Neyroud’s Vision: a bridge too far?

The quality of police leadership, or as I’ve previously said, the often distinct lack of it, is something that has been the subject of hot debate in the service for some time. It has long been my view that the process responsible for selecting leaders is at fault however, others suggest the problem starts with the initial recruitment and selection of police officers.

Academics in policing (like the one below) have suggested; there is a distinct lack of evidence based intellectual ability in the service. Given the numerous examples of new recruits who are unable to spell, or construct a grammatically correct sentence, I would tend to agree somewhat.

That said, policing requires a lot more than just academic ability. There is also a need for some life experience, a reasonable understanding of social issues, a personal desire to provide a service to others, some ethics and a good measure of empathy. These traits and skills are all areas that are often lacking in today’s police officer, both at leadership and ground floor level.

So after some delay, the Police Leadership Report, prepared by Peter Neyroud, the ex-CEO of the NPIA is finally available for open scrutiny.

The main recommendation is the establishment of a professional body into which the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) should merge but not be recreated. It should be a chartered company accountable to the Privy Council through an executive board with independent members and be responsible for leadership development, training and standards for the whole service… (policeprofessional.com)

Before looking at the proposals in any detail, I wouldn’t be me without adding my flippant and cynical observation; I hope this didn’t cost the public purse as much as Neyroud’s last bridge. 😉

The report actually hit the Home Secretary‘s desk in the Home Office back in February however I suppose realistically, it was probably too much to let it loose at that time, better to let the dust settle a little after Tom Winsor’s police pay review and the Hutton Review into public sector pensions. After all, how much radical change can you realistically expect one particular group to soak up and deal with all in one go?

As I’ve said, given the so far hotly debated subject matter of Neyroud’s ‘visionary’ report, it is hardly surprising there is already some equally hot initial comment, even before the outcome of any public inspection or stakeholder consultation…

…Publication of this review marks a key moment in the debate chief officers have been having over a long period about how to secure the necessary reform to ACPO that we seek. We note the review places ACPO as the “head and heart” of a professional body. As leaders of the service we recognise such a body must be open to all who deliver policing and its inspiration shared across all ranks and grades… (Sir Hugh Orde – President of ACPO)

Given ACPO’s somewhat self-important status in the past, and Neyroud’s previous position in the ‘old boys (and girls) network’, it is hardly surprising they like his appreciation of their self-appointed ‘voice of the service’ status however, it is also refreshing that they (ACPO) acknowledge the remainder involved in the service are also important stakeholders in the equation, for a change.

…The most radical and far reaching recommendation is to create a service wide Professional Body. We support this proposal in principle. However, for this to happen it will be important to recognise that this should actively engage all parts of the Service and will fail if it is seen simply as a re-branding of the current Association of Chief Police Officers… (Police Superintendent’s Association)

The Superintendents have offered a broad brush comment of basic approval. What I find interesting (when reading between the lines and reading other sources of comment recently) is; despite their expected SMT aspirations, the Superintendents actually appear to be airing more on the side of the rank and file than has previously been the case. What a refreshing change.

…If implemented, this report stands to have a huge impact on police officers and the structure of policing in England and Wales, so it must not be viewed in isolation. Within the space of a few weeks police officers have been confronted with the Winsor Review of pay and conditions, Hutton’s report on pensions and now this.  If ever there was an urgent need for considered and structured reform through an open and public Royal Commission on Policing, it is now… (Simon Reed – Vice Chairman, Police Federation of England & Wales)

Simon highlights, confirms and sums up the malaise of issues currently impacting upon our police service. Contrary to popular media led public opinion, the British police service is not and never has been, an organisation resistant to change. The problem for many years has been the quantity of change, some good, most not so good and inevitably, implemented for reasons of political and/or personal self advancement and popularity.

The time is probably right to implement change however just for once, let this time be for the benefit of the organisation as a whole, along with the society it serves, instead of furthering the career of some bloody politician or senior police officer!

It remains to be seen if Neyroud’s answer to police leadership is simply another academic fake representation of the Bridge of Sighs or, could it be a piece of educated guess-work? Either way, many will still see it as simply, a bridge too far!