Damian Green Speech to the annual Superintendents' Conference
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Damian Green Speech to the annual Superintendents' Conference on Wednesday (11 September).
Thank you for inviting me to speak today. When I addressed you last year, I had been in the job for only a week. There was a daunting schedule of major reforms on the horizon. Since then PCCs have been elected and come into office, the College of Policing has been launched and the National Crime Agency has been established in statute with its full launch next month. The landscape has changed and the challenge now is to move with it.
We are entering a new stage of police reform, and you are the leaders of that change.
Now is the time to make changes happen on the ground – to make a tangible difference to the daily work of officers. There are some things that government can do – and we are doing – to help with this, but it will require real innovation and drive to come from the operational leaders of the service.
The next stage of reform will, in some ways, be even more radical than all of the changes to structures and culture that we’ve seen already. Because it is about changing the way policing is done on a daily basis, to make every member of the police more effective.
This is about improved tools, greater partnership working, freedom from target-setting and a fundamental change in attitudes to embrace modern ways of working. It’s about the police taking charge of their profession.
Let me make one of my beliefs clear at the outset. The police are already doing a good job. Look at the crime statistics: the police are performing better than they have ever done before. Despite budget cuts, recorded crime is down by more than 10 per cent since the last election – and at its lowest ever level according to the Crime Survey. But there are always things that can be improved.
And it starts with not just how you do your job, but who does the job.
You all know that the government has set out its intention to introduce direct entry schemes into the police. We have consulted on how best to implement those schemes, and we will publish the outcome of that consultation next month.
But what I can tell you now is that direct entry will offer an opportunity to the police.
Many see the different backgrounds of potential direct entrants as a weakness. Direct entrants won’t have come up through the ranks, they say. Direct entrants won’t be able to cope with the operational nature of policing, they say.
I say that this diversity of experience will be a strength. Different ways of thinking, different approaches to problems, a taste of professional life outside of policing.
This change represents an opportunity to you. You are the people with the years of policing experience, which your new colleagues will be keen to draw upon. But you will also want to harness their previous experience, and get the most from their fresh perspectives, to work together to find new solutions to challenges.
We’ve all had new jobs before, and we all know the value of bringing an outsider’s eyes. Who hasn’t asked a question upon starting a new job, to only hear the answer, “because that’s how we’ve always done it.” Direct entrants will ask those questions.
I am not saying that we don’t already have innovative, questioning officers. Because we do – I know, I’ve met many over the past year. But people from outside of policing will inevitably ask different questions, and that is their strength: difference.
Diversity makes policing stronger. Diversity of experience is no different.
Diversity in policing
But direct entry is only one piece of the jigsaw.
There are some stark statistics which I’m sure you’re all familiar with, but they bear repeating. Women officers account for 27 per cent of total police strength; at Superintendent and Chief Superintendent level that proportion is only 17 per cent.
Black and Minority Ethnic officers account for 5 per cent of the total workforce; women BME officers only 1per cent. As of March, there were only 3 women Black and Minority Ethnic officers at the rank of superintendent and none at the rank of chief superintendent.
I want to see these percentages increasing.
I know that Irene, on behalf of the Superintendents’ Association, has been a strong and vocal proponent of diversity. But more needs to be done. It is not something that just fits into the category of “nice if you can do it.” It is essential to the way you do your job.
Of course, all of this is not to suggest that progress has not already been made. The police have come a long way since the Macpherson report, and although facts about the mishandling of the investigation into Stephen Lawrence’s murder continue to emerge, they are largely a legacy of police practice in the past. An important legacy that must not be covered up – but one that the police have learned from.
Challenge on diversity
But there is still a lot more to do. We need to ensure that in twenty years’ time there are no legacies from 2013 that continue to haunt police forces.
At this point many might look expectantly at the government, waiting for new legislation or regulations that change the diversity and equality framework for recruiters.
But the answer lies not with government, but in the hands of police forces.
