Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Leaving In Droves

Two years ago I would check the Metropolitan Police website for resignations and find two or three each month. These days the norm is fifteen to twenty.

  1. A detective colleague was offered a high-paying investigation job and is now working in a sunny tax haven.
  2. Another has resigned to resume the poorly-paid but rewarding youth engagement work he did prior to joining the police a decade ago.
BBC News: Police officer numbers - thousands plan to leave service

This recent article is misleading. It misses the point.

The implication is that Winsor`s reforms are solely responsible for the low morale and exodus of constables. If we believe this then we are failing to hold Sir Bernard to account. The reality is that Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model is of equal or greater importance.

It's true that police officers' morale was hit hard by the Tom Winsor reforms, in particular the retrospective change of pension conditions. Officers made informed choices to join the job based in part upon the pension scheme. Where the longest serving officers hoped to tolerate only a few more years of organisational stupidity, night shifts and power-crazy supervisors, they will now find themselves being spat at and wrestling with scumbags until they're sixty years of age.

However, the real culprit here is Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model. I won't labour the details of the LPM because I've already addressed them in other posts:

Only Five Minutes Left On The Clock!
A Convenient Bottleneck
Your Local Station Has Closed? Hey Presto! – A Reduction in Crime
The Figures Prove It's Working!
My Thumb's In The Hole!
Ten Minutes
Contact Points
Disappointment Car
'Return' of Police Targets

Sir Bernard tried the Local Police Model in Merseyside: it failed. He moved to the Metropolitan Police Service – clearly a very different police force – and displaying record-breaking self-denial he saw fit in June 2013 to try his LPM brainchild a second time. We are today struggling under this burden.

The LPM's reorganisation of police teams has proved disastrous. It has had the effect of spiriting away resources overnight – the teams now sprint from the start to finish of each shift, struggling to attend the calls and providing a very poor service for the public, who are bewildered by their difficulties in finding cops and by how long they must wait for us to arrive. The LPM also provides a joyless working regime for the officers – constables spend their shifts working alone, frantically rushing from one appointment to the next, unable to spend more than ten minutes with each victim.

Sir Bernard holds invitation-only monthly audiences and in the last one he told those gathered: “I now accept that it isn't working” and “Changes will be made.”

The Local Policing Model (which in no sense is 'local') has crushed the Service. When a system is under pressure all the stress naturally flows downwards to those at the bottom – and that's why the constables are now having a thoroughly miserable time compared with two years ago.

And that's largely why so many are resigning.

It seems like everyone wants to leave, and many are officers are taking lower-paid jobs elsewhere. Many of my colleagues are developing exit strategies – studying part-time degrees, setting up businesses, becoming physiotherapists and truck drivers. Those with less than two years service can already see the writing on the wall, and those with twenty-five plus years are grimly hanging on for their pension.

The talk has it that senior officers want to save money by employing officers for only two or three years. They want people who will stay only long enough to get the job on their CV then leave. As ever there is no incentive for senior officers to take any interest in their constables' careers or welfare. On the contrary, anything that encourages officers to leave plays nicely into the diretion the senior managers are pushing the Metropolitan Police Service.

One thing that bothers me is that despite the £4000 pay cut and closure of the pension scheme, applicants remain plentiful. There seems to be no shortage of young people buying into the mythology of being a police officer – "I've wanted to be a cop since I was a small child" – and willing to put on the uniform.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to be a police officer, but those recruits are going into it with their eyes closed, unaware that their careers and welfare mean absolutely nothing to the senior managers.

In time they, like all of us, will realise the vast disparity between their expectation and the reality. But the job benefits for those few years – feeding on them, using them then spitting them out again.

My detective colleague who left for a private sector investigation role: he is now earning a greater salary and being treated like a human being again. After more than years of service, and running the department at the time he resigned, he received no even one thank you or best wishes message from his managers, no was he offered an exit interview. He was on the last lap of his police pension but couldn't stomach it any longer.

At twenty years service an officer is given the Long Service Medal. Long overdue, his medal failed to appear. No mention of this was made, no email, nothing. He requested the medal and chased it up for a while, then gave up.

Another – a highly productive detective with ten years of experience – regularly worked fifteen hour days until one day his sergeant presented him with five prisoners:

"Sorry, we're short-staffed today, but crack on and let me know how it goes."

Two prisoners is doable but three is a struggle. Five means a hellish twenty-hour day, disregarding the officer's welfare, and serious mistakes are likely to be made. His sergeant could have dealt with two of those prisoners, but refused:

"I became a sergeant so I wouldn't have to deal with prisoners!"

The detective decided he could tolerate this no longer and resigned.

The organisation will never start to show any respect or consideration to its officers until the supply of new officers is less plentiful. Until then we are effectively an infinite labour source to be treated with indifference.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Only Five Minutes Left On The Clock!

Sir Bernard's Local Policing Model.

