• Thoughts on Merseyside Equality & Diversity conference

    Last week I attended a conference organised by a Liverpool based community group and was supported by Merseyside Police. The conference focus was ‘Equality in Policing’ and the themes emanating from the discussion centred around building relationships with ethic minority communities and examining how to encourage people from such communities to consider a career in policing.

    Attendance from the community was low but throughout the morning more people arrived and participated. Merseyside Police sent an Assistant Chief Constable, five Chief Superintendents, a Chief Inspector, a Sergeant and member of support staff. The initial speaker, Police and Crime Commissioner Jane Kennedy commented upon the commitment of Merseyside Police by sending so many senior officers and thanked them for giving up time to attend.

    In her opening address Jane made reference to Professor Simon Holdaway, a lecturer and writer on issues relating to police diversity, and his constant challenge to the police to learn and improve in this area. Simon had Tweeted before the conference, and highlights in his writing, that the police should not re-invent the wheel, so I raised this issue with the second speaker, and conference organiser Kamal. The reply from the floor was that there was nothing wrong with re-inventing the wheel if it worked! I think they missed the point - we were all sat there testament to the fact that ‘the wheel’ they were seeking to ‘reinvent’ had NOT worked and new, innovative methods and techniques designed to connect with communities should be investigated. The dialogue was punctuated by one delegate who said ‘the fact that we are still referring to Scarman and Lawrence suggests that nothing has changed.’ Another delegate stated that the police have ‘got to make people want to join the police’ which was followed by a statement that ‘young people are not interested, none understand the opportunities.’

    Throughout the first two sessions there were stories reflecting the fact that many of the BME community of Liverpool (the geographic area that seemed to be focussed upon) did not trust the police. This was explicitly mentioned on a number of occasions with one delegate stating that he knew of no-one in his community who would consider a career in the police for that very reason. One comment that was made to delegate was from a woman who stated that she ‘had never met a nice police officer.’ This again suggests that the police have to change the ways that they are trying to engage with communities. Indeed building and maintaining structures to enable the police to build relationships with communities was seen as an important issue with one delegate mentioning, ‘community policing is an eternal challenge. How do they [the police] get to know BME communities if there are no BME officers? Especially when mistrust of police is quite high in BME communities.’ So there is clearly a will for communities to connect with the police, they just need to find a suitable method for this to happen.

    The final three speakers represented Merseyside Police. Ch. Supt Rowley Moore gave a passionate and personal insight into what it is like to be a black officer in Merseyside Police and gave diversity statistics for each rank (shown below)

    Rank Number Ethnicity Gender

    Ch. Supt 16 1 BME 13 male 3 female

    Supt 27 2 BME 24 male 3 female

    Ch. Insp. 49 1 BME 36 male 13 female

    Insp. 182 4 BME 147 male 35 female

    Sgt 591 15 BME 477 male 114 female

    Con 3103 112 BME 2206 male 897 female

    Rowley’s key aim before retirement is to ‘create a new legacy and leave a better police service for BME officers’ who join Merseyside Police. However, he went on to imply that his aspirations might not be possible given the starting point of Merseyside - he is not sure that he would have reached the Chief Superintendent rank had he joined Merseyside as a constable (he joined Essex and went on to the Met before moving to Merseyside).

    Rowley discussed the fact that people often move into cultures where they feel comfortable. The fact that a number of BME officers told him that they feel ‘tolerated’ rather than ‘included’ suggests that there needs to be a cultural change before this is likely to happen. As chair of the Black Police Association (BPA) Rowley is working with black and white officers to try to secure such change, however, when examining representation of minority groups within the force it seems that he has a large task on his hands.

    Rowley was followed by Detective Inspector Irene Afful who spoke about the ‘Phoenix’ project that she had developed to enable young people from a variety of diverse groups to gain an insight into leadership and policing. This was the only time that Merseyside Police took the opportunity to discuss a positive programme of action to address the concerns of the community raised earlier in the conference.

    Constable Dominique Walker then informed the conference about her journey into joining Merseyside Police following the murder of her brother Anthony in July 2005. Dominique was very complimentary of the support that she had received from Rowley and a number of other senior officers when she was going through a tough period in her early career. This again was a beacon of hope for those from the BME community who may be thinking of a career in the police, and shows some possible signs that the legacy Rowley wants to leave Merseyside with might well be possible (with some imagination of course!).

