Retention may turn out to be harder than recruitment.
This is my guess about the future of the police force.
I say this first as a general comment as the police become an all graduate profession. Today’s police officer will either join the force as a graduate apprentice, working for a degree from a provider university – Sheffield Hallam in South Yorkshire’s case – or join with a degree already. This means that the men and women who make up the modern police force will have very marketable and transferable skills – as some already have.
They will be computer literate and very adept with modern technology. They will be skilled in analysis of data and problem solving. They will be confident and competent leaders. Pay and conditions will have to recognise that or people will vote with their feet and leave the organisation.
But retention may also be harder than recruitment when it comes to getting a better representation of officers from minority groups, including ethnic minorities. Until new recruits actually become part of an organisation, they cannot know for certain that what the organisation says about itself is true. So forces will say they welcome LGBTQ+ people or those from ethnic minorities, but whether people from those groups feel included is a judgement they can only make from the inside.
I know this is something the force wants to get right. As far as BAME officers are concerned, the current position of just under 5% is about half of where the force needs to be. That percentage looks as though it will be exceeded among the recruits coming through. But once they are doing the job they will need to feel valued and included if working for SYP is to feel more like a vocation than a job.
Policing Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF)
Last week I met (by Skype) with Jo Jackson and Tanya Wright who are overseeing the move to the all-graduate profession and proposals to ensure greater diversity and inclusion. Their enthusiasm and commitment to make this work well in South Yorkshire was very encouraging and I may return to what is proposed in a future blog. But I note one thing here which is important. It has been agreed with Sheffield Hallam University to remove the criterion that candidates will have to have an A level or equivalent qualification to join the course. ‘Relevant experience’ can also count. If we want to attract those from disadvantaged backgrounds that may be very important.
Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)
Last week was very busy! We also had to turn our minds to the CSR. This is an exercise the government does in which it looks ahead over the next three years and sets out the spending parameters for every department of state. This is then the financial envelope which each must stick to.
The CSR task is massive. It is led by the Treasury and each department has to have its detailed spending plans approved. It’s very important, therefore, that everything is captured and nothing missed.
Last week Police and Crime Commissioners had a Skype meeting with Patricia Hayes (Director General for Crime Policing and Fire in the Home Office), the senior civil servant who will be making the case for policing to Treasury officials.
Among many other things, we made these points:
- If the government is to remain committed to raising the number of police officers by 20,000, it must also include in the plans provision for 6,500 support staff – people in Finance, HR, analysts, call handlers and so on – otherwise those officers will not be able to do their job, and crime will go up.
- Provision must be made for pay and pensions and their likely increase over the CSR period (inflation).
- Provision must also be made for income that will be lost from local council tax because the council tax base is being eroded due to the collapse of so many businesses as a result of coronavirus.
- The newly established Violence Reduction Unit must be funded over the whole period since it is a long-term preventative programme.
- I made a specifically South Yorkshire observation that we must have help towards the massive legacy costs of civil claims arising from the Hillsborough football disaster and Rotherham CSE cases, and the cost of the National Crime Agency investigations of non-recent CSE.
If these and other matters are not supported in the CSR then the funding for police budgets will not be enough to cover costs; savings and/or cuts will once again have to be made. The government will, no doubt, make great play of the fact that there are more police officers, but this will have something of a hollow ring to it if the implication is that other parts of the service – police staff – will have to be cut to pay for them.
Ethical dilemmas of coronavirus
I have two adult sons. Both said they could never leave the north – the moors, the hills, the dales, the coastal walks. Both work in finance in the City of London and are, or were, daily commuters. They have been working from home since March and realised that now we have the technology for remote video conferencing as well as the internet, they can work anywhere, and the company does not need big expensive offices in London or any other city. Their companies are thinking about what all this might mean. The idea of working permanently from home with occasional trips to a venue for face to face meetings has its attractions.
One returned to work last week to find virtually no one on his normally packed commuter train and tube. The streets were deserted, the cafes, restaurants and theatres closed. Yet if his company is to thrive they need these enterprises, great and small, whose money they handle, to thrive as well. But if his firm and all the others give up their London offices there will be no more commuting, shopping, eating and going to the theatre. It’s a dilemma.
The ecology of an economy is subtle and complex. Yet thousands of individual decisions, taken in isolation, will be made over the coming months that will either strengthen or, potentially destroy that balance.
Perhaps this is why they are going to strip poetry from the English curriculum. They don’t want young people to stumble across these lines of Wordsworth which discourage shopping and are bad for the economy:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.
Stay safe and well.