This blog is mainly about the governance and future of policing and crime services. (Police & Crime Commissioners feature quite a lot.) But there are also posts about the wider justice system. And because I am town councillor and political activist, local & national issues are covered a little, as well.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pineapples, PCCs and Innovation

Bernard Rix has recently published the CoPaCC thematic on PCCs and Innovation. You can read the full piece here. Below is my contribution to the thematic.

How do you prepare and eat a fresh pineapple?

For years (decades even), I have chopped off the top & bottom. Then I hack off large portions of the outer layer to avoid any of the spiky bits remaining and then impaling themselves on the back of my throat (is my fear!). But every time I have done this, I have hated throwing away so much of the juicy flesh of the fruit. Then I had an (innovative) thought a few weeks ago: why not eat it like a melon? In other words, having cut out the hard core, eat from the middle out towards the skin. You end up wasting far less of the pineapple.

It is a technique in development, I might add and one I am yet to perfect. And I don’t claim to have invented it: since my ‘discovery’, I have met people who have always eaten pineapples this way. But I did not know. For me, this is an innovation that has been staring me in the face for a very long time. I just did not see it.

So how many other innovations in policing and community justice are also staring us in the face and we are just not seeing them? Or perhaps people are but feel abashed to propose them? Maybe for good reason, people don’t want to suggest that there are better ways to do business? (If you want to know of one classic example, just read the biography of Ignaz Semmelweiss who, as a young doctor in Austria, dared to suggest the innovation that his medical colleagues ought to wash their hands to prevent women in labour and their new born infants from dying…)

I have always contended that the role of the PCC is mainly a leadership not a managerial one. In this respect, PCCs have huge amounts of soft power (as well as the hard powers of budget setting and Chief Constable appointing etc.) The question is: how many PCCs are using this soft leadership to foster greater innovation in the face of criminals who can be rather good at it as well as rising levels of concern about justice, community safety and anti-social behaviour? I hope this thematic put together by CoPaCC, will go some way towards uncovering examples of good leadership practice in this field. In other words, how many PCCs are really using their ‘pineapples’ to drive up citizen value and drive down costs?

Into this debate, let me offer a few suggestions at what I hope this thematic will highlight. It is my hope that Bernard will discover the following:
  • PCCs who are not just talking about innovation, but also doing something about it! And by ‘doing’ I mean taking action and seeing some substantive results come through. Innovation is not a theoretical exercise: it is a practical one.
  • PCCs who understand that innovation is not just about information technology or giving tablets to frontline officers & staff, or all other systems that go ping… Innovation can happen everywhere: even in the kitchen.
  • PCCs who are sponsoring innovation through (perhaps) innovation awards to staff and officers who develop new and fresh ways to beat crime, engage with the public and help people feel more safe. I am envisaging an award ceremony where people are praised and honoured for their ideas and innovations. 
  • PCCs who are paying attention to making suggestion schemes work. I well remember talking to a former Deputy Chief Constable of Durham Police who told me that he considered the time he spent every morning, personally reading and often directly responding to ‘suggestion box’ ideas from colleagues to be the most useful part of his day in achieving a change of culture in the force. 
  • PCCs who are putting in place Small & Medium Sized Enterprise (SME) friendly procurement. I am sure that Stephen Allot, the Crown Representative for SMEs in the Cabinet Office would be able to tell them just how much taxpayer value there is be procured from innovative SMEs. Or maybe PCCs who are self-assessing their procurement strategy against the Cabinet Office’s SME friendly checklist (which I helped to write, as it happens).
  • PCCs who are taking action to hold their Chief Constables to account for making sure that their whistle-blowing policies are up to scratch, that they have robust methods for analysing complaints and feedback from the public and that there is an increasing emphasis on developing organisational cultures which foster creativity and innovation. (I well remember hearing about one police service that was analysing its ‘blame culture’. During one meeting, a senior officer banged the table and said, with a wry grin, “but I want to know: whose fault was this blame culture in the first place…!?”)
  • PCCs who are listening, really listening to what the public needs and wants: and who are prepared to dig into what they are saying in order to find some threads of innovation. The ‘ah hah’ moments can just as easily come from outside as from inside the organisation. (But you won’t get these moments in starchy public meetings with chairs lined up like soldiers.)
  • PCCs who are measuring innovation: recording progress, learning about just what it takes to foster sustainable innovation and broadcasting these lessons. 
PCCs have a huge opportunity to make a difference here. And I really hope that the sterling work being done by CoPaCC to share and promote good practice will be heeded by adaptable PCCs. PCCs themselves are an innovation in leadership and governance.

