90 days from today is Mon, 25 January 2021

Avon & Somerset Police Federation

Its people not processes

25 November 2019

The last 5 years has seen some seismic changes in policing, some have been for the benefit, but unfortunately the majority are born out of the requirement to save money. Possibly not before in the history of Policing, has so much been eradicated and changed, all for the requirements of saving public money. The previous cuts in policing that some of us experienced during the ‘90s were nowhere as deep with what we have recently endured. These have made us not only shrink in staffing levels, but also in capability and capacity. We have had to concentrate our efforts, reflecting national threats, but we have also had to change course on many aspects of policing. Under these demanding requirements we have flexed and developed well, being innovative in how we are having to now operate.

Along with the cuts have come some changes in staffing needs, demand and external policing expectations. We are investigating some very different crime types, we have different demands from the public and the requirements to assist other public bodies has brought real strain on our ability to police. An officer at Trinity Road told me that he was now a “social worker in a police uniform” and when you see the incidents that we are now dealing with we can understand where this feeling has come from. We have embraced new technology, new legislation, new communities and some new styles of management. All of these changes have been managed seamlessly but some of these process changes have landed on busy supervisors and staff without warning. Operationally there is now a growing feeling from officers and staff that we are trying to be all things to all people, with our “policing capabilities” now being washed into other public sector responsibilities and needs.

Internal practices and needs have also changed dramatically, mainly from the advancements of IT, but some of these changes are not necessarily meeting the needs of staff and dare I say the public. We are becoming a process driven organisation that will listen to the computer rather than the human. We are an organisation of individuals, who are part of a policing “family”, but as with all families there are differences in needs, expectations and care. By employing the Force Values, we should be treating our people as individuals, listening and understanding their concerns and sharing their happiness. We are endanger of treating people as a group and as a requirement for a process or computer programme. I don’t think that matches our real “Values”.

The human aspect is a worry, with a need to press “send” rather than to meet, “skype” or pick up the phone to discuss a worry. From my visits to stations there is a growing concern that we are morphing into a process and faceless organisation, where decisions are made remotely and not effectively communicated. The frustrations in officers and staff not being able to speak with colleagues and peers in an attempt to resolve a concern or even offer a resolution can exasperate situations, bringing delays and increasing anxiety. We are therefore becoming part of the process which is driven by the programme, stifling creativity and increasing disengagement. We want to place people into a certain box as its seen as the fairest way to operate. We do this without listening to the individual’s needs, their specific concerns or what is the best outcome. We are better than this.

The Federation can understand aspects of this and the tough decisions that have had to be made in attempts to reduce expenditure. But the outcome and future infrastructure is becoming more of a concern moving forward. The push and pull now placed on front line officers has never been greater, with added responsibilities and requirements being placed on them with the management of staff and also an increasing demand from the public. We are expecting our managers to do far more, sometimes without the provision of training and even on occasions without telling them!

I have previously written about the support the Federation gives to the Force Values. We feel that these are key for us moving forward, but we need to move away from a process driven element within the organisation. We need to have support, time and whilst being human, provide that ability to care, help, understand and increase learning. It really is about people and not processes.