    Some Reflections

    Although an interesting event I cannot help but think that Merseyside Police missed a trick. Those members of the community who attended were not ‘strategic representatives’, which made me wonder if the event would have benefitted from front line officers rather than the senior officers who did attend?

    A glaring, and all too common scene, was ironically played out again Rowley had earlier mentioned that people move in cultures in which they feel comfortable and the senior officers in attendance failed to make the most of the opportunity of meeting with the community and breaking down barriers. Instead they grouped together at each break and spoke to each other, a fact commented upon by two community attendees.

    Another issue noted was that at one point four out of five of the senior officers were looking down at their mobile phones rather than listening to the speaker. They certainly didn’t display active listening skills, and in the break demonstrated their lack of awareness about how their actions might be perceived. But more importantly they missed an ideal opportunity to engage with the non-police people in attendance and develop more meaningful and powerful relationships with those who they serve.

    Apart from the Phoenix problem we did not hear anything new. We heard about how people felt and we heard some very personal anecdotes (which were moving), but we did not hear about the strategy to break down barriers, listen to communities and act upon their wishes. If Merseyside Police and other police services across the country are really interested in building new relationships they will have to invest in learning and enable frontline officers to engage communities, as GMP did earlier this year.

    Anyone who has worked with Susan Ritchie (my colleague from MutualGain) will hear her often argue (sometimes rant!) “if police aren’t willing to invest in community engagement then that’s a pretty strong indication that it’s not that important to them.” If they really were good at engaging and connecting communities local policing would look very different to what it does now, not least because the police service would have a better opportunity to reflect the community they serve.

    Simon Holdaway is right. It is time to do something different and stop re-inventing the wheel. It has not worked in the past and it will not work in the future.



  • Legal aid for the police in 1829

    The press this week has been full of comment on impending plans to alter the Legal Aid frame work. Barristers have raised their concerns (http://tinyurl.com/q7fpx3k) and there have been on line e-petitions (http://tinyurl.com/c7tmufs). Legal aid is considered by many to be a figment of modern criminal justice, in fact legal aid, of sorts, dates back to the creation of the ‘new police’ in the 1820s.

    When the ‘new police’ were created by Peel the requirements were for recruits to be under 35 years old, not less than five feet seven inches in height and should be able to read and write as well as being fit and healthy. This at least meant that the policemen of the day would look the part, a fact commented upon by Peel himself who, on October 10th 1829 reported to his wife “I have been again busy all the morning about my police. I think it is going very well. The men look very smart and a strong contrast to the old Watchmen.”

    In fact all we quite well until the constables made an arrest. Due to the fact that there were no public prosecutors, the constables would be required to prosecute their own cases. It would be fair to say that the policemen of the time had ‘limited’ legal and educational ability and would be faced with a hostile judge, magistrate, jury and array of solicitors who were well versed in legal procedure. To make matters worse it was often the case that people of some wealth would hire defence counsel who would use loop holes and irregularities to ensure an acquittal for the client.

    Due to the hostility of the people against the police there were many instances when the police, who had the law on their side, who, having failed to get a conviction, were forced to pay for the costs of the trial and when unable to do so found themselves being arrested and thrown into prison. In the event of a defendant getting off on a ‘technicality’ the policeman was liable to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned for wrongful arrest or assault.

    Occasionally the prosecuting policeman would be provided with ‘legal assistance’ by the Home Office. There were also times when, in order to assist a colleague who was imprisoned, that Divisional colleagues would make a subscription to assist policeman concerned.

    So it would seem that a policeman’s lot in the late 1820s was not a happy lot. Assaults and beating were regularly meted out and those on traffic patrol were often whipped or run down. At least in modern time the police are protected by the same level of justice that is applicable to all…..aren’t they?

