Me, You and Winsor II
We welcome another guest to our pages some of you may have seen him tweeting under the name of @thesnowball1964
Our main aim here is to highlight Public Consultation as a key issue to the 20% Cuts to Policing which in turn has forced Chief Constables to reduce their budgets and in turn the number of Police Constables by 16,000 nationally.
Thats right 16,000 less Police Officers on the streets!!
Please feel free to add your comments . . . .
Me, You and Winsor 2
“Having had a little tweet-a-mania with @ProtectRPolice in recent days on the subject of Winsor 2, they very kindly asked me if I (@thesnowball1964) would consider writing an article for their webpage, primarily offering an opinion from the point of view of someone who is a member of the general public, out-with the service, and as someone whom, whilst very (in fact, extremely) supportive of the police, the concept of law and order, and in principle opposed to the wholesale imposition of Winsor 2 (which on balance I feel is destructive, and deliberately so), has throughout the weeks, offered up serious challenge and thought to many of the opinions offered up by the tweeting police fraternity in relation to Winsor 2 and other issues. I therefore say thanks to @ProtectRPolice. I feel flattered that you have asked, and privileged to accept your offer. So here you have a view from the sidelines.
So where to start? Well let me outline a few key principles that guide my words here.
First and foremost, let me say up front, that I support the police, I support the principles of law and order, and I firmly believe that a structured, organised law abiding society is something that benefits us all. But my support, is not unconditional, it is not a support that will blindly follow wherever you wish to take me, and it very definitely has limits, beyond which you will lose it.
Also, you have my apologies in advance. Because of limited column space, I will touch briefly on concepts and move on. That’s not evasiveness, more that I think the role to be served here is one of stimulating the debate, stimulating thought, exposing people to an alternative reality which they may not have considered, promoting the concept of introspection, etc.
My views are ones that I believe are shared by a great percentage of the public. I believe that as a result of my experiences, because I engage and interact with many, and we share similar views and discourse on many subjects, they are views which are reiterated and reinforced by many as I travel up and down the country working and engaging with people from all walks of life, and levels of society.
My views are challenging at times, but are underlined by a desire to see effective controlled change both within the police service and society as a whole. I do firmly believe that for the police to move forward in a manner that reinforces their commitment to society, they must look inwards before pointing the finger outwards.
Finally, let me add that this article is not something you should read quickly, have a knee-jerk reaction and reply to. It needs to be read and thought about. It is designed to promote an alternative thought path. Here you have a genuine, concerned member of the public, who through nearly fifty years of life has experienced a gradual, but significant shift in confidence and trust in your profession, and who now struggles at times to give unwavering support to an organisation that appears to be systematically disenfranchising me.
I consider myself a very ‘normal’ member of society. Pretty mainstream views on most subjects, intelligent, willing to listen, balanced and perceptive. If I feel like this, I can reasonably assume that many others fitting the same profile above, also do. So this article is not about what you as officers might think about yourselves, reinforce between yourselves, and what you do. It’s about how you just might be being perceived by the wider public you have chosen to serve.
The police are in the views of many I talk to, becoming a society within a society. My view is that you are supposed to be integrated with society. Part of US. As I stated in a recent tweet, on balance, in relation to the US and THEM mode of thinking, you are very much seen as THEM. You (collectively) are seen as ‘Part of the Problem’, not part of the solution, and that can’t be right, nor how it should be, and needs to change.
Yes, there are good and bad in all walks of life, and yes you are only a reflection of the wider society you serve. But society doesn’t readily or easily talk about the police as individuals, you are referred to in the collective. It’s the 8 out of 10 syndrome. And so that is how I have framed this discussion (and apologies to all the good guys in advance, I know you outweigh the bad-that’s a no brainer).
The commitment you give to the public is exceptional, but it also has to be more than just words in a tweet, or a glossy poster. It has to be something that we, the public can touch, feel, that is as much a tangible comfort, as it is cognitive. For example, officers stating they are here to make society safer, doesn’t make me feel safer. Officers passing my front window twice a day makes me feel safer, beat officers make me feel safer, positive interactions with live officers not cardboard cut-outs at service stations makes me feel better. Patrol cars make me feel safer. Hearing the positive experiences of others makes me feel safer.