Are PCCs fulfilling their potential and leading their police services and wider criminal justice systems to achieve even more innovation?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

If not engagement, then what?

Yesterday was also good day: I spent more time at the Policing Social Citizens conference (see previous post below) in Manchester in the company of an awesome mix of great people. We were told that just before John Grieve left, he had told one of the organisers that there was more intelligence and insight in the room than at a typical ACPO conference! A most charming man and his presentation was certainly one of the highlights of yesterday.

Challenged by Royston Martis (via twitter) to come up with a better word than 'engagement', I convened a workshop entitled "If we are not going to use the word engagement, what should we use and do?" This is a report of that workshop, ably helped by Sue Ritchie who kept flipchart notes. As you might expect, the conversation ranged quite widely!

I will begin with one police officer's story who said he was once walking down the road on his patch and one his (dare we call him) 'customers' came up to him and said, with a wry grin "Are you engaging with me or reassuring me today?" Now we all know how the great unwashed British public have this irritating habit of raising an eyebrow (and sometimes more) to our carefully contrived words / concepts of the moment. And this doesn't necessarily negate the value of some words. However in this particular instance, I think we may have to listen and reframe...

So what else was raised in the meeting. Here is in a fairly random order are some reflections on the discussion and points raised (with thanks to all who came along):
  • Is it essentially about a model where the police service is the vehicle, the public are in the driving seat and the gears that connect the driver to the engine and wheels is where the 'engagement' happens. In other words, are we really talking about is the public not only participating in but leading on the shape and direction of the public services?
  • So the public are anything but passive customers / consumers of public services, they are and should be the drivers.
  • But if we talking about 'community engagement', which community are we talking about. Or more correctly: which communities... 
  • And moreover, do all these communities want to 'engage'..? Is the role of the public services to pester the public for their judgments & opinions?
  • Perhaps a greater focus on the future and the outcomes that the public want would be a better place to start. 
  • Can an organisation which is poor at 'engaging' its own staff and listening to them ever really properly engage with the public?
  • Is engagement really just about listening and having good conversations... and then using the ideas / information / hopes / ambitions gleaned in shaping the direction of policing really all that it is about?
  • How come we even have to talk about engagement? Just how did we get to a point where the police service (like other services) is not delivering policing in ways that the public need and want?
  • Is what is being done at the moment working? If not (as we suspect so), what creative alternatives do we need use instead?
  • Why do I feel more connected to my postman than to almost any other public (?) service? Perhaps because I feel he knows me... 
  • What are the barriers that get in the way to shaping and delivering public services that match what all communities need?
There was more of course. I have also uploaded a pdf file of the flipcharts produced by Sue. You can access them here. And if anyone wants to add their recollections and reflections, please do so below. Thanks.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Getting social media...

Today was a good day: I have spent the time at the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester in the company of some old social media pals and some new ones. If you touch base with the hashtag: #psc14 you will get a feel for who is here and what we have been talking about. As always with events like this - a rich mix of fascinating people having even richer conversations!