    Sources -

    A History of Police in England & Wales 900 - 1988 TA Critchley (1967)

    A Short History of the British Police (Reith (1948)

    Policing and its Context 1750 - 1870 (Emsley, 1983)



  • Common sense from Ch Supt Irene Curtis

    It is a pleasure to see the media sit up and take notice of some common sense in relation to the current and future state of policing. Today Chief Superintendent Irene Curtis took over as the President of the Superintendents Association and fronted the TV, radio and newspapers to talk about performance regimes and target based assessments.

    A voice of solitude in the wilderness? I don’t think so. Over the last three years I have met a number of ACPO officers who are seeking to change the reliance on targets and performance indicators and value quality service. One of the reasons for this is the recognition that systems based on target attainment is not compatible with the style of policing that is expected from our police officers and PCSOs. Let’s be honest, chasing targets does involve deviance. There are stories of calls for service being downgraded, crimes being re-classified and pensioners being put through knife arches in order to be able to tick boxes.

    Does this have an impact on confidence? Legitimacy? Social contract? Of course it does and it is something that we have known about for a long time.

    During the introduction of the ‘quality service’ initiative in the 1990s there were a host of commentators who warned of the impact of a reliance on quantitative indicators. Savage and Leishman (1996) argued that the fundamental pursuit of quantitative performance measures may detract from the service dimension of policing, and encourage an over-emphasis on the crime fighting side of policing.

    Following the eponymous Home Office circular Manpower, Efficiency and Effectiveness in the Police Service’ (better known as cicular114/83), police forces were directed to put in place systems that would enable them to assess whether objectives had been achieved. A subsequent circular detailed how increases in Force establishments were made conditional on Forces being able to demonstrate ‘where possible [by] quantifiable output and performance measures’ (Weatheritt, 1993: 26) that objectives were being met (Home Office, 1988: Weatheritt, 1993).

    In other words there was to be an increased focus on accountability with an emphasis on the quantitative measurement of issues such as crime figures and detections thereby coercing the police into valuing enforcement related quantitative strategies that supported ‘real’ or enforcement styles of policing rather than qualitative strategies that valued ‘quality service.’

    The political imperative of the Conservative government was fully revealed in the White Paper Police Reform: A Police Service for the Twenty-First Century (Home Office, 1993). This fully exposed the police service to a regime of performance management, one that the police determined to fight against through the introduction of its ‘quality service’ intitiative.

    The stage was set for a conflict. The government had a political imperative based on quantitative measurement and value for money, and the police had an imperative based upon ‘quality service’. The emphasis on ‘quality service’ was gaining ground within policing as the police sought to re-establish their legitimisation in the wake of falling confidence and poor performance (Reiner, 2000).

    The threat of a quantitative indicator driven police force was identified by a Joint Consultative Committee report that stated:

    “The philosophy of economy, efficiency and effectiveness is forcing police managers to concentrate their resources upon the quantifiable aspects of police work to the exclusion of the traditional service role of British Policing”

    (Joint Consultative Committee, 1990: 27)

    Ultimately, for a variety of reasons, the ‘quality of service’ initiative drifted and systems of performance measurement such as the Police Performance Assessment Framework (PPAF), the Assessment of Policing and Community Safety ( APACS) and comparisons between Most Similar Family of Forces (MSF) and Most Similar Family of BCUs took over. Police leaders began to be led by the system as they strove to achieve targets rather than address the wishes of the community.

    So to hear Irene say “policing should not be a competition. It should be collaborative and in the best interests of the public we serve” and that chasing targets created a “generation of people who are great at chasing targets but do not always recognise that doing the right thing is the best thing for the public” is a blessing to those of us who believe that some elements of the police may have forgotten that they are a public service.

    Well done Irene and good luck to you and those of your colleagues who are enlightened enough to know that delivering a ‘quality service’ is a key expectation of citizens.



  • The Dismounted Horse Patrol

    For all sorts of reasons horses and especially police horses have been in the news recently. Sadly, the news in both respects has not been good. We are either eating horse meat thinking that it is beef or we are seeing the demise of mounted police patrol units in many constabularies.

    Whilst the former is being dealt with by the legal authorities the latter is a sad state of affairs for modern day policing. Throughout my policing career I saw the Merseyside Police Mounted Department as a huge asset to the force. I first came across them during my probationer training at the Merseyside Police stables in Mather Avenue. To demonstrate their ‘ability’ to move a crowd we had to line up across the stable and stand there whilst the horses charged at us. We would be told when to break the line and move out of the way. Needless to say we did not wait to be told and ran to the side almost as soon as they got into a trot!

