Tuesday, 25 March 2014

My Thumb's in the Hole!

I am sorry to hear of PC Patrick's resignation:

The Guardian: Victimised Metropolitan Police Whistleblower Resigns

He is a brave man. Many of us spell out the senior officers' constant lying in blogs but PC Patrick called their bluff. Not being able to see him sacked must have felt like a knife in their sides. I'm not surprised he is leaving: ethical acts such as disclosing to outside world the huge lies told by senior bosses such as Simon Byrne, the new Chief Constable of Cheshire Police, and Sir Bernard, are considered anathema. PC Patrick would be constantly forced to work the most unpleasant jobs until he quit voluntarily. That is the real face of the 'caring' Met.

PC Patrick, good luck on the outside! Perhaps leave a comment here reporting on life out there?

Why is the Met like this? It's an infection of management culture which meshes perfectly with senior managers' desire for promotion and status.

The Commissioner and his underlings rule by command-and-control. They are in thrall to performance indicators, which the Sir Bernard and the likes of Simon Byrne use to defend themselves from criticism. But these are 'indicators' – they should be allowed to 'indicate', and no more.

The water is pouring through the dam, but Bernard and Simon have their thumbs in holes:

“Yes I know water is pouring through, but look – my thumb is in the hole. It's achieving nothing, but it's in the hole! I deserve my promotion!” 

They create practices like the disastrous Local Policing Model (see my post below) – and pass rigid requirements for figures to those below. This propagates downwards, each manager knowing that he is safe as long as he can provide his boss with the figures she wants. For the PCs – the ones doing the work – they must do exactly as they are told, even if it's impossible.

“Square pegs in round holes? Just do it. I don't care how.”

Consider Yves Morieux 2013 fascinating TED talk about removing complication in management:

Yves explains:

"When there are too many layers people are too far from the action, therefore they need KPIs, matrices – they need poor proxies for reality. They don't understand reality and they add the complication of matrices and KPIs...the less rules we must have to give discretionary power to managers.

We do the opposite – the bigger we are the more rules we create and we end up with the Encyclopedia Brittanica of rules. You need to empower everybody to use their judgement, their intelligence.”

Doesn't this sound like a photographic negative of the UK's Command and Control policing, where KPIs and matrices are everything and nobody can make decisions except the Commissioner?

The Local Policing Model belongs to a world of make-believe. Sir Bernard believes that by taking away from officers all flexibility or self-determination he ensures it will work. Unfortunately the reverse is true - he ensures that nothing works effectively.

It's likely the Local Policing Model would function to a degree if tweaked – the senior managers need simply listen to the problems experienced by the PCs and make amendments. But they don't do this. Each strata of management simply orders the layer below it:

“Make it work exactly as we've told you. Nothing is going to change.”

So here is the lack of power to make a decision. Managers and constables are not empowered to make choices. Sir Bernard reserves that only for himself.

So the blame lies at the top – a Commissioner unwilling to accept that policing cannot work without flexibility, and that new practices will never work first time. It's not about saving face, but being realistic.

When a company manufactures an item, the final design comes about by an iterative process of development, taking problems on board. When a fault is found with a manufactured product it will be recalled and fixed – for example a car. So why can't police managers do this also?

Another is that it is foolish to expect a constable to be a Jack-of-all-trades when even the simplest arrest will spirit away eight hours of her time. Sir Bernard has closed the prisoner handling teams, but why not reconstitute them? Every PC knows how well they worked - effectively processing prisoners and providing excellent investigative training for new officers.

Tom Winsor dislikes the idea of constables in back office roles, therefore Sir Bernard has obliged by closing support teams such as the prisoner handling units and the 'IBO' - a kind of help-desk. Those officers were then moved to the Local Policing Teams - a show of strength that was heavily sold to the media. Ironically, those uniformed officers are rarely available on the streets because they are the first port of call when PCs are needed to deal with prisoners or fill vacant roles in the 'Grip And Pace' - a half-hearted replacement for the IBO function. The remainder of the time the LPT officers are standing on cordons, bulking out response team or anywhere else a gap is perceived.

Recreating the support roles and particularly the prisoner handling teams must be made a priority. Those teams would free up PCs for the street, reversing the moribund disaster of Sir Bernard's beloved Local Policing Model.

Any new system, such as the Local Policing Model, has flaws that appear after implementation. One such flaw is the closure of police stations and replacement with the appointment system and the 'Contact Points' – a PCSO shuffling her feet in a town hall for an hour, unable to report crime or do anything except direct people to the nearest 24-hour station. Why not recognise this as a failing and revise the plan?

That doesn't happen in Britain. Police senior bosses seem to ape each other in absolutely refusing to admit that some decisions are mistakes.

Incidentally, with all these hoops that members of the public must leap through to see a constable, no wonder Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe can claim crime has fallen.

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- Justice and Chaos