I don’t feel threatened by the phoney war on terrorism. I feel threatened by the gangs marauding the streets, by the prospect of someone coming through my back windows at night while my family sleeps, by the feral youth who appear to have unrestrained control of many streets. And at times I feel threatened by you the police. Because you cannot treat me as an individual. As a society we are no longer innocent until proven otherwise, but are all viewed with suspicion beyond any reasonable level of justification. There are times when I feel you are as much a threat to me and my family, as the people I have described above. Whether that threat is real or not does not matter. In my experience ‘perception is far more powerful a tool than any truth’.
I do not believe that the ‘Status Quo’ is an option for the police going forwards. That means, accepting change is coming, and determining how we as a society and you as a service influence, guide and effect that change to our mutual benefits, and in a manner that facilitates and promotes the generic support which I outline below, and a continuing development of positive public-police relationship into the future. If it’s not Winsor in whole or part, it will be something else very soon. Change is coming, embrace it.
Attitudes must change. You are not doing us a favour, you are providing a service. We, the public are grateful for that service and the efforts you guys put in, but let’s not become too delusional about your importance in the equation. Lets be brutally honest here,
…….if you think the world will collapse if you walked out of the door, I challenge you to walk out of the door…….
There are over 1.5 million unemployed in this country, and your occupation is one that does not require a single formal qualification to be part of as I am led to believe. Any void will be filled by another group of equally competent, equally dedicated, equally brave and equally committed people as yourselves. I think the vast majority of the public are grateful for what you do, but keep it real and in perspective.
I see no contradiction in ‘supporting the troops’ whilst at the same time ‘opposing the war’. So, in response to comments on twitter that state,
……….“you cannot hold those views and support the AntiWinsorNetwork”….,
we can and we do. Because supporting the police is about having a clear understanding about what we (the public) expect from you, are prepared to give to you to secure an ongoing commitment to those expectations, and determining to do something constructive about bridging any deltas that exist in bringing those two positions together.
Supporting the police is about an acceptance of the concept of law and order, which is wholly different from accepting past, current or future methodologies of implementing the law and order agenda. As a force you have become distant from society. As I stated earlier, a society within a society. You are often perceived as over-zealous, inefficient, rude and aggressive. There is no contradiction in the public rebelling against such characteristics, whilst still maintaining a coherence and adhesion with the principle of a society underpinned by the concept of law and order.
The Generic Social Contract.
Why is it that such a high profile public service such as yours, one entrusted with the day to day civil protection of the nation, a service that could be described as a key element in the fabric of society, can barely muster up enough public support for a BBQ in the face of Winsor 2, a damaging, ham-fisted and brutal attack on the fabric of our police services? Nurses can mobilise support, the fire service can mobilise support, local government can mobilise support, but the police cannot. Many of you have mentioned this on Twitter. It is clearly a concern, a bewilderment, but how deeply have you looked for the answer. In my view:
……..It’s because you have broken the generic social contract with the public….
Not just the police. Many of societies institutions have done the same, but let’s deal with you here.
The bottom line of the generic social contract states, ‘we are on your side’. Pay your taxes and play your part in the health of the nation and ‘we are on your side’, respect and obey the law, ‘we are on your side’, conduct yourself with honour, dignity and integrity, ‘we are on your side’, do the right thing by family, friend, foe and country alike, and ‘we are on your side’, individually and collectively as a society, act responsibly, lawfully and with decency and ‘we are on your side’.
That contract has been broken. The public, on balance do not feel that you are on our side. We feel abandoned by the major institutions and betrayed. Decency, honour, respect, etc are no longer valued traits. It gets you no credit. We have become a society that legislates and enforces on the basis of the minority, not the majority. A few people binge drink, let’s punish everyone, a few speed, let’s punish everyone, there are a few extremists in our midst, lets make travel and day to day life a nightmare for everyone, lets treat everyone with suspicion and a total lack of respect and dignity, because its easier to do our jobs that’s way. Why isolate a few troublemakers at a march, when you can kettle every decent upstanding citizen there
…… (Anyone else see the irony of the police having a protest march through London on the 10th, after they have systematically suppressed the protest of every other group marching through the same city?)…….The public will see it, very clearly.
For the sake of expediency, you have systematically deconstructed your side of the social contract with society. We are now all deemed guilty until we can prove our innocence. Its not meant to be that way around.
Now lets add some balance here. Is the police position understandable? Yes, absolutely.
In the context of you being decent people, operating to a set of rules that are imposed upon you, and that you are following orders from above, its understandable.
In the context of diminishing resources, both financial and physical, yes.
In the context an ever tightening belt and the harsh choices that management have had to make over recent decades, yes.
In the context of a rapidly changing world of technology, communications and mobility, that can see a march organised and trouble mobilised through the medium of social media within hours, yes its understandable.