    The horses played a crucial part in policing major events including football matches and there were many occasions when I was grateful for their assistance in dealing with difficult crowds or individuals. Having to Premier League grounds their skills were used almost every week. They were able to safely move groups and individuals and in the event that someone was causing a problem they would usually desist when the police horse turned up. If they didn’t they were usually picked up by tthe collar and removed at a canter.

    The police horses played a crucial role in the miners dispute in the 1980s and I recall leading a mutual aid team that included police horses to Dyfed Powis Police Force to assist them in dealing with Anti Nazi League and BNP demonstrations in Welshpool. The senior officer from Dyfed Powis told me that they did not have a mounted section and was not sure what to do with them. I told him to just post them to their patrol area and they would do ‘their thing.’ They loved them.

    Mounted horse sections being used for patrol purposes are nothing new. In fact they pre-date the ‘new police' of Peel.

    Prior to the creation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829, Home Secretary, Lord Sidmouth, instituted what is perhaps the greatest police reform in 1821 with the creation of the ‘Dismounted Horse Patrol.’

    The quaintly named patrol in effect substituted for the Foot Patrol that, three months earlier had been withdrawn from the centre of London. Composed of 90 patrolmen, eight Sub-inspectors and four Inspectors, divided into four divisions, the Dismounted Horse Patrol patrolled nightly up and down the highways of London. Their beat extended for five miles from London with Mounted Patrol responsible for a jurisdiction from five to twenty miles from the city centre.

    Horse Patrol recruits were required to serve first in the Dismounted branch, from which they may be promoted to the Mounted branch. The Dismounted force was apparently quite effective, apprehending 350 persons in its first nine months of existence. The combined Horse Patrol, Dismounted and Mounted branch was annually funded at £16,000 and formed the ‘strongest’ single professional force in the Metropolis before Peel’s new police came into being.

    The irony of this is that while Peel himself died as a result of falling off a horse, the current Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, is a keen horse rider and has ridden police horses on patrol in Merseyside and in London.

    So while the destiny of the police mounted section hangs in the balance in many constabularies, the mounted section in the Met, one would suspect, is safe for the time being.

    From a public order and public relations point of view, the mounted sections are worth their weight in gold. I wonder if anyone has a small pot of gold that they can spare to ensure that this longest serving branch of policing will remain?



  • Spies and policing - a short history

    During the last few days the media has published details of police officers acting as ‘spies’ working undercover in the Special Demonstration Squad and infiltrating a variety of ’subversive’ groups. Whilst this may not be news in itself, the fact that officers allegedly assumed the identities of dead children is. The news was reported in The Guardian (http://tinyurl.com/ahylqam & http://tinyurl.com/crjc83q) and attracted widespread comment.

    The use of spies within policing is not new, but historically it is something that has previously had a detrimental impact on the development of policing. This blog contains details of three such incidents.

    Oliver the Spy.

    The early 19th Century was a period of great civil unrest as demonstrated their disaffection with government policy. It was a time of ‘chaos’ with Prime Minister Pitt and Home Secretary Sidmouth waging war against reformers, and in order to isolate and terrorise potential revolutionaries the government adopted a policy of deliberate provocation (Thompson, 1963).

    This was ably demonstrated when in 1817 vague plans were drawn together to co-ordinate 100,000 men and march them from the Midlands, Lancashire and Yorkshire to London with the intention of taking over government. In fact the numbers were significantly smaller than that. No more than 200 men in East Derbyshire and West Nottinghamshire were actively involved.

    There plot was doomed to failure as the government had placed a spy in the midst of the insurrectionists. Known as ‘Oliver the Spy’, WK Richards kept the government informed at every step of the way. Oliver had been sent to the Midlands by Sidmouth and such was his ability to deceive people that he was often at threat of arrest by Justices of the Peace who thought him a bona fide revolutionary. Oliver is sometime described as a detective playing a dangerous but honourable role in maintaining order, but Thompson believes that such descriptions are misplaced and that such men are best described as ‘odious.’

