Leadership Part 2 – Has Anything Changed?

I’m proud to say that I never once sat the Police Promotion Exam, not because I couldn’t, but simply because I didn’t want to. Despite enthusiastic encouragement from Mrs Angry, I decided that promotion was not for me, I would be what is known as a Career Constable, and besides which I had better things to do with my Saturday mornings than sit an exam.

However, if my frail memory serves me well, this is how it worked;

Constables studied, went to Promotion Classes, learnt to recite huge chunks of big books off by heart, and eventually, pitched up on a Saturday morning and sat the PC-PS Promotion exam.  Some time later the results were published, and if you’d studied well enough, and not gone to pieces in the exam room, you passed.  Your name went onto a list and eventually, if you kept your nose clean, you got promoted, and posted somewhere new and exiting.

For promotion to the exalted rank of Inspector the process was pretty much the same, just fewer candidates.  Except that now we have Winsor’s Army of Direct Entry Inspectors and SuperNintendos.

Forgive my flippance and sarcasm, but I really don’t have any problem with the process so far, some idiots passed the exam, some good coppers failed, but at least it was fair.

Where I started to lease the plot was promotion to Chief Inspector and above.  This was (and still is???) done by a Selection Process.  Whilst they might appear to be fair and above board (and I’m certainly not suggesting that is never the case, I’m quite sure most are) it is possible for them to be ‘fixed’.  An aspiring candidate appears before a small selection panel, and eventually at the end of the process, a decision is taken as to whether that candidate is suitable for promotion or not, if the answer is favourable, promotion and a move to pastures green follows.

I’ll have to seek your forgiveness for my vagueness of this process as I’ve never experienced those dizzy heights so have no personal knowledge of the process.

I also need to emphasise that I have no experience of the promotion process outside the Met, it may well be very different, and all can have confidence in it.

Where it begins to get interesting is that, in days of old, a practice crept in whereby idiots and buffoons were promoted in the sure and certain knowledge that they would move on elsewhere. In other words, if you were burdened with a halfwit Superintendent (and I met a few) then they could find themselves getting promoted to Chief Halfwit and would become another Division’s problem.

Then we have the alleged Nepotism, Cronyism and even (allegedly again) Masonic Influence. Jobs For The Boys. One only had to look at the list of senior promotions and transfers in the 80s and 90s. It wasn’t difficult to work out what was happening. As soon as a particular officer got a position in charge of something he/she would surround themselves with Middle Management of their choice. That was how it worked. Equal Opportunities? Don’t make me laugh.

Take it to the extreme and you see folk leave the Metropolis, bound for a new career as Chief, or Deputy Chief Constable somewhere. Oh my, what a surprise, 2 or 3 others have also made the same move.  Then a couple of years later they come back to the Met, to take up the post of Commissioner or Deputy, and guess who comes back to the Met too. Or is it all in my fertile imagination? Maybe it never happened.

After I retired I seem to have lost track of things like that. I was vaguely aware that it seemed like a few names had left, gone to Merseyside (I think) and come back again, but as for current practices I’m way out of touch now. Do these things still go on?

And now we find ourselves in 2015. Do these things still happen? Is there an OCU out there somewhere where the senior management have been appointed solely on merit, with no regard to Chumocracy, Nepotism or The Square?

Surely the practices of the 70s, 80s and 90s have not left us with ACPO types across the land, who have only got where they are because they were promoted for being a buffoon?  The country deserves better than that, hopefully that practice has ceased, it has no place in modern Policing, nor any other era really, it should not have been tolerated, EVER.

I’m not going to embarrass anybody but I KNOW that there are some very good Bosses out there, there are some true, inspirational Leaders at some ranks. I see the occasional Twitter account where I think to myself “hmm I think I might have liked to work under him/her”, but not many. The truth is, they should ALL be like that.

And then I found this document, commissioned by the somewhat discredited College of Policing and carried out by some University types;

Chief officer misconduct in policing

You can read all 95 pages if you want, but I only needed to get to Page 4 before it got interesting;

Career progression

“Career progression processes were often identified as contributing to misconduct. These processes were seen as highly competitive at senior level, creating both a narrow focus amongst candidates on ‘gaming’ the processes and – in those who succeeded – a sense of exceptional achievement and, thus, entitlement. Several interviewees described how the

Strategic Command Course tended to create close mutually supportive and inward-looking networks. The training was thought to be light on ethical issues and on questions of values. It was also suggested that chief officers tended to select and appoint people ‘in their own image, thus reproducing the ethical climate prevailing among police leaders. Some interviewees regarded high potential (accelerated promotion) schemes as sources of risk, suggesting that these officers gathered breadth of experience but not the depth of experience needed to develop robust ethical standards.”

 

 Lack of challenge

 

“Challenging more senior ranks was widely considered to be career-limiting. [No Shit Sherlock] In addition, several interviewees referred to an organisational failure to challenge misconduct at earlier stages of people’s careers, and indeed a preparedness to ignore or tolerate misconduct either when selecting people for chief officer rank or when providing references on candidates. It was also suggested that integrity vetting (which has different levels of intrusiveness) could be inadequate.”

 

So, it is with much dismay that I must conclude that NO, nothing much has changed.  I am most certainly not suggesting that every single senior officer has gained their position by virtue of Nepotism, not On Credit, far from it, but I’m equally adamant that we could probably all name someone who has.  Remember that Inspector from years ago?  You know, the one that we would follow to Hell and back?  We need, and the country deserves, people like that AT ALL RANKS. At every rank from PC to Commissioner those true, great, natural Leaders of men should be represented.  Anything less than that is just copping out.