As heralded, I ran one of the sessions today on: "How do you get people (involved in policing etc), who don't get social media, to get it?" (And I added on the day... "who need to get it")

We had a wide ranging discussion with me acting as 'Faciliateur provocateur'... as it were. Here are some notes and reflections from the workshop:
  • The use (or not) of social media has to be about personal choice (although I later countered: would you employ someone who refused to use a telephone?)
  • But I think we agreed, as the social demographics show, this is about a generational shift which will probably come along in time.
  • The key challenge question proposed was "what do you need to know about social media in order to be effective?" A question worth pondering on.
  • This led onto a discussion of how the police interacted with the public during 7/7 (apparently while the police were still issuing press statements about a 'power surge' someone had already uploaded a wikipedia page on the 'London bombings' with 30 minutes...) the 2011 riots and the Clutha helicopter crash. In simple terms, the importance of social media in such crises is becoming ever greater.
  • We concluded that whilst some managers may well choose not to engage actively in social media, it is probably critical that they at least acknowledge their role in creating the milieu in which social media is deployed effectively.
  • The conversation then diverted into a wider analysis of how managing the use of social media is just another example of how managers need to lead the future. This branched into the value of scenario planning and organisations becoming more 'intelligent' as defined in Piagetian terms as 'knowing what to do when you don't know what to do'.
  • In other words, as was pointed out, strategic leaders have a 'duty to understand' all manner of things and social media is emphatically on that list. (Comparisons were made between police forces who were very active on social media during the August 2011 riots and those which struggled. Unproven perhaps but there is some anecdotal data to suggest that social media helped 'keep the lid on' in many places while its lack of deliberate use in other places, didn't.)
  • Emma Daniel presented a model which argued that there are five main types of users on social media: creators, campaigners, connectors, curators and lurkers. Each group has a positive role to play online (which often connects to their work in the real world too) Each group has a part in triangulating the social media world and making it a navigable and accessible space.
  • And (in what as I say was a wide ranging conversation) we touched the role of social media as a social weather: a way of sensing how the world is & predicting how it might change (social media meteorology, as it were). Research in this area is just beginning but perhaps we can look forward to a time when news bulletins will end not only the FTSE index rises and falls but maybe also an indicator of community well being... (drawn from social media)?
A useful and stimulating debate. I look forward to more tomorrow... Please watch this space!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Preventing domestic homicide: results of my research

These are the results of my inquiries into domestic homicide.

You can read how this piece of research began here and later here. Using the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) to carry out such research is decidedly clunky and so please consider this when reviewing the data below. Moreover, in hindsight, my third question could have been better phrased. After responses from some of the FoIA officers, it morphed into whether the perpetrators had been discussed on the MARAC system and/or had a noted DASH assessment. Also, I probably could have been clearer about whether the data was to include perpetrators who had been arrested but were not yet convicted within the time period specified.

Even with these caveats, I believe the data points towards some stark conclusions (see below)
  • I wrote to 45 police services, including Police Scotland, PSNI and the City of London Police. All replied to me but 3 are yet to send me any definitive response saying that they are still working on this.
  • Of the remaining 42, all but 2 answered Q1. (Those two forces claimed exemption, on the basis of cost, from replying to any of the questions. One of these two forces was the Metropolitan Police Service)
  • Of the remaining 40, 36 were able to give answers to Q2. The other 3 claimed FoIA exemption. 
  • Of these 36, 25 were able to give answers to Q3. The other 11 forces explained they could not access such information easily without a great deal more effort, simply claimed FoIA exemption for this question or gave another reason.
  • In the last five years (noting the forces that did not respond), the total number of domestic homicides dealt with by UK police forces over the last five years is 395
  • 161 of the people committing these crimes had some sort of criminal record. Or to put it another way, 234 of the people convicted of these murders did not have a previous criminal record. (That is well over half.)
  • Whilst noting the exemptions invoked by many of the police forces replying, in only 17 of 395 cases were the perpetrators on any kind of watch list (MARAC discussion / DASH assessment). 
There are some details to the responses which I do not intend to blog about here but I am happy to answer any questions sent to me. I have not named any of the responders / non responders as I do not think that is relevant. (My one exception is naming the Met as one of the forces who were not able to provide me with any data. Since the Met is the biggest police service, I felt I had to note the absence of its figures.)