In the context of a growing disaffection with societal institutions, and those who govern us, yes it is understandable (to an extent), that is not disputed.
But what we are discussing here, what the public are telling you, is there is a price to pay for that. There are consequences to your actions. And in my view, the consequences have been an erosion of trust and faith in the service over recent decades, that now culminates in a level of public disaffection and apathy towards the police and for your plight, that could not have been foreseen 20 or 30 years ago.
You were once a highly respected part of UK society. You retain an element of generic support from the vast majority of us, in so much as we have a healthy respect for the concept and principles of an inclusive society that is governed by the impartial application of the rule of law. But you are no longer viewed as impartial, nor an inclusive part of the society that we share.
For those of us who twitter, you know what I am talking about. The body of support for you on social networks in relation to Winsor 2 is coming from fellow officers, the family and friends of officers, and a few sycophantic members of parliament, who while extolling your virtues and pledging to be there on the 10th, are still falling short of stating that they would reverse the imposition of Winsor 2 if they come to power at the next election. Twitter, Facebook, Bebo, etc should be awash with a massive groundswell of public support and angst at your plight. It isn’t. Why? Look inwards first, before you point the finger outwards. What can you, each and every individual one of, do to try and change that.
Try Working on What You Are Bad At:
The police are notoriously bad at several things. Here are just three of them, all of which need to change, if you sincerely wish to retain and maintain the generic contract with the public.
Having an effective Public Relations strategy (Letting us know about your successes as well as your failures),
Communications (talking and engaging with the public at the physical level), and
Saying Sorry (admitting your failures, and committing to putting them right).
We often hear about successes, but not in a coordinated way. The police need to be better equipped at getting the message out. We need a stream of good news. Public support is contingent upon a belief that you are working in our interests. That you are delivering the service we are paying for, and that we are better off for it. Nothing demonstrates that more than success stories, and if they can come in a steady stream, great. The Whitehouse for instance has a daily briefing. No matter what has struck the world that day, that briefing always ends on a positive (here is something good we have done for America). You perhaps don’t have daily public briefings, but you could. In each and every county you work in, the vast majority of the population will have either a Facebook Account or a Twitter account, and many will have both. Target them through those mediums. Regular daily updates coordinated through HQ.
Small effort, big pay-off. Some forces do it, but it is largely inconsistent, and largely appears to be organised by officers at the individual level rather than the strategic level.
Communications is a biggy. I joined Twitter on the 08/04/2011, and I have had more conversation and positive interaction with police officers since joining twitter, than I have in my entire life previous. I have learned more about the police in that time, than in my entire life previous. I know more about the issues facing the police through my engagement on Twitter, than I did in my entire life previous. That cannot be the right way to do things. Surely services like Twitter, Facebook, etc should be a supplement to my engagement and understanding, not its main embodiment. You must embed better communications with the public into your everyday, run of the mill operations. You are a service. Communicate with your service users.
Admitting your failures is just as important. No person or organisation is perfect. We the public know that. You the police know that. Don’t hide your failures. We know they are there, and it just looks like you are hiding something if you keep them to yourselves. Modern information systems are such that you will always be found out. There really is nowhere to hide in the information age. Give up the information, before it is dragged from you. You will be better thought of for having done it.
And for the BIG one. The ability to say sorry (when you get it wrong), and in a timely fashion is intrinsic to consistent and durable relations with the public. I believe that the public has an innate desire for good relations with the police. It’s within all our interests. But that cannot and will not, be at any cost. There are numerous high profile incidents when the police got it wrong. We won’t discuss them, because that’s not the purpose here, but just hold your hand up and say sorry from time to time. I was brought up in the knowledge that ‘I would never be punished if I told the truth’, if I had done something wrong and was asked, I was simply required to tell the truth and say sorry where it was appropriate. In your role, it is expected that you will make mistakes, its impossible not to. You are 130,000 strong, so someone somewhere is making a mistake right now. If you do, and there is a public relations impact, hold your hand up early, explain where it went wrong and say sorry.
So, Winsor 2 and What Really needs to be Done.
We are living in severe and troubling economic times. There are cuts being made across the spectrum of society (with the exception of MPs pay, pensions and conditions of course). Every sector of society is being hit and hit hard. So are the police and special case and do they deserve an exemption from the austerity we are all facing? No. There are savings and efficiencies to be made. There always are. The issue is how and where they are made, and as with all other services facing the same impositions, at what pace they are made.
