Some Thoughts On Some Thoughts

Some things just don’t go away, they hang around like an unwelcome guest, or the after effects of Brussel Sprout Soup.

This last week or 10 days, whatever it is, has seen Direct Entry and Graduate Recruitment take centre stage.

The WORST argument (in my opinion of course) in favour of Direct Entry Inspectors and Superintendents comes from the College of Policing themselves.

Never mind he arguments for or against, the main issue that completely stunned me was the apparent disregard by the author of the effects on suitably qualified Police Officers awaiting potential promotion from within, in the traditional manner;

Another frequent question I am asked is ‘will the Direct Entry at inspectors and superintendents be taking promotion opportunities from serving officers?’

I come back to my earlier point that the police service needs to be the strongest it can be with the best person for each role being fairly and correctly selected. 

The numbers of Direct Entry officers that are entering the service are extremely small compared with the numbers in the rank or aspiring to the rank.

We are well aware there are thousands of fully qualified and talented officers awaiting promotion and what we are doing is absolutely not designed to negatively affect their chances. 

In other words, there are so few of them, relatively speaking, that they don’t matter.

MY big question would be “If these Direct Entry Insps & Supts possess such desirable qualities why cant we train our own?”  An officer awaiting promotion to Inspector or Superintendent has built up a whole wealth of experience along the way.  They will have acquired a significant amount of knowledge and assorted skills, yet not the right ones it seems.  So why can’t these officers be simply taught these desired skills that they apparently lack?  

Or is there a totally different agenda at work at the College?

Moving on, the very same College thinks that all recruits into the Police Service should possess a degree in Policing Skills.

Under the proposals, new police applicants would need to complete either a degree in practical policing or a conversion course after graduating in another subject.

Dr Sam Peach, who has put together the plan for the college, said: “The majority of other professions have graduate entry in the UK.

“There’s a lack of parity with other professions and because of that the police is not recognised as a legitimate profession.

“We are looking to have degree-level qualifications for constable and masters for superintendent.”

Why would 100% of recruits in the future require a degree?  I fully accept that Policing has become complex over the years, but I never once felt that I was missing out, inadequate or incompetent in any way because Ai didn’t have one.

Let me say here and now that I have absolutely no problem with Cops With Degrees, my issue is entirely with the perceived need for 100% Graduate Cops, and not just any old degree either.

Would we be having this conversation if ACPO hadn’t ‘dumbed down’ recruitment over the years?

What effect will this policy have on the Home Secretary’s edict to increase Ethnic Minority Officers in the PolicecService.  Surely recruitment of ALL Ethnic Origins will FALL?

Does anybody think that this policy will INCREASE the numbers of recruits of ANY. Race, Gender, Sexuality or Religion etc?

If establishment numbers mysteriously rise more than normal during the pilot study I will happily shut up and never mention it again, but I truly don’t see how it will.

I have also heard it mentioned that Police Officers without a degree, addressing an audience predominantly of graduates, may feel inadequate and awkward.  In my experience if you know what you’re talking about and are comfortable with your subject this should not be an issue for the majority.

Can we cope with fewer, better educated officers?  I doubt it, some scenarios just need numbers, pure and simple.  If a PSU full of graduates turns up at a riot, wil the rioters pack up and go home in the face of that particular opposition? Maybe, time will tell.

What do the College intend to do with the tens of thousands of officers across the ranks that don’t have a degree?  UPP abounds.  The Federation will be busy, assuming that they have their degrees.  

Existing officers will be encouraged – but not required – to improve their qualifications to degree level.

There is definitely a place in Policing for Officers with degrees, particularly on promotion.  However, I seriously question the need for 100% Graduate Profession.  I remain to be convinced, but for those of you who may think that I am ridiculing our current crop of Graduates in somecway, I most definitely am not, nor do I defend the alleged use of Bag Carrying comparisons.  I didn’t see it, nor did I use it, but I do still have the right to hold and express an opinion, I do not have to fall in line and agree with Dr Peach and other proponents of the scheme.

