful to the College of Policing for taking forward the Licence to Practise work around this but a repeat of our research has found that currently 87% of our colleagues leading in protecting children and the vulnerable are being placed in positions with no training or development.

The report I will be issuing soon is based on a response rate of 100% of all my colleagues who lead in child protection.

Their professional views and voice are important, and ignored at our peril.

They describe what is a wider issue in this service of one in crisis, with no end in sight to the quandary of demand versus resource and capacity.

We need to start thinking longer-term for public protection, we need a vision and a different approach in the longer term across this country.

This is not me saying this, but our colleagues trying to lead and deliver a service in crisis.

Another key concern you highlighted are the hours you are working and we’re addressing this too.

As many of you will know your National Secretary Dan Murphy is exploring the role of the Working Time Regulations which are set out in law to protect people’s health.

With the welcome support of Sara Thornton, I wrote in June to all Chief Constables asking about their compliance with Working Time Regulation requirements.

There is a legal requirement for any employer to have a sufficiently effective means for people to record the hours they work.

The response from forces highlighted that for the majority in the superintending ranks there is no proper oversight of the hours they are working, that accurate records are not being kept and that the excessive hours worked by you is having a real effect on your health and wellbeing.

I will make two points here.

Firstly, if our ambition is to move from a time-served pay structure to one that reflects individuals’ contribution and roles, then a fundamental element of this is knowing how many hours your people are working, and what they are doing in that time.

Secondly, I believe that information and analysis of people’s working patterns will evidence that the current operating models are only achievable if you, and your teams, continue to work harder and longer.

Clearly this is unsustainable: as a service, we must make this case ahead of the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

But this is not just about me as your President pointing out to Chief Constables and the Home Office their responsibilities.

Many of you will have also have heard me challenge ourselves as leaders in the service.

We have a responsibility now and tomorrow to change our behaviour and our language, and help those we lead to do the same.

To break the cycle of long hours and presenteeism.

To bust the dangerous myth that you can only be a good performer if you work long hours.

We are police officers. We joined to serve the public.

It goes without saying that we will always give extra of ourselves, especially in emergencies and operational situations.

But firstly, I can assure you that policing will not fall apart because someone needed to have a day off sick or take a rest day.

So, please, for your own health, and that of your teams, demonstrate by your leadership that presenteeism is not the norm.

Secondly, and more importantly, I cannot emphasise enough that the delivery of routine policing functions should not be dependent on officers effectively giving their time for free by staying past their shift times or working on leave days.

Home Secretary, that exploits police officers and defrauds the public.

This brings me neatly to the subject of pay, and the wider pay setting process.

It was this Government, and the then Home Secretary, that insisted on moving from a Police Negotiating Board to an independent Remuneration Review Body.

And it has been this Government that has thus far ignored the evidence-based recommendations of the PRRB, making their own decisions on pay awards for policing.

Home Secretary, I need to make it clear to you that officers feel let down by this.

We are not asking for much. None of us joined the police service to be rich.

In fact the personal resilience survey I referred to earlier amply demonstrates this: more than 90% of my colleagues still feel that serving the public is a vocation.

But there is a fundamental principle of procedural justice at stake here.

We have no industrial rights and nor do we want them.

All our faith and trust is in the PRRB process and when we have a Government that has consistently ignored this process, where do we go?

For the the past two years, policing has been given some of the lowest pay awards out of all the public services – and put in the frankly immoral position of making Chief Constables choose between giving their staff the pay rise they were awarded, or cutting staff numbers.

Home Secretary, it is simply, and unequivocally, unfair.

I urge you and the Government to look again at the pay process and the recommendations of the pay review body, as the least police officers should be able to expect is for these to be fit for purpose.

If I can turn now to current pay reform and its approach to move from time-served to one that remunerates for the complexity and breadth of a role, and the skills of the person performing it.

We are supportive of this, provided the new model is consistent, transparent and equitable across England and Wales, and that none of you are worse off than you are now.

But evidence suggests this will be a challenge for a service consisting of 43 different organisations who will each approach it differently.

