Total Pageviews

Friday, 11 November 2011

Smiles cost nothing - catching people doing right

This week saw the 2011 WOW! Awards gala final.  There were small businesses competing with international organisations in an effort to have their customer service excellence recognised by the biggest not for profit customer service organisation - The WOW! Awards.

The WOW! Awards have been going since x and work with companies such as Cadburys, Scottish Power, Richer Sounds and smaller businesses such as Mayburys Chemist in South Wales.  The idea idea is that organisations purchase a licence and customers are given the opportunity to thank employees for the service that they are given.  The process has proved to be hugely popular with some amazing stories of people going out of their way to help customers and deliver a top quality service.

Policing has been involved in the WOW! Awards since Merseyside Police joined in 2007.  Since then Durham, West Yorkshire, Dyfed Powys, Green Bay (Wisconsin) and Peabody (Illinois) have joined with a further three UK forces asking for further information.  The ideal situation in respect of policing seems to be to build the process into a community policing or citizen focus strategy that is aimed at increasing levels of satisfaction and confidence.  The process seems to work in policing for two reasons.  First the police like the fact that the awards are independent.  In other words the police force cannot interfere with the recognition being given to specific officers or teams.  Second, they enjoy the opportunity to  discuss their day to day work with senior officers as they at presented with their certificates.

The gala awards have been dominated by police forces over the last two years and this year was no exception.  Green Bay won the international award and Durham Police, who were nominated in three categories, were highly commended by the judges.  Over 250 people attended the event and witnessed the level of customer care given to the public by the police.  This number will increase greatly once the video of the event hits the Internet and comments from the #wowgala Twitter feed start to worm their way through the social media network.

Of course there are sceptics who see the WOW! Awards as a luxury item that cannot be afforded in these austere times.  However, this issue is answered by one Chief Constable who asked what we do with the people who are left post austerity?  They need to be motivated to continue to deliver the highest possible service.  The issue seems to be that police officers of all ranks, roles, PCSOs and police staff deserve recognition for those times that they go out of their way to ensure customer service excellence or the delivery of a consistently high standard of service excellence.

However, if you are still not convinced that the WOW! Awards can play an important role in community policing, satisfaction and confidence, then I challenge you to watch the short film attached to this link and not feel moved by the stories from the guy whose grandson committed suicide in his house or the lady talking about how a police officer recovered money stolen from a disabled man. The officer may say that 'they were just doing their job'.  Indeed they were, but someone just wanted to be able to say 'thanks.'

I wonder how proud the Chief Officers and people of Green Bay and Durham are that their force has received national recognition for their customer service?  Finally - I think that the comment from one lady is perhaps the best moment of all - 'smiles cost nothing.'

Further information on the not for profit WOW! Awards is avialable here

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Trouble at St Paul's Cathedral

It would be first to assume that the controversy being experienced at St Paul's Cathedral in London is a unique issue at such a high profile religious establishment.  However, St Paul's was the subject of a letter to the first two Commissioners, Rowan and Mayne.  On 26th March 1838, that is 173 years ago, John Hume wrote to ask whether the Commissioners thought that the working classes should have free access to Westminster Abby and St Paul’s cathedral.  It seems that his fears centred around the poor behaviour of the working classes, especially in relation to public protest against the police.
The reply from Rowan gives an indication that he thought that the police were becoming accepted within communities and he did not see any issue with allowing the working classes to both cathedrals.  The respective content of his letter is shown below.

 “The Commissioners feel persuaded that considerable improvement has taken place, within the last few years, in the conduct of people on public occasions, and with reference to their behaviour where a more free admission has been granted to places of public resort, the Commissioners would beg to instance the Regent’s Park, the Garden of St James’s Park, where there is a large and valuable collection of acquatic birds, and the British Museum, to all of which very great numbers of all classes were admitted without detriment.  To a considerable degree such would naturally be the consequence of the increased confidence shewn in the people by their free admission to these places… The Commissioners have also of late years great general improvement in the conduct of the people at the several fairs in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis; there has been comparatively little drunkenness or disorder, and every indication of good feeling evinced towards the police.”

I wonder whether the current Commissioner would be able to answer in a similar fashion if, considering the recent disturbances in the Metropolis and the occupation of St Paul’s, he was to be asked the same question.