More can and should be done within existing legislation. Police legal departments are naturally risk averse; when it comes to diversity, they shouldn’t be. It is unlawful to have recruitment quotas based solely on race or gender, but recruitment quotas are not the only means to achieving diversity. Forces can, for instance, in addition to using the usual pre-requisites for recruits, use specific occupational or operational requirements in recruitment and promotion exercises, such as being able to speak a particular language, or have specific knowledge of cultural issues. This doesn’t happen enough.
Nor are positive action provisions used enough. The tipping point provisions in the Equality Act 2010 allow employers to take account of the gender or ethnicity of candidates where they are judged to be equally qualified as each other for a particular post, where the employer has identified under-representation in the workplace.
The Met is already leading the way in this area, and rightly so: the 2011 census showed that 40 per cent of Londoners are from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, but only 10 per cent of MPS officers are themselves from ethnically under represented groups.
The Met plan is to recruit 5,000 new constables by 2015, with an aspiration that 2,000 of them will be from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds. This would deliver the visible difference the Commissioner has said that he wants to see.
And you don’t have to be the Commissioner to make change happen.
You are the leaders most in touch with what’s happening in your area, the leaders bridging the gap between those on the street and those in an office. You know what the challenges are facing your communities, you have a say in who gets promoted. You can nurture talent along the way wherever you find it.
You also have a voice when it comes to recruitment. How are your officers engaging with people on the street? They are your first line recruiters, and these everyday interactions are a significant driver in attracting new joiners. But don’t stop there. Ask questions of your recruitment departments. Ask questions about your diversity policy. Ask questions of your chief. Because when it comes down to it, diversity in the workforce affects your ability to do your job, and it is everyone’s responsibility.
The challenge from the public
What role does this leave for government?
government will set the strategic direction, enable officers to do their job in the best way possible, and support the police in cutting crime. So you’ll not be surprised to hear that I certainly won’t be setting you any targets around diversity.
But I will carry on publishing the figures on diversity in the police.
Because it’s not me that will be holding you to account, it’s the public. Transparency is the key to this change.
And to support you and your forces in your efforts to increase diversity, the Home Office will, this autumn, publish authoritative guidance for police force legal departments on the use of positive action provisions in recruitment and promotion exercises.
There’s more that the government and partners are doing to support and enable officers, and not just on diversity.
Through the Digital Pathfinder Programme, the College of Policing is highlighting the good work already happening in forces to digitise processes and make intelligent use of technology. It will provide us with an understanding of what is happening and where, encouraging the sharing of that knowledge and innovation. It will also identify any blockers and enable us, where possible, to resolve them at a national level.
I recently visited Hampshire to witness the excellent progress that they are making towards being a digital force. Hampshire now represents a challenge for other police forces – a challenge to keep up in the digital race. No force will want to be branded as the last to use paper files. Don’t let it be yours.
I understand that there has been a myth circulating in some forces that the only mobile device they can use is a BlackBerry. In many instances, it is perfectly legitimate for officers to use their own mobile devices, such as for taking a photograph, or using an information app.
But for the instances where a more secure device is needed, a BlackBerry is not the only solution. CESG – the government’s communication security advisors – have already issued guidance on Apple products and will soon add the wider range of top mobile devices.
Of course, it’s not just about the devices themselves, it’s about having apps that make the devices useful to officers in a range of circumstances.
With that in mind, the ICT Company is creating an app store and will be working with the College to understand how to turn guidance into apps, and how to quality assure apps that developers create themselves. This will save your officers time, ensuring that they have a range of innovative apps easily accessible, providing them with support, guidance and information when they’re on the beat.
New apps and different devices: both are important, but both near useless without the ability to communicate.
So we will establish open information standards to make sure systems that should talk to each other, do talk to each other.
Over the coming months we will be working with forces to understand what information officers need at critical points, such as a driving licence photo when carrying out a PNC check. We will then work with forces to put in place technical solutions to deliver this information.