I can recall the inconsistency of the ‘big job allowance’ across forces, and more recently the bonus payments recommended by PRRB 2016/17 which have yet to be enacted and more so in any consistent way across forces.

The challenge of consistency and transparency on pay reform across 43 organisations could be nearly as complex as Brexit …. ok not quite.

But the 2018 PRRB report says:

“We note that there are inherent structural problems in having to secure the necessary commitment from each of the 43 separate and independent police forces. And, to the extent that the NPCC is in a position to supply the collective leadership required in order to deliver the vision, we were not convinced that there was a willingness to exercise the necessary authority to drive the work forward.” 

I suggest there are two core principles that are key to achieving pay reform:

  • A move away from restricting our thinking and approach to the current pay envelope. If we are to be truly innovative and reforming in this, then let’s write the letter first and see if it fits the envelope. The alternative is an approach of diminishing return if reform is continually restricted to what is affordable.
  • Whatever is proposed, all of us must be confident that it has been achieved in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. It needs to bring the workforce with it.

 The challenges of implementing pay reform fairly in 43 different organisations is yet another example of how the current structure of policing is far from ideal.

I referred earlier to the pressures many of you are facing in making collaborations work, or in dealing with the divorce arrangements when they do not.

Let me describe a picture to you.

A police service that is operating short of 13,500 officers.

The beat system of neighbourhood policing is largely broken and this is being acutely felt in the metropolis, the West Midlands, the industrial north, and many county forces.

There has been an alarming increase in many crime types in a society where technology is driving rapid change.

There is a haphazard approach to uniformity, or consistency, within the service.

A great deal is out of date in both structure and systems, with one expert describing the basis of policing as echoing “not only the requirements of policing a century ago, but also fears and prejudices as well as the political wisdom of the Victorian age.”

This sounds something like 2018. In fact, it is the assessment of the 1962 Royal Commission.

We have been debating our structures for delivering service to the public on and off ever since, and yet over the years have been trying to make the same systems and structures work.

This in my judgement has become even more acute in this century, with technology, different expectations from the public, and austerity.

The famous definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Structural reform is difficult. It’s riven with self-interest and made worse by the current arrangements of localism.

One of the consequences of our current system and structures is inconsistency.

You only have to review the inspection reports by HMICFRS, to see the term inconsistency is unsurprisingly consistent across many of the findings into forces.

I can accept local initiative and nuances to policing.

After all, this is how we innovate and develop new and best practice.

But surely it is simpler to have six or eight conversations and arrangements for consistency, than 43?

Policing is essential to the safety and security of our fellow citizens and communities.

I have said before and I will say it again: I cannot accept inconsistency in how we protect our children and vulnerable adults, and other critical areas of policing where lives may be at stake.

But of course, this is only one of the many challenges facing policing.

The current approach is reform through the Police Reform and Transformation Board.

Much is reliant on this, but will it be the panacea we hope for?

Last year at Conference I called for a conversation, a review of policing in the 21st century where there has been an industrialisation of crimes such as internet fraud and child sexual abuse.

What do we want our policing service to do?

And then once we understand the answer – or answers – to then address how we structure our systems and resource them accordingly.

We already had an attempt at this through the work of the National Debate Advisory Group, which I was a part of in 2015.

We came out with five key principles which I suggest still hold true now.

  1. Protect the public, especially the most vulnerable
  2. Deliver a service that is valued and supported by the public, tailoring it to be more victim-focused.
  3. Protect the ease of access to frontline services including online access and a visible local presence.
  4. Enhance the capabilities in the service and achieve value for money by scaling up specialist capabilities and standardising functions.
  5. Work in close co-operation with other organisations with greater integration.

If we can agree with these principles, some of which are being addressed through the Police Reform and Transformation Board, then that is at least a start.

The alternative is carrying on as we are, hoping for different outcomes from the same attempts.

Euphemisms that have been used to describe the current state of policing include:

  • Stretched
  • Challenged
  • Degraded
  • Difficult

In my speech last year I introduced my own, by stating that policing was in the middle of a perfect storm.

