Tuesday, 25 August 2009

More Leadership

General Patton

I am pleased to be able to post another contribution from a colleague on Leadership.

More Leadership

I read with interest Inspector Hobbes article on Leadership. This is an area that has concerned me for some time. We regularly castigate politicians for the apparent lack of support we get, quite rightly. Leadership is something that we can address ourselves and we are not doing it.

I joined the police twenty something years ago and I still vividly remember some of the leaders around then. There were a lot of strong characters. They were in charge. There was no doubt of that. They understood policing and had the respect of their teams. There was a lot of shouting and barking but the really good ones maintained that equilibrium between compassion and direction. The important thing was, when the wheel came off the sergeants and inspectors knew what they were doing, took control and no one questioned their directions.

Now, some of you will be thinking that the old twit has got his rose tinted glasses on and we all like to believe that things have gone downhill since our day. Hear me out and let’s have a look at how things have changed.

Once you had passed the law exam, promotion used to be by recommendation from line managers. Experience in the field counted for everything and you had to show that you had the skills and experience to do the job before you got recommended for promotion. The system was open to abuse and allegations of ‘jobs for the boys.’ Largely though, it worked pretty well.

Over the last 15 years the Police Service has taken up the cudgel of political correctness and decided that law and order is not our only raison d’ĂȘtre. We must also educate the general public in all ‘isms.’ Height, fitness levels for recruits, anything that might suggest we are discriminating against anyone were thrown out. I’m not suggesting that we should reverse this but somewhere the baby went out with the bath water.

Senior Police Officers were tasked and built careers on the race to increase representation from minority groups at all levels. We needed to recruit women and other under-represented groups fast and push them up the ranks as quickly as possible. The unwritten rule that only a few exceptional people were promoted or went to CID before five years experience and service was torn up. We started promoting officers barely out of their probation period. Many of them had not learnt the massive role of policing and had few leadership skills. I am not suggesting for a minute that it is the minority groups within the police that are ineffective. This was part of the cause, the effect of which led to a significant number of ineffective leaders across the whole spectrum.

Around the same time the service also decided that it needed a more academic recruit to cope with the plethora of legislation and accountability being foisted upon us. More recruits came to us from the middle classes, some of whom had never so much been in a playground fight, never mind got stuck into a Friday night brawl. Some of these recruits want to progress quickly through the ranks, but lack leadership skills: Supervisors plotting target results on a spreadsheet, is for many, their idea of leadership, rather than leading from the front.
Fortunately, there are still many good leaders within the service but too many are a manifestation of the blind leading the blind and a self perpetuating cycle of poor leadership. We have ineffective leaders recommending too many applicants for promotion when they are totally unsuitable. The promotion system of a paper application and interview is not weeding out sufficient of those applicants. We need to break out of this cycle.

We need leaders like Inspector Hobbes who go the extra mile to ensure that their staff are delivering the service and not falling into bad habits. Leaders need to have the knowledge and experience to command respect, manage staff and control critical incidents. Just as importantly, we need leaders who can identify and develop new talent and manage the expectations of those who are not ready to do so and who may never be.

The answer to any problem is never very far away. In the services potential NCO’s are identified and put forward for promotion. Once recommended, they attend a selection course that is pass or fail. If they fail badly, the officer’s that recommended them are held to account.

Taking the police promotion exam should trigger a meeting with a line manager where an honest discussion should take place regarding the candidates suitability for promotion. A clear plan should be put in place so the candidate understands when, and under what circumstances, they may be recommended for promotion.

No one should be recommended for promotion unless there is a consensus from the applicant’s first and second line managers that the candidate would be a welcome addition to the recommending officer’s team, capable of leading that team and gaining the respect of all they work with. The candidate should then attend a pass or fail course based on practical assessment.

It should always be born in mind that not everyone will be suitable for promotion and everyone has a ceiling. Being honest and managing expectations are also qualities of a good leader and need to be practised more often.

