PCC Blog 43

Two conversations I have had recently have caused me to think a little about what makes for good leadership.

The first was with one of the Assistant Chief Constables, who for most of the week had been interviewing candidates for the rank of Inspector – one of the key leadership roles in the police service. The second was with Kate Josephs, who has just become the Chief Executive of Sheffield City Council. She was brought up in Doncaster and has held important posts in the civil service both here and in President Obama’s White House. By chance I had heard her speaking about leadership in the public sector on line. It can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLJdJViHPmg

I was struck by what she said about leadership as something that ‘radiated out’ from the person in the leadership position. It impacted on those ‘around’ as well as those ‘above’ or ‘below’ in an organisation. What also occurred to me as I thought about what she and the Assistant Chief Constable said, were two other things:

First, leadership is found at every level of an organisation. If we stay with policing, leadership is something that involves a Police Constable as much as a Chief Constable. Whatever your rank or position, at some point your words and actions are going to have impact and influence on others, for better or worse. From the PC who has to deal with a melee in the town centre on a Friday night, to the senior officer who takes charge of a serious collision on the motorway, all are offering leadership.

Which made me wonder what the common factor might be in all these leadership roles and leadership moments. What makes for good leadership?

I think a good leader is someone who can see the wood for the trees. When others are distracted or obsessed by some detail, the person who can stand back and take in the situation as a whole, who can appreciate the wider context in which things are taking place, will bring the perspective needed to make the best decisions.

This is why the modern police service needs people at every rank who are curious and thoughtful about the world around them, who see the bigger picture, the developing patterns, the wood and not just the trees.

Reporting to the police

When I first became PCC, the only way you could report anything to the police was by picking up a phone and dialling 101. Unsurprisingly, as demand increased, the old technology failed to cope and call handlers were overwhelmed. It was not helped by the fact that many other numbers that people were used to ringing began to be closed down – from banks to local authorities.

This resulted in 101 being treated as a catch all for any type of request or complaint, however unrelated to crime or anti-social behaviour and however trivial  – ‘My cat is stuck in a tree, can you send an officer?’, ‘The pizza we ordered has not arrived …’ , ‘My cat is still stuck in a tree…’  These calls, all of which had to be treated with care and respect – the old person phoning about the cat might also be wanting help with something serious – meant that the queue got longer. In my first months we received a constant barrage of emails from people complaining about waiting for 40 minutes or more on 101 before putting down the phone.

These emails are now rare. The old IT was replaced with new and there have been many extra functions added as time has gone by. You don’t have to keep waiting, you can be called back, for example, and you don’t lose your place in the queue by doing so. And neighbourhood police teams were reintroduced enabling people to have direct contact with officers locally.

Last week the force announced a new way of contacting – on-line reporting through a portal. It can be found by looking on the force website and going to Report Something. This will probably become the route that digitally aware generations will increasingly want to use.

The new function is managed by the Digital Desk team – a group of staff dedicated to this work twenty four hours a day.

Once registered the caller can:

  • Report an incident of any kind which can be quickly assessed for urgency and type of response
  • Webchat – enabling an electronic conversation whenever the caller wants
  • Access a knowledge/information bank related to the enquiry, if that helps

And you will be able to see how your report is being progressed.

I expect I will still have some complaints about 101, because there will always be those who prefer to telephone, and they often telephone at the same time in an evening or over a weekend, but the new technology does allow for a much improved service.

Oh dear …..

 In recent weeks I have attended (virtually) meetings of several parish councils across South Yorkshire – from Ecclesfield to Braithewell and Micklebring. All the meetings were well chaired: everyone had their chance to speak and all were respectful and good humoured – unlike Handforth Parish Council, a recording of whose December meeting went viral on the internet last week.

The only time I heard a mildly raised voice was when the chair said, ‘You’re on mute.’ ‘You’re on mute.’ ‘YOU’RE ON MUTE!’

I hope you are staying safe and well.