    Eventually, 20 men from the 15th Hussars rode from Nottingham to Pentridge and came across 50 revolutionaries. Most scattered but 28 were initially arrested. A total of 45 men were subsequently indicted of which three were hanged and 30 transported to Botany Bay, Australia.

    The Pentridge uprising was repressed by a government that relied on the use of spies and the antics of Oliver the Spy, according to Palmer (1988) set back the hopes of serious police reform, including the development of a full time police organisation.

    The Cato Street Conspiracy

    Two years later, in 1820, the country was still in a state of legislative repression. Arthur Thistlewood, a gentleman who had suffered a variety of misfortunes, felt that it rested upon himself the duty to rescue the country from oppression. He, along with a number of co-conspirators decided to murder the cabinet in London while having dinner and place the heads of Prime Minister Castlereagh and Home Secretary Sidmouth on pikes. The conspirators plan was thwarted when they were arrested in Cato Street in London. The trial of those in the Cato Street Conspiracy, as it is now known, identified the fact that George Edwards, one of the conspirators, was in fact an agent provocateur. Edwards kept Sidmouth informed of the conspiracy for two months prior to the arrest of the men involved. In fact Sidmouth played a part in the farce by arranging a hoax of advertising a false plan for dinner at the home of Earl of Harrowby in order to entrap the conspirators.

    Five of the conspirators, including Thistelwood, were hanged and five others transported.

    Sergeant Popay

    By 1834 the Metropolitan Police’ had been established for five years. Peel put his officers in uniform to enable them to be seen, thereby removing any notion that they could be spying on citizens. However, in 1834 the police were attached with bricks, bottles and stones in Cold Bath Fields. Palmer (1988) reports this as a disorder which the police themselves initiated as a result of following instructions to disperse a meeting. However, a more serious issue was the role played by Sergeant William Popay.

    Popay was identified as a police spy who had managed to infiltrate subversive groups, sometimes acting as a double agent, by pretending to be a poor artist. There are commentators who state that Popay exceeded his instructions by infiltrating the National Political Union and playing the role of agent provocateur. Following a parliamentary select committee Popay’s activities were condemned for their proactivity rather than investigative nature as attempted to justify his actions by stating “all thieves know a policeman in uniform and avoid him.” This was supported by Superintendent Andrew McLean who stated that “A man in uniform will hardly ever take a thief.” Commissioners Rowan and Mayne also subscribed to this thought stating “It has been represented to us that for the apprehension of beggars and felons, three to one are taken by men in plain clothes.”

    Whilst the committee recognised the right of the Commissioners to use officers in plain clothes and exonerated them from connivance in Popay’s conduct, Popay’s supervisors were reprimanded for failing to keep him under a tight rein. The committee concluded by condemning Popay’s conduct as ‘a practice most abhorrent to the feelings of the people and most alien to the spirit of the constitution’ and he was subsequently dismissed from the police.

    The Poppay incident, according to Palmer, helped to delay the establishment of the detective department in the Metropolitan Police for a decade.

    The use of police working undercover is at best a risk to the reputation of the police force concerned. Over the last few years the media has highlight moral and ethical issues, including officers being intimate with those that they are spying on. Whether the committees description of spying as being abhorrent and unconstitutional is correct is a matter for debate and the reputational damage to the Metropolitan Police remains to be seen.

    References drawn from

    Thompson, E.P. (1964) The Making of the English Working Class. London. Gollancz

    Critchley, T.A. (1967) (2nd ed) A History of Police in England and Wales London. Constable

    Emsley, C. (1983) Themes in Comparative History: Policing and Its Context 1750-1870. London. McMillan Press

    Palmer, S. (1988) Police and Protest in England and Ireland 1780 – 1850 Cambridge, Cambridge University Press

    Emsley, C. (1991) (2nd ed) The English Police: A Political and Social History London. Longman



  • Leadership in critical incidents - precis

    Last week I arranged a seminar for the Liverpool Hope University research centre – CREST (http://crest.hope.ac.uk/). The subject was Police Leadership in Critical Situations and the guest speakers were Deputy Chief Constable Jerry Graham (Cumbria Police) and Chief Constable Michael Barton (Durham Police).