This change is exactly the kind of day-to-day improvement that could make the lives of officers easier, and police forces more efficient. It’s about getting the right information to the right person at the right time.
Paperless forces, publishing diversity figures, common standards on digital devices. All of these things are enablers, not edicts. No longer do officers have the government sitting on their shoulder, monitoring everything they do. Instead they have a range of tools to fight crime in the way that they think best, supported by evidence and best practice, not targets and matrices. They are accountable to the public, not to the bureaucrats.
Superintendents have never been more important.
Yes, I recognise that recent changes mean that many of you have taken on responsibilities that you didn’t have before. And yes I recognise that for many this has meant increased workloads. But your position as operational leaders gives you a real opportunity to make changes on the ground that will make a real difference to policing.
Don’t be the quiet minority: speak out and make things happen: It’s your role to challenge the status quo. Where officers are doing things that add no intrinsic value, be bold enough to say stop. You are the engines of operational change in the police.
Approaches to policing
Carrying the torch of police reform in this world of reduced budgets only increases the importance of being innovative and leading change.
I know that Irene has expressed her fears that neighbourhood policing will be lost, a casualty of budget cuts and economic expediency. It’s right to challenge; but in this instance, as the candid friend I promised to be, I do not accept that neighbourhood policing need be compromised.
I do recognise the genuine concerns that Irene and HMIC have about neighbourhood policing. It is critical to the way in which police forces are preventing and fighting crime. And it is very much to the credit of the police that so many forces have shown themselves able to prioritise the front line and make savings to protect neighbourhood policing teams, whilst continuing to drive down crime and maintain victim satisfaction.
But HMIC has already said, and been backed up by falling crime stats, that effective policing is not just about numbers. Tackling local crime and anti-social behaviour should be a priority for the whole force – not just Neighbourhood Policing Teams. Neighbourhood policing is about how you police, as much as the structures within which you police.
You will all be familiar with best practice for successful neighbourhood policing: building trusting relationships with communities, working with local partners, adopting problem solving approaches, improving accessibility and ensuring greater transparency.
All of these are essential for neighbourhood policing. But it is up to you how you achieve them.
College of Policing
The College of Policing has recently been reviewing effective practice in this area and it is clear there are a number of forces, such as Humberside and Lancashire that are being innovative in their approaches.
Humberside have thoroughly modelled demand against service, allowing them to change the resource profile of their neighbourhood teams. Lancashire have put in place a strategy to maximise their voluntary resource through Specials, Police Support Volunteers and Neighbourhood Watch. Both approaches have allowed forces to preserve and enhance the essential elements of neighbourhood policing, during a time of austerity.
We need to ask: are there other ways of working, new partnerships to be formed that would reduce the burden on your officers in neighbourhood policing teams?
And I do believe that there are things that can be learnt from the private sector about innovating to deliver outcomes on a tight budget. The days of the police being suspicious of the private sector should be over. Examples such as Avon and Somerset’s joint venture with local authorities and IBM to provide support services; Cleveland Police’s partnership with Steria; or Lincolnshire Police’s partnership with G4S, have all show that working with the private sector is very much alive. Money can be saved whilst still ensuring that crime is cut.
But it’s not just about working with the private sector, it’s also about taking on some of that private sector culture. You must be uncompromising in your use of resources, unyielding in your resolution to deliver. This doesn’t have to mean working longer or harder, but it should mean working smarter. I firmly believe that neighbourhood policing can and will be preserved through the innovation and ingenuity of forces in changing the way that they work to deliver the same or better outcomes with less.
Without a doubt, the next stage of police reform will be challenging. Changing ingrained systems and ways of doing things always is. But I am upbeat about the challenge. Because these reforms will be led not by me, not by government, but by you. The police are a can-do organisation, an organisation that we can always rely on to achieve. You will be leading the changes, and that fills me with confidence.