Source : British Police and the Democratic Ideal.  Reith, 1943: 218

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Thoughts on outsourcing

Earlier blogs have commented on the austerity measures that the police have faced and whether leaders within policing have the necessary skills to cope.  I am constantly coming across occurrences where the answer to that question is a resounding 'no' .

Perhaps the recent discussions on Twitter relating to the outsourcing of police services highlights this fact.  There has to be differentiation between outsourcing general roles with a view to saving costs and outsourcing specialist services that may also save costs but have the added advantage of bringing greater expertise, flexibility and crucially a better service to customers. 

As part of the austerity measures the department that I used to lead was disbanded.  Three professional, motivated subject matter experts lost their jobs and the remaining thirty odd staff were redeployed.  Nothing was outsourced and the loss of key skills was highlighted within a few months after the department folded.  Other forces are making administration staff redundant because the same function can be outsourced at a cost saving, but once again you lose expertise and people who are committed to the organisation.

However, there is another option for the police in terms of outsourcing and that includes specialist services.  There are two that immediately come to mind.  A former colleague of mine has fully researched the option of outsourcing the Family Liaison Officer (FLO) role.  For those who are unfamiliar with this role it is often undertaken by a detective or traffic officer who liaises with a bereaved family.  Broadly speaking the FLO updates the family in relation to the progress of the investigation into a murder or death from a road traffic collision or some other fatal incident.  The FLO plays a crucial role in the investigation and is highly trained, however, extensive research shows that this role does not need warranted powers.

With the right protocols and service level agreements this role can be carried out by individuals who have had the same training and have had the same, if not more, experience than warranted FLOs.  These people exist.  They are often retired detectives or traffic officers who have played their role as an FLO in protracted and high profile investigations.  The beauty of using such people is that they are able to undertake this role at a cost saving to using a warranted detective or traffic officer thereby releasing that officer to undertake the investigative processes.  In other words a police officer is released to return to his or her core role.

There are some large personnel companies and some small consultancies that offer this service, however, ACPO and forces are reluctant to let go of this role.  The feedback from many serving and retired senior officers is that this idea is 'a runner' and would prove useful.  However, it seems that the usual risk averse attitude is prevailing.  What many say in private is not being translated into action.  ACPO representatives are precious about the role of FLOs and cannot see the value in outsourcing this role, and yet how many cold case reviews are undertaken by former detectives?

Here is another example.  When conducting an early morning knock it is often the case that a warranted officer conducts a survey of the property to establish the best method of entry.  I know for a fact that this role often incurs a great deal of overtime and is a role that with proper protection through contract could be outsourced.  This would result in a cost saving and the release of an officer or at least a reduction in the requirement for the officer to work extended hours.

In short, there is merit in taking a good hard look at outsourcing services, but there should be an emphasis on releasing staff to undertake their core role rather than just looking to save costs.  A review of procurement within policing is long overdue as there is a vast cost saving to be made by looking at how the police purchase services and provisions.  But that is a story for another blog

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Lamenting the death of John Alderson

This week policing witnessed the death of one of the influential visionaries that it has ever had.  For those who have undertaken studies in criminal justice the name of John Alderson, the former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police is synonymous with community policing amongst other issues.  Throughout my bachelors and doctoral studies I have referenced the work and thoughts of Alderson countless times and I know that fellow students have too.

To say that John Alderson was a man before his time does not do justice to him.  Alderson recognised the importance of police legitimisation through engaging with communities.  He lamented the extent to which reactive policing in the shape of Unit Beat Policing, whilst deemed efficient and with a consequent orientation to mobile rather than foot patrol, may have caused damage to police-community relations through distancing themselves from the community.  He argued that the reactive style of policing was causing the police to lose the ‘art’ of preventative policing and some three decades later my colleague Captain Bill Bongle from Green Bay Police Department Wisconsin eloquently wrote of his experiences along the same lines, albeit he referred to it as his ‘out of care experience.’

Alderson also sought for the police to consult with communities and draw them into preventative schemes, ideas that came to fruition through the Reassurance Policing programme and the institution of Home Watch areas.  And who would disagree with him when he accused police chiefs of being more powerful and less accountable then ever?
But it is as a vehement supporter and advocate of community policing that John Alderson will be remembered for.  His legacy now lives within each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales who now have a neighbourhood policing function.  Many of these forces are still seeking to develop their style and create closer relationships with communities and other agencies.  Alderson’s concept of community policing revolved around the police officer being a social diagnostician and mobile community resource, which required a proactive rather than reactive approach. Over time the proposition of Alderson has gained support with the Home Office (2004) stating that constables are taking on increasingly skilled roles within neighbourhood policing teams, managing a diverse range of staff and acting as community leaders. 