Let me recap: in 2013 at the Superintendents' Conference the Home Secretary Theresa May ordered police forces to ditch targets. The police chiefs didn't exactly do as she instructed: they centred instead on the idea of having only one target: public satisfaction.

The effect this has had is that we are now slaves to the attendance targets. These targets are:

15 minutes for 999 calls (I-grade).

60 minutes for downgraded 999 calls (S-grade).

48 hours for other calls (E-grade). 

The only thing that now matters to the sergeants, inspectors and the Control Rooms, is getting to the calls within those limits. The result is that an unattended 999 call is now usually downgraded to an S-grade to avoid missing the target. Similarly the S-grades are often downgraded to E-grades. See my earlier post for an explanation:

Disappointment Car

This is why – under the present Local Policing Model – burglaries, rapes and million pound frauds are sometimes attended only days later as E-grade appointments.

Needless to say, low level managers everywhere in the Met – inspectors and chief inspectors – continue giving their teams individual targets anyway 'just in case'. They do this to prove their teams' productivity and cover their backs: this incidentally is neither a secret nor my speculation. It's well-known police practice.

You'll remember that early this year the former Assistant Deputy Commissioner, Simon Byrne (now Chief Constable for Cheshire Constabulary) told the media that there are no individual targets for officers, even though every copper knows that simply isn't true.

Expectations Not Targets

Police managers will always latch on to targets like a lifeline in a stormy sea – that's their instinct because for two decades it's the only management style they've known. So we now have a new obsession with the attendance times, and this has created some interesting situations.

Here is an example recounted to me by a dog handler:

“My role is to track down burglars. Officers will contain a house then I go in with my dog Growler. Or the suspect has hidden in bushes, so officers send for us and Growler will sniff him out.”

“That's what used to happen, and still does in theory. Nowadays the moment I arrive at a burglary the Control Room tells me they want me to go to a domestic around the corner. That isn't my role, but they say they've got no-one else available. I'm told:

'We've got a domestic around the corner from you there's only five minutes left on the clock.' 

I'm expected to leave the burglary – and there could be suspects still in the building – and go to the domestic. Neither do they care what I do at the domestic – it's all about simply getting an officer there before the sixty minutes runs out.”

Similarly, an armed response officer told me:

“We used to patrol during downtime, but the Control Room now asks us to go to domestics. We'll go to one, but then there's always another, and another. They say they've no local officers free, but it isn't our job to go to all these calls. What if we're needed at an armed incident? We'll help out with one or two from time to time, but they're taking the piss.”

“Because of this we've stopped patrolling. Until they get rid of the Local Policing Model and things change we have to stay at our base waiting for firearms calls.”

While all this is going on, Met senior and middle managers hold public presentations to prove the Local Policing Model is working: “Look at the figures! We have more officers out there now. We do, we do!”

Prior to the meetings they brief their constables and instruct them, “Don't tell them it isn't working. We've got to make this look good.” 

The Figures Prove Its Working

If it isn't one target with which the senior officers are obsessed, it's another: if it isn't arrests and detections, it's attendance times.

The big picture is that the LPM is designed to be purely reactive – it's about attending appointments and responding to calls. Patrolling or proactive work isn't built in to it. The appointments and the sheer number of calls don't allow time.

The only times now when we are able to carry out proactive work such as drugs operations is when the Chief Inspectors panic over the teams' performance figures. They make us drop everything we're doing and pull together for a warrant. Because it's a rushed affair we use out-of-date intelligence and the consequence is an operation that fails to find any drugs or stolen property.

It's absurd for the Chiefs' to feel they have to panic over figures then rush through a botched drugs operation. I say this because the system in which we now all work – the Local Policing Model – is reactive: it isn't designed to send us out looking for crime. So the fact that the Local Policing Teams conduct very few arrests, for example, is entirely defensible. The powers-that-be shouldn't expect as many arrests, searches, detections and so on, as we used to generate.

Remembering that police bosses cannot see past targets, the LPM makes sense. They bosses don't want a proactive system. They're not interested in preventing crime, because you can't count those crimes that you've prevented. If I close a crack-house, take a dangerous dog off the street or arrest a drug dealer, I'm preventing future crimes from happening.

But they can't be counted and added into a spreadsheet of performance figures.

You can only count crimes that have happened – the number of appointments attended and so forth. Managers at all levels in the Met want to have sheets of figures they can point at and say:

“Look! Look! This shows how hard my team are working. You can't criticise me. And I'd like another promotion please.”

The public wants crime prevention, which won't can't be measured and so won't contribute to performance tables, but it's the proactive work – drugs warrants, patrols, tasking teams rounding up drug dealers – that prevents robberies, burglaries and drug dealing long term.

So, we have the worst of all worlds. All the old targets plus new pressures that result in specialist units diverted from their real purpose simply to hit the attendance targets.

It isn't weakness for a manager or a policy maker to admit that a policy needs refining and to take on board the experiences of the constables striving to implement it.

On the contrary that would show strength and leadership.