Twitter is awash with the notion from within the service, that you want Winsor 2 discarded in its entirety. That’s not going to happen, it’s unrealistic, and the concept flies in the face of all other protest against the cuts and their subsequent outcomes. You have to change your way of thinking, because the government are beating you up, and making light work of it.
Winsor 2 is all about politics and the political game. Any trade union leader will tell you that they always ask for more than they want, so they can be negotiated back to the desired position, and everyone thinks they have won. This is no different, so you must seek caveats and exclusions. It is in my view, and one which I think will be widely held across society, as the only way forward for you. You can fight change if you wish. But I believe you either embrace it and influence it, or you have it imposed. There are no other options. Here is a view from the balconies that will not be popular.
…..There are a lot of elements to Winsor 2 that make sense…..
Yes, there are. What Winsor 2 lacks, is a degree of appropriate caveat and exclusion, based on the principles of fairness, decency and humanity. Again, from a personal perspective, I do not see the status quo as being a viable option. History does not support the stand still, do nothing concept. It’s not viable.
…..The service might not be broken, but they are going to mend it…..,
so you have to be part of that change, influencing and managing change, in a way that delivers the best outcomes for the public first and the service second (remember, you are delivering a service, this is about the public not you).
Let’s look at just a few instances to highlight the position I feel the public would take. It’s a few small examples, but is intended to promote an alternative way of thinking about the problem.
Winsor 2 talks about the removal of supplementary pay increases, where an officer becomes unfit to carryout those duties for which the supplement was originally awarded. In particular, there is reference to where officers are failing successive fitness medicals/tests that are associated with the day-to-day duties they are expected to carryout, and for which pay supplements have been awarded. That’s not entirely unreasonable if caveats and exclusions are applied. For instance, such a caveat might state that:
………..where an officer becomes unfit and fails medicals as a result of injury, disablement or otherwise, suffered in the execution of his/her duties, and where such officer is taking active steps to address the deficiencies in their fitness, or have been medical deemed unable to take such active steps, the rule regarding the removal of the supplement will not apply………
I think that would be a reasonable caveat worth fighting for. I have only had time to skim read the report, and it may well be alluded to somewhere within, but I am simply highlighting the strategic thought path I think you need to adopt to Winsor 2.
I also think it is reasonable that, where an officers fitness suffers as a result of
……..a propensity to neglect to maintain a reasonable level of fitness, or perhaps chooses to over-indulge in the local fast food chain, or the boozer, and where such over-indulgence (a lifestyle choice) renders him/her unfit for the duties for which we (the public) are paying them……..
then it is wholly reasonable and appropriate that the supplementary pay associated with those duties is withdrawn. He/she is simply unable to do there job. If I am unable to do my job, I get fired. Why should the public pay for officers who cannot do their as a result of their own lifestyle choices.
When you next go into work, take a look around the office, and you will see at least one officer that falls into the ‘Lifestyle Choice’ bracket. You know it and the public know it. The public will not empathise with you if you choose to fight on this issue. We lose our jobs if it happens to us, Winsor 2 is simply proposing that you lose a supplement.
Have a think about this as well. Twitter again is awash with tales of how dangerous your job can be. And it can be very dangerous (and I personally thank you for doing it). Imagine how you might feel if, one night in a dark alley, while you roll around the floor with a violent suspect, and the only thing between you and the kicking of a lifetime, is the overweight, unfit, breathless officer with less than 60 seconds worth of good fight in him/her.
………If you could pick your partners at the beginning of the shift, would you pick him/her? ………
If the answer is no, then that answers the fitness for duty question in my view, and by default the issue of being paid supplements associated with your fitness for duty.
Winsor 2 also talks about the balance between active serving officers and civilian staff. Now here there is an inconsistency in the police thinking (or at least Twitter gives that impression). On the one hand you appear to promote the concept of more officers on the beat, out in patrol cars, delivering the frontline service, fighting crime, and that is commendable and exactly what we the public want. But that requires a back room staff to conduct the mundane day-to-day grind that keeps the administrative wheel turning.
On the other hand, there is an element within the service which, perhaps through historical reference, see the backroom role, as the preserve of the services infirm, injured, less able, ready for retirement set. Again commendable. There is nothing wrong with wanting to ensure that those who have given best part of their working lives to a service, are catered for at the very time that, potentially through no fault of their own, their health is failing, or for various reasons, they are becoming less capable to deliver the frontline initiative (the fire service does it, and so does the military though to lesser extents these days). But it’s hard to see how you can have it both ways. The public, in these austere times, will demand that you as a service, receive the finances and support that you need to execute the function, but it’s about what you really need. Again, caveats, exclusions and joined up thinking required.