Job for life?  Vocation? The only job I’ll ever have/want?  Or just a 5 year ‘tick box’ posting.  Cut back on training costs, cut back even more on pensions.  Oh Cruella WILL be pleased.

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You Know You’re Old And Crusty When…….

Someone suggests that you might need Refresher Training for Stop and Search.

Stop and Search SHOULD be taught in Basic Training and I’d be absolutely amazed if it isn’t, it’s a Bread and Butter tool of Policing, but it does need to be understood and not abused.  It is within the abilities of EVERY Police Recruit to understand what is required before conducting a Stop and Search, plus what needs to be done afterwards to comply with PACE and the Codes of Practice.

So you’re probably not surprised to hear that I was a tad pissed off to find this newspaper headline

Stop-and-search: Police training will challenge ‘unconscious bias’ of officers to cut down on unlawful use of tactic

Hundreds of police officers around the country are to have their prejudices challenged by a training programme that aims to reduce discrimination among those using stop-and-search powers

The new approach has been developed by the College of Policing and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), after the Home Secretary, Theresa May, commissioned a review of the way the police are trained – with “unconscious bias” to be monitored as part of new professional standards.

If I’ve got this right, this new piece of work is going to be led by Nick Glynn from the College of Policing.

Nick Glynn, stop-and-search lead at the College of Policing, said: “This training will explore the impact of stop and search, examine the effect of unconscious bias and ensure officers work within the rules when stopping members of the public.”

OK Nick, I’ll start off with the unpopular line “Who is to say that the bias is unconscious?”  The officer may have perfectly valid reasons to conduct the search that they have just made are or just about to make.  There maybe nothing unconscious in their bias at all but an Intelligence Led or Evidence Led approach has been adopted quite reasonably (and lawfully).

It seems to me that a HUGE assumption has been made that Stop/Searches are conducted with the benefit of ‘unconscious bias’.  Who has decreed this?  Who is it, Nick, that has conducted a scientific analysis of Stop/Searches and found that many of them were carried out as the result of ‘unconscious bias’?  Could you please provide me a link to this important piece of work so that I can study it?

If I was still serving I would be highly insulted to be told that I was going on Refresher Training for Stop/Search, even if I HAD been selected at Random.

If there is a genuine need for ongoing training in Stop/Search then I suggest that there are deeper underlying problems, an experienced officer should be able to initiate a Stop/Search (or not) in their sleep.  If a high number are acting unlawfully then surely this is a Disciplinary as well as a Training Issue.  Today’s generation of Police Officers are, in my submission, highly professional, and this should be well within their abilities.

The ongoing effect of this exercise, I suspect, will be that many officers will cease, or drastically reduce, their Stop/Searches, not because they are invalid or unlawful, but because the officers will be reluctant to be thought of as ‘unconsciously biased’, a term that smacks of ‘Institutional Racism’.  That is probably what the Home Secretary is not-so-secretly hoping for. What IS unlawful or unethical is using Stop/Search and Hit Rates as a Performance Indicator

I am SO glad that I have retired, it is no mystery to me why serving officers would be reluctant to recommend Policing to their families and friends any more, and exercises like this do not help.

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I Now See CoP In A Whole New Light

Not necessarily a good one.

Way back in March (4 months if my grey matter still functions) I posed a few questions of the College of Policing under the Freedom of Information Act.  You may remember that these were sparked off by the inclusion of a certain solicitor and a certain PCC on their National Undercover Policing Scrutiny Panel.  The FOI gives them 20 days to respond, NOT 4 months!!

To be fair they wrote me a letter on 30th April and 1st of May which included

 

As there are 12 points to your request we need some time to gather this information. This process has been started but we have yet to gather all the answers for you.

We are dealing with your request for information under the Freedom of Information Act and I’m sorry for the delay in replying to you. It’s a complex request and it’s taking longer than anticipated to process.

Complex you say?  We’ll let my reader decide on that one shall we?  12 points?  Remember that number.

Part one of my request was

  • Could you please provide me with copies of any advertisements that were published seeking volunteers to participate in this panel?