I still hold to that statement: in fact I would now suggest that this great service is on the verge of crisis in many areas.

I recognise this is not language that the President of the Police Superintendents’ Association uses often. It’s worth reflecting on what the word crisis actually means.

The dictionary definition of crisis is a time of intense difficulty or danger; a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.

From what my members tell me, from what I have seen and heard in forces in my national role, and from my own experiences, I believe it is reasonable to apply this definition to policing.

I want to be clear that I do not say this lightly. I do not say this for headlines. I do not say it to be controversial.

I say it because I have genuine fears for the future of the police service and the hard-working people who make up that service.

I’ve talked about the impact of the pressure on the service on our members’ health and welfare, and about fewer officers needing to work longer and harder just to even keep up with what is asked of them.

We can also see in the headlines of examples where the public feel policing hasn’t been there for them. Where they feel we have let them down. Believe me, nothing hurts a police officer more than this.

We have seen how stretched policing is when called to resource national demand such as the visit by the President of the United States.

We have seen how tired and disillusioned many officers are.

This is only one part of the picture – most of the good that policing does every day goes unreported or unsung – but it is too much of the picture already and is getting bigger.

We need a new direction. I suggest based on those five principles I mentioned earlier.

But to have a new direction we need to understand what our service will be facing in the future.

You will recall last year I spoke of developing a strategic foresight programme for the service that can start to do just that. So that policing can rise out of the short-term cycles of current demand and stop operating futures-blind.

Since then I have been grateful to the support from many organisations including the Home Office, the Police Foundation and UCL to develop this.

I have been particularly grateful to our College of Policing who have picked this up and are now developing such a programme for the service that can influence those sat in this room in the future, of the risks, threats, challenges and opportunities policing will be facing.

This is important. It requires selfless leadership, to develop practices and ideas that go beyond one’s own tenure, and not be obsessed with a personal legacy that is both short-term and short-sighted.

The Policing Minister has called on the whole system in policing, including the Home Office, to work together on this. I agree.

However, knowing what the future might hold is only one half of the equation.

We must also address the elephant in the room: that there is a void in a long term strategic vision for the police service of the future.

We need to know what the overall goal is for reform.

What are we ultimately working towards? What is the vision for policing in 21st century England and Wales?

It has to be something more strategic than a hope for more collaborations based on individual strategic relationships, the ever-present net donor syndrome, and the fragile sustainability that has been evident over the last decade.

Otherwise we are going to continue to be in a perpetual state of crisis.

Localism is a model for those local, valued policing services in communities and neighbourhoods.

But it is not a model that can sustain consistent, effective services across regional and national arrangements in delivering strategic specialist capabilities and practices.

So we need a new, clear and bold direction and vision.

To paraphrase your words earlier this year Home Secretary, we need a Government that gets this and is prepared to take those difficult, bold political decisions to reform this service.

I am afraid this has been sadly absent from the whole police reform agenda so far and I urge you to redress this: to provide a common, agreed picture for policing that we can all unite behind and work towards. Because right now I question who actually has the overview of this system. Who has the picture on the box, the wiring diagram?

The College of Policing can have a critical role here. I think it has the potential to be the most important part of this ecosystem.

I have seen the College grow and transform from the ashes of the NPIA into an organisation, introducing challenging reform and leading on developing us as a profession.

I implore everyone in our system to ensure that the College of Policing remains and is sustainable far beyond any of us in this room.

Allow it to have the time and space to develop like other professional colleges have had, rather than fall victim to the cycle of changes that have blighted our service over the years.

 Colleagues as I have said this is my last Conference both as your President and as a member of our Association.

It has been a fantastic, exciting personal journey for me, from being Police Constable 273 stepping out on his first patrol in 1982 to being a Detective over the last three decades and witnessing the incredible changes this service has undergone.

“The job” is the people, all of us in this room and the many colleagues we have worked with over the years some sadly not with us anymore.

They are what make it. Look after them. Look after each other.

Policing is built on people and we forsake them at our peril.

I could not be prouder to have been given the opportunity to be your President and to represent our great Association.

Thank you.