Winsor 2 quite rightly in my view, questions whether that backroom role should be serviced by serving officers, or by administrative professionals, who DO COST LESS. For the cost of one serving officer behind a desk, you could employ two professional administration staff. It’s a no-brainer really, and you risk looking archaic if you choose to fight it. You are a service. You MUST be cost effective. You are no different than any other service, NHS, prisons, civil service, no difference. We are all under the cosh. You need to think differently.
Finally, another feature of Winsor 2, is to focus on the levels of entry and qualifications of new officers. The professionalization of the service you could argue.
There appears to be a groundswell of opposition to this, but again I would urge you to change you thinking. Multiple levels of entry are prominent in the prison service, NHS, military and many private sector enterprises that utilise graduate entry schemes as part of the general recruitment and human resource process. It works for them and it can work for the police.
There is no point bleating on about how in a crisis they will lack the experience to deal with the issue, they won’t understand, etc etc. They will understand, and they will deal with it, because the force will need to ensure they are exposed to training and scenarios in a controlled, mentored fashion, like many of the other services control and mentor their graduates. Winsor 2 is about the strategy. The effective implementation of the strategy is the responsibility of Chief Officers.
Officers graduating from Cranwell and Sandhurst are not let loose on squadrons and platoons alone, they are mentored, by NCO’s and fellow officers. They are guided and assisted, to ensure that when they hit the ground in the worlds hotspots, they are ready, capable and willing. There are officers in their twenties leading men in Afghanistan and other hotspots as you read this article. The graduate system works.
As experienced grassroots officers, you need to play your part in ensuring they are ready, and you must intelligently differentiate between the requirements of an operational leader and a strategic manager, just like we have to in mainstream private and public sector employs. Many graduate entry personnel are interested in the strategic management of a service, not the operational level. Those graduates entering for operational leadership, should and must be afforded a different training criteria, than those directing their focus towards strategic level management. Yes there will be an element of cross-over, but many other services manage the initiative without detriment, and the police can.
There are also less tangible benefits to graduate entry schemes. They facilitate by exclusion, a level of entry for those amongst the population without degrees. The country is awash with unemployed graduates. If desired, you could probably fill the entire 2012/2013 recruitment quota in every county with graduates, potentially leaving those less intellectually gifted, or without the financial power to attend university, with no access route into what is a very rewarding career. Yes graduates can apply at grassroots level, and yes there are graduates at that level, but on balance a graduate will be looking for something more, that’s why they are graduates.
So moving forwards, what do we do. Well remember you are a service, and get the public on-side. I believe the default public disposition is a supportive one, but a strained one. Actively work at renewing the social contract. Make what you do and what you deliver a tangible asset. Embrace the concept of change, which is very different from embracing all change. You must be open to the idea. You are the gate keepers of the service, but that does not mean that by default you always know whats best for it.
Stop, Look, Listen and Engage. Embrace new ways of thinking that complement the changing environment in which you are operating. If you disengage, you will find the pace of change so significant, that when you finally realise the need for, the shifting sands will be hard to keep up with. If you work with and alongside the concepts of Winsor 2 as opposed to fighting them in their entirety, you will find that you can influence both the direction and pace of change to your advantage. Appropriate caveats and exclusions are the key deliverables from engagement. Spectators cannot alter the outcome of the game, only players have that power.
@thesnowball1964 who describes himself as follows:
Male. Have been employed and self employed. Former-military, Former-fire service (circa 16 years of disciplined service), Masters educated, Honours in Psychology. Experienced former councillor. Extensive work on scrutiny committees, finance committees, planning and executive committees, anti-poverty forums, charity works, governorships, NHS Trust work, change management, project and programme management. Extensive experience in private enterprise fund-holding and management, with budgets in the tens of thousands, up to the hundreds of millions, stakeholder and human resource management. A grassroots through to senior management all-rounder.
Well thank you to @the snowball 1964 for what we would describe as another view which undoubtedly will stimulate debate whether on here or on our twitter feed @ProtectRPolice
This debate has to happen before any changes are made we owe it to ourselves as Police Officers and to our communities which we serve. It really does require a Royal Commission to move forward as a society.
You can read all of the proposals from Winsor Part 2 Report on our posts below. If the proposals generate more questions either post a comment asking it or ask the next Police Officer you see they will gladly take the time to explain.
If you would like to publish an article on our website please get in touch using the contacts page.
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