Their response was this;

  • No Information held. I can advise you under s16 (Duty to Assist) that as the professional body for policing, the College is committed to promoting equality and allowing everyone to have a voice. Providing routes to enable victims and the public to give feedback on policing practice is an important aspect of our work.
  • The College accepts and welcomes the need for challenge and we encourage it by inviting critics of policing to engage with those who work within the service and share their views with us.

So, no adverts were placed seeking volunteers, therefore the Panel Members seem to  have been selected by the College.

Part 2 of my request was

  • Could you please provide me with copies of any documents that outline/specify the desired qualities and/or qualifications for participants in this panel with particular reference to participants that are neither Police Officers nor former Police Officers.

The response from the College was

  • The panel is the first time we have brought together a group of unpaid volunteers for this purpose. Those invited to join were identified for their experience, expertise or record of challenging policing practices. The make-up of the group continues to be shaped and those initially involved were asked as part of an informal process.
  • I attach the documentation that we have located which are relevant to your request. Please note that some information has been removed under the following exemptions:
    s23 Information supplied by, or relating to, bodies dealing with security matters s40(2)(a)(b) and (3)(a)(i) Personal Information
  • Your attention is therefore drawn to the enclosed refusal notice.

Part 3 went like this;

  • Could you please provide me with copies of any minutes of any meetings where the selection of participants in this panel was discussed?

The Response?

  • No information held.

Part 4 followed;

  • Could you please provide me with a copy of any policy that exists in relation to the vetting of participants in this panel?

A slightly more comprehensive response followed;

  • No information held. However, under s16 (Duty to Assist), I can confirm that the Undercover Oversight Group held on Tuesday 1 July 2014, discussed the vetting required for access to certain materials and background information. There it was established that the Group may wish to discuss in future how the vetting rules are set, what it means in practice and for the scrutiny we wish to apply to this area of policing.

So, no Vetting as yet then.

Part Five (nearly there) was;

  • Could you please inform me if ANY of the current panel members have any relevant operational experience in Undercover Policing?

And the Part Five Response was;

  • The College of Policing neither confirms nor denies that it holds any of the information requested. To give a statement of reasons why neither confirming nor denying is appropriate in this case would itself involve the disclosure of exempt information, therefore, under s17(4), no explanation can be given.

And finally, Part 6 (NOT 12, just 6);

  • I understand that the unpaid volunteers are not subject to the Code of Ethics, could you please supply me copies of any restrictions that they are subject to e.g. Rules & Regulations etc?

The College’s Response to this was;

  • No information held. However, under s16 (Duty to Assist) I can advise you that our unpaid volunteers who support the work of the College (such as those on the National Undercover Scrutiny Panel), do not represent the College and are not bound by the Code of Ethics. However, the panel met in April and discussed (amongst other matters) the panel’s terms of reference with the view to considering the adoption of a ‘terms of membership’, which could draw on codes of conduct used by police forces for similar external advisory groups. Such terms would be published and could apply to any external scrutiny panels created in future.

So, they are ‘discussing’ Terms Of Membership but no enforcible Code of Conduct for their first year at least.  Bearing in mind the subject matter I would suggest that, and a lack of Vetting, are simply not acceptable.  I have no issue with the Police Officers on the Panel but the non-Police Members could have any number of issues in their backgrounds.

Complex?  I don’t think so. 12 Elements? Definitely not.

Contained within the bundle of supporting papers they supplied was a little pearl.  When you consider the number of F*** Off Tablets I have been given by numerous Police Forces whenever I ask a question based around RIPA, on 5th February the Panel met in a London Novotel hotel and were given a presentation on the application of RIPA by ‘a practitioner’.  Maybe that bit should have been redacted and they forgot.  Makes a slight nonsense of all my previous Refusals when Non-Police Panel members can sit in on a presentation.

Anyway, this request has been a first for me.  It’s the first time that I have received a Disclosure, a Refusal and a Neither Confirm Nor Deny all in the same request.

Excellent.

As for the College, does it really take 4 months to get that out to me? Was it really complex? Was it really 12 elements?

Do I feel reassured?  No.  I see only lax procedures by the College i.e. no Vetting, no Code of Conduct or equivalent.  A recipe for disaster.

What think you my reader?

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