Monday, 3 August 2009

An Officer Speaks: Should Drugs Be Legalised?

I apologise to everyone who regularly visits my blog that I have not been posting for some time now. One reason is that I simply do not have the time. Another is that I have determined not to respond to any adverse media reports concerning the police services of England and Wales. Why? Well, other police bloggers do so and I would merely be writing about the same topic but in a different manner. As I have said before, I only ever wanted to explore what it is to be a police officer and to share this with a wider audience. I wanted to demonstrate that being a police officer isn't just a job, it's a vocation, something that affects every aspect of your life whether on-duty or not.

I can't think of any better way to illustrate the above other than in this latest guest posting. It's from a police officer in Canada who devotes his own time to an issue he feels very strongly about: the legalisation of drugs. Of course, I have read about this in numerous newspapers, but it has always been portrayed as an indication of defeat on the war against drugs to even to consider it. I'm still undecided on the issue, but will certainly post a comment once I have digested what Officer Bratzer has written.

I would like to thank the Inspector for the opportunity to write this guest post. A successful blog represents a great personal effort and it was gracious of the Inspector to share a community of readers drawn together by his excellent writing.

A little about me: my name is David Bratzer and I am a police officer from Canada. I have a strong interest in drug policy reform which I pursue off-duty as a volunteer with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is an international organization of 13,000 current and former law enforcement officers who seek to minimize death, disease, crime and addiction by gradually legalizing and regulating all drugs. I should clarify that my opinions are my own and they do not represent those of my police department. Also, I still enforce the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act while on-duty (this is the act that criminalizes drug use in Canada). This might seem hypocritical - and often I do feel that way - but one can’t swear an oath to uphold the law and then pick and choose which laws to enforce.

The argument in favour of legalizing drugs like cocaine, heroin and ecstasy is not that they are beneficial or fun. Instead, LEAP argues these drugs are so dangerous they need to be regulated and controlled by the government. Under prohibition, the government has no control. It is the drug dealer who chooses price, purity, cutting agents as well as business location and operating hours. And these dealers certainly are not asking minors for ID, nor are they encouraging their
customers to moderate or abstain from drug use.

After decades of heavy enforcement, illicit drugs are cheaper, more potent and more available than ever before. By legalizing and regulating drugs, the British government could launch an economic war against organized crime by removing the profit motive from the black market.

Although legalization might seem like some kind of crazy utopian idea, it is actually a well researched crime control theory with broad support from across the political spectrum. This includes conservative organizations such as;

The Economist magazine as well as The UK Libertarian Party which promotes the “legalisation of all narcotic substances for adult consumption” as part of its platform.

LEAP has several representatives in the UK: Francis Wilkinson, retired Chief Constable from Gwent; Paul Whitehouse, former Chief Constable of Sussex; and James Duffy, a retired police inspector from Scotland. The Transform Drug Policy Foundation maintains a more complete list of officers who believe the current drug laws should be partially or fully abolished.

LEAP also offers stealth membership for those officers who are concerned about personal attacks and harassment if they go public with their views. You might have noticed that many of the names above are retired officers or senior police managers. Perhaps the readers of this blog can enlighten me: what are the laws and policies in the United Kingdom regarding police officers and free speech? What would happen if rank-and-file serving officers called for drug legalization as a public safety measure?

This is an important question because the War on Drugs has been a disaster for British police agencies. It is time for officers at all levels to acknowledge the significant damage done to the vital profession of policing through the enforcement of drug prohibition.

These consequences include diminished public respect, alienation from youth, recruiting difficulties, increased call loads, budget pressures, unfavourable case law, drug-related corruption and on-duty officer injuries and deaths.

Drug trafficking and drug use are consensual but harmful activities. Criminalizing these activities instead of regulating them results in gang violence, organized crime, property crime and the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C. Police and the legal professions must examine crime control efforts with a critical eye, particularly in the area of drug policy because the time for change is long overdue.

What do you think? Should drugs be legalized and regulated?

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