    The idea came from a lecture that I saw at the National Police Training Centre (Bramshill) some years ago. Detective Chief Inspector Hamish Campbell was the SIO despatched to the scene of the murder of Jill Dando on 26th April 1999. En route to the scene he received a series of telephone calls from senior officers altering him to the name of the victim and ‘encouraging’ him to get the crime cleared up with haste. This made me think about the emotional pressure faced by senior police officer while dealing with critical incidents. It is to be expected that a senior officer will bring their training and experience to the fore and start the process of logging decisions, deploying resources, cataloguing actions and dealing with the media, but what are they thinking as they go through the ‘investigation process.’

    Jerry Graham was the ACPO officer on duty when Derek Bird decided to conduct a shooting spree in Cumbria that resulted in the death of 12 people and injuries to 11 others on 2 June 2010. At the time Jerry was chairing a meeting when a colleague excused himself saying that there had been a report of a shooting. Jerry continued the meeting for a short while before instinct told him that something was not right. I will not cover all aspects of Jerry’s outstanding presentation that covers the time line, however, the interesting aspect in relation to the subject matter was the emotional response.

    The chaos of the situation was such that Jerry felt that he ‘had command of the situation, but did not have control.’ This was an uncomfortable place to be as critical incident training at all levels tends to focus on single incidents such as that facing DCI Campbell. In this instance reports of shootings and injuries were reported out of sequence resulting in confusion as to exactly where Bird was in Cumbria. At one point Jerry spoke of walking into the force control room and being faced with chaos. Almost all of the operators were standing up and shouting as they tried to make sense of the situation. Jerry too the command and control logs into a quiet room to make sense of the situation only to be faced with a type of readers block where all of the words appear jumbled on the page. This situation is all the more difficult as those in the control room, partners attending the Gold Control and those on the street are looking for leadership, decisions and help. As the incident unfolded decisions that had to be re-thought; issues relating to interoperability caused great frustration and had a significant impact on resources.

    Whilst Jerry provided the leadership that his staff needed there were a number of examples of front line leadership as police officers and PCSOs took control of the situations they faced on the street dealing with fatalities and injuries whilst not knowing whether Bird would walk around the corner and confront them. Having been fortunate enough to see this presentation I have nothing but admiration for Jerry and the staff of Cumbria who were faced with an almost impossible situation.

    The presentation given by Chief Constable Barton was concerned with the report of a number of people trapped on the shores of Morecambe Bay while they were picking cockles on 5 February 2004. Like Jerry, Mike was dealing with an unrelated incident and was told of the issue unfolding elsewhere. At the time Mike was dealing with a request from a senior officer who was requesting resources to look for a young girl reported missing. Mike had to leave this officer without his resources and head to Morecambe to deal with a situation that was growing worse by the minute.

    The interesting aspect here is that Mike has been cockle picking in this area and was aware of the threat caused by the incoming tide. As with Jerry’s situation the number of deaths began to rise and Mike had to deploy resources across a breadth of investigative roles that were confused by the fact that the survivors did not have English as a first language and had multiple identities.

    Mike spoke of how in similar situations he uses a three stage model using strategy and people to try to deal with the chaos. In this case he needed someone who spoke a particular dialect of Chinese, he needed someone who could deal with body recovery and identification and he needed the assistance of a neighbouring force as many of those dead, missing or injured lived in another force area. These were resources that were not immediately at hand, yet they were needed immediately.

    Another similarity between the two incidents was that fact that in the initial stages the number of dead and injured was unknown. Some of Bird’s victims were shot in their own home and it was not realised that there more fatalities until later in the timeline. The number of Chinese people who died on Morecambe Bay is still unclear, and again staff looked to senior officers for decisions, actions and help.

    The feedback from those in attendance made reference to the ‘loneliness of command’ and being pleased to hear from ‘authentic leaders’ who were prepared to share the unreported aspects of leadership in critical situations, aspects that are influenced by emotion.

    I am grateful to both Jerry and Mike for sharing their experiences with students on the Police Leadership master’s programme. They benefitted from a couple of hours spent with police leaders of the stature that results in British policing being held in such high regard the world over.




Communicating with communities

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