Wednesday, 19 December 2012


It's the Season of Goodwill apparently.

I for one am trying to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas and the hope for the future that lies within the manger. This is quite a challenge in an age of Xbox, Kindle and self basting turkeys.

It's also quite a test to switch off from work.

Hillsborough, Plebgate, Corruption, Leveson & Savile all continue to dominate the headlines.

Each of them is serious in its own right.

Taken together they have profound implications for individuals, families, communities and the police service. For the sake of clarity each and every one of these deserves reflection and thoughtful, expeditious action both by the police service and those with responsibility for our governance, oversight and legitimacy.

However, I am growing weary of commentators and pundits, some more informed than others, queuing up to postulate on the ‘crisis’ affecting the police service and proffer remedies from the simple to the surreal. There’s clearly no shortage of arm chairs or experts to fill them.

It’s also important to remember that the police service does not stand alone in the #lastchancesalooncourtofpublicopinioncrisisinpublicbodies24hournewscyclebenefitofhindsightpublicinquiryfest.

It doesn’t really assist your own defence if you offer up your co-accused in the hope that you get lost in the crowd but it is worth reflecting that we are not alone in the dock. We are joined by, amongst others, the BBC, bankers, MPs, journalists, HMRC, UKBA, the FA and civil servants to name but a few.

Is it time to transfer my hobby for coveting houses on the internet into a respectable profession and become an estate agent?

It’s also worth reflecting who isn’t on the list.

The most obvious omission is the military. They consistently stand above the fray, based on the obvious truism that they do extraordinary things on behalf of the nation. However like any other institution they also make mistakes.

Take for example the recent case of retired senior generals and admirals allegedly offering their services to lobbyists for tens of thousands pounds. There was rightly a (limited) furore but this did not translate much beyond the individuals. There was no clamour for an inquiry into the leadership of the military or a review of grace and favour homes or integrity in general or any suggestion that direct entry into the higher echelons of the army, navy or air force was being mooted. In short no 'crisis' to address. And, as far as I am aware Sandhurst isn’t up for sale.

So, when do the failings or frailties of an individual become an institutional crisis?

From its inception in the 19th century through to today the police service has made mistakes; the majority by individuals from the minor to the very serious but a significant number have been institutional, calamitous and far reaching in terms of their impact on communities, individuals and reputation.

To respond to the legitimate requirement on policing to learn from its past failings and present challenges, the services needs to have inspiring leadership at all ranks, policies and procedures that are credible and workable, searching scrutiny and accountability mechanisms and most importantly a culture that is founded on humility, respect and learning.

We need to stay rooted to our founding traditions and principles but we need to be overtly and genuinely responsive to the current challenges. Above all we need to go forward with confidence if we are to ensure the future of our model of policing.

In the midst of all this organisational self reflection, intense political and public scrutiny and the biggest reductions ever in police budgets, crime is down and confidence in policing is up.

And this needs to be the focus of the police service amidst all the legitimate ongoing debates because that is what we are here for – working alongside others to reduce crime and to make communities safer and stronger.

So, given all of the above there will be much to do in 2013 and it's not yet time to join the noble profession of estate agents.

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