A number of the ideals that Alderson related were published in the works of another visionary,  OW Wilson from USA, and I recently tried to contact John Alderson to ascertain whether the books of Wilson were in his library.  Alas that contact was never made; however, I for one cannot recall a police leader who has had a greater impact on policing.  The fact that the values that Alderson had have impacted around the globe is testament to the fact that his stance against the disbelievers in community policing, community engagement or ethics within policing was proved right.

I for one am grateful for his insight, his knowledge and his vision.

I am grateful to Stuart Lister of Leeds University for sending me the Times obituary of John Alderson dated 11.10.11

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The skills of a senior police officer

My doctoral studies have recently introduced me to interesting concept of Leadership Skills.  The piece that I have been reading is from Katz (1955) whom suggested that in order for leaders to be effective they need three skills.  They are technical, skills, human skill and conceptual skills.  The work of Katz has been supported by Mumford et al (2002), but it is worth exploring the skills further to see whether they apply within policing.

The first skill area is technical skill.  This relates to the depth of knowledge that each leader has about the business being conducted by the organisation.

The second area is human skill.  This relates to inclusion, empowerment and motivation of offenders

The third area is conceptual skill.  This relates to creativity and innovation.

This blog will focus on the Technical Kills and the relevance to policing in postmodern times.

The interesting point is that Katz suggests that Executive Leaders do not require technical skills as they should be looking at the organisation from a strategic perspective and the technical aspect should be understood by those lower down the hierarchy with tactical responsibility.  To some extent there is merit in this argument and it certainly resonates with policing from 20 or 30 years ago.  However, I would argue that senior police officers of today need technical skills for two reasons. 

The first relates to the pressure on senior officers as part of a recognised performance regime.  This has meant that they cannot rely on those with tactical responsibility and need to have technical knowledge of the systems and processes of the organisation. The second is that my research points to the fact that those senior police officers who do have technical skills develop what I refer to as 'organisational confidence.'

Let me break these themes down a bit further.  Since the introduction of New Public Management in the 1990s the UK police have been set crime reduction and detection rates.  As a result most UK forces have some sort of performance management a meeting where heads of profession are held to account.  The chair of the meeting, often a Chief Officer asks senior leaders, including Divisional Commanders, a series of challenging questions in order to ascertain why performance is below target or get an understanding of what is happening in the event that the performance is over target.  There are two key points here.  Senior officers who do not have technical skills, or a detailed knowledge of the issues surrounding performance, often called 'knowing your business' will be found wanting and cannot defend his or her position.  The result, again from my research has been likened to a middle age punishment. The senior officer is exposed and often subject to ridicule or even worse a verbal flogging.

However, in the event that the ‘Chief Officer’ does not have technical skills, or does not know  their business, there is confusion as the Chief Officer, not knowing what he or she is talking about is seen in a derogatory light and can  result in subordinates feeling less valued and losing confidence in the leader - organisational confidence.

But why is this point important?  Throughout the interviews for my doctoral thesis respondents differentiated between those chief officers who knew their business and those who did not.  The former was seen as having a positive impact as people, having confidence in the leader, wanted to work for the chief officer and felt as though they were being supported in their role to implement organisational change.  When the leader changed to one who did not display technical skills it was felt that momentum was lost due to the lack of emphasis on attention to crucial detail.  In fact the emphasis changed from one of transformational change to one that focused on transactional management issues such as sickness and budgetary factors.  Without the required level of support the transformational change programme faltered and lost impetus.

So contrary to the idea posited by Katz, technical knowledge, especially when implementing a transformational change programme is essential if those involved in the transformation or  are subjected to it are to have confidence in the person who is leading it.  My research indicates that high levels of technical skills allow Chief Officers to challenge subordinates who in turn increase their own technical skills which, once they gain a greater understanding of what is required, leads to increased performance as people gain an in-depth knowledge of the drivers and nuances of their business.  This is due to the fact that there is great pressure on senior officers within the police not to be seen as 'failing.' It is often the case that careers are made or broken on levels of performance and levels of knowledge. 

Next time I will assess the requirement of a leader to have Human Skills