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Leadership – Then And Now

When I first joined the Met it was a much different animal to the one it is today.  At just about all ranks from Sergeant up to the Commissioner supervising officers threw their weight around and frequently (but certainly not always) bullied and cajoled junior officers into doing as they were told.

Being the sort of person I am I frequently found myself on the receiving end of the mother of all bollockings, somewhat similar to Fergie’s famous ‘Hairdryer’. Did I deserve them? Probably. Did they affect me? Almost certainly. Did disciplinary proceedings follow? Almost never.

Without those bollockings I wouldn’t be the man I am today, they toughened me up and helped form my character. The 19 year old that joined the Met in 1972 is not the same person I am now. Was it right? Quite honestly, I can’t answer that question. By today’s standards definitely not, but do I resent it? No I do not.

I most certainly remember undergoing my initial training at Hendon, a shy, retiring 19 year old being ‘tutored’ in the art of telling someone that their son/daughter/spouse had been killed in an accident etc.  I stuttered along with epics like “I’m sorry to have to tell you…..” or “I’m afraid I have to tell you…..” only to be shouted at by the instructor “You are NEVER sorry” and “You are NEVER” afraid.   I hate to think what modern-day training methods would make of that, but we all endured it and grew quickly.

There was what I used to call the Captain Nike culture about the place; “Just Fucking Do It” or simply JFDI.

Occasionally, just occasionally, one of those supervisors, normally an Inspector, would inspire and you would follow him/her to the end of the Earth and back again. That was a Leader.  They would shine like a beacon and would seldom be popular with senior management, mainly because they cared about their troops. It worked because of something called RESPECT, and it went both ways.

Then, some time around the late 80s things began to change. Constables were calling their Sergeants Jim, Steve or Harry, and this practice continued upwards. Instead of being told to do things, we were getting asked “would you mind awfully doing a School Crossing at Fenn Street?”  Frequently answered with “I’d rather not if it’s all the same to you”

Some time around the mid 90s the third era of ‘Leaders’ emerged. These were people who couldn’t actually ‘lead’ you along a length of rope.  Having got to their esteemed position in life they set about surrounding themselves with their chums.  Inspector or Chief Inspector Smith would get promoted and their friend Chief Superintendent Jones would discover that he/she had a vacancy and Smith would find themselves being posted to Jones’ unit.

In the twilight of my career I worked in an environment where we had to be vetted above the normal level. It wouldn’t be a lie to say that I got more than a tad pissed off seeing senior officers transferring in to our unit who either failed the vetting, or refused to be vetted, because their chum was in charge and said it would be OK. One particular senior officer got quite prickly with me because I repeatedly refused to tell him things he had not been vetted to receive.  Oh the perks of being in your 30th year.

These people are not Leaders, and I doubt that they ever could be. If they’re lucky they’re Managers, possibly Bosses, but Leaders they ain’t.

I don’t have close contact with anyone left serving any more so I’m a bit out of touch, but I get the distinct impression from what I can see and what I can read the the Met is now almost devoid of Leaders. They seem to have an abundance of Bosses, not many Managers, and few, if any, Leaders, but they do seem to have a lot of Senior Officers who have served time on Merseyside, or maybe that’s just in my imagination.

So there we are, at the end of my potted history of modern day bosses in the Met.  If I had my time all over again, which era would I choose?

No contest. Take me straight back to the 70s or I wouldn’t join again.  Did I enjoy being shouted at and getting the odd bollocking? No, nobody does, but despite everything I KNEW WHERE I STOOD, and if the excrement ever did hit the apparatus with rotating blades the bosses would normally back one up, the Leaders ALWAYS would. You may think that constitutes ‘Squaring things up’. I don’t. I think it’s a very effective way of dealing with a problem without causing unecessary shite. The problems were dealt with in a far more effective way than involving the forerunners of Professional Standards, and I’d call that Leadership, using Discretion, and making sure whatever it was never happened again.

I absolutely despair when I see the antics of the modern era Professional Standards, and I seriously don’t understand how they can continue to operate, particularly in the manner that has been described so often over the last couple of years.  If anybody there thinks they are a Leader, I’ll send for the men in white coats myself.

One thing is for certain, there is no place in the Command Chain for ‘Jobs For The Boys’. We need an IMMEDIATE return to ‘Best a Person For The Job’, and ALL Police Ooficers, regardless of rank, should possess a a higher than average level if a Ethics and Integrity. Lack of Integrity should automatically bebar any promotion candidate.  Only then can we once again claim to have true Leaders, able, and willing, to Lead from the front. Get it right and the troops will actually WANT to follow.

We must never forget, of course, that a true LEADER can be found at any rank, not just the higher echelons. Even the humble Constable can prove to be a LEADER. My last thought, is that in order to re-establish confidence in the MANAGEMENT, any officer, of any rank, who thinks that it’s appropriate to refuse to submit to Vetting at any level, should be sidelined, and left to count beans until they change their mind.  Promoting candidates in one’s own image, or because they belong to the same Lodge etc is a practice that should be formally outlawed. I have never had a problem with “best person for the job” and what little I did achieve in my career was obtained soley on merit and not Masonocracy or whatever.

The Sweeney, Ashes To Ashes, Life on Mars and even The Bill to a degree, I could live quite comfortably under regimes like those, with all their faults (I would never say that the Met has ever been perfect).  Pink and Fluffy, and Politically Correct do my head in, not because I want to slag people off and get away with it, but because, tough as it was, as I said before, YOU KNEW WHERE YOU STOOD.

Can any of you say that today?

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