So what conclusions to draw?
  • It would appear that many of the perpetrators of domestic homicide are simply not on the police ‘radar’ at all since a minority have prior convictions. An extremely small number are on any kind of watch list. 
  • This suggests to me that targeted police enforcement action to prevent domestic homicide happening can only very limited. 
  • I am also left wondering (and this would definitely need more research) whether the people who commit murder in domestic circumstances are in a different criminological category to those who come to the attention of the police by dint of loud domestic arguments or other forms of violence (short of murder). 
  • This research also raises questions about the quality of the police & partner DV prevention systems: just how effective are those systems at spotting possible victims/perpetrators? I know there are issues of confidentiality and the need to keep secret certain police methods for tackling crime, but I was surprised how many police forces felt unable to give me any data in response to Q3. Is that data not readily available?
  • And finally, this comes back to just how can domestic homicides be prevented if police action is limited because many perpetrators appear to escalate to murder from an ‘unknown’ status beforehand. It seems to me that educating young people (especially young women but not only) in the early warning signs is critical. I am left wondering how many of these domestic homicides could have been prevented if the victims has spotted such early warning signs and spoke to the police or other agencies earlier…?
As you will have gathered, I am no expert on the causes of domestic violence & homicide and the actions needed to prevent such violence & murder. I am merely a very concerned observer. Also this research is necessarily limited.

Nonetheless, I sincerely hope that out there are people with the clout, nous and wit to use this small piece of research in helping to shape action that results in far fewer women and men suffering at the hands of existing or ex partners.

What conclusions, reflections, thoughts does this research leave you with?

Friday, June 20, 2014

UKIP policy on English football

Evidently, we only have the EU to blame for the fact that the England Football Team are probably out buying their Brazilian souvenirs this morning. The fact that a 113.82% of UK law is now made up on a whim by euroautocrats sitting in two offices in the middle of the Luxembourg and Belgium is all part of the demise of English football since 1966. The reason we won the World Cup was precisely because we were not then in the Common Market.

With European work time directives preventing our underpaid footballers from going into overtime and banana kicks being outlawed because they are too bendy, our team frankly didn't have a chance. OK, we know that Italy is in the EU too. But as we all know the rest of Europe just ignores all the EU regulations.

So what is to be done? 

Clearly we must get out of the EU. We must stop all these immigrant footballers coming over here and stealing/playing what is basically our game, putting hard working British footballers on the benches. If we were in government, we would prevent any non UK footballer playing in the football league and premiership, unless they had applied for a work visa. This work visa would specifically exclude them from playing for their national teams.

We would also bring back football pitches measured in furlongs, footballs measured in pounds & ounces and referees with acme whistles manufactured in Bolton. The money we get back from the EU would be given to schools to buy back all the football pitches they have sold off during the bad years of Tory and Labour rule.

And of course, we would make it the law that all England football team managers would have to be English!

Stepping aside... or maybe 'outside for sometime'?

IPCC press release: New investigation into Norfolk PCC’s expenses claims (Jun 19, 2014)
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is managing a new investigation into expenses claims made by the Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, Stephen Bett. The managed investigation, which is to be carried out by officers from City of London Police under the direction and control of the IPCC, will examine whether claims for expenses made by Mr Bett between 15 November 2012 and 31 October 2013 were correct. A complaint about the claims was sent by Norfolk’s Police and Crime Panel to the IPCC in December 2013. The IPCC requested further information that was received in January 2014. In March, following an assessment, the complaint was sent back to the Panel for it to determine whether it was making a formal referral to the IPCC. That confirmation was received in April and following a further assessment it was decided that an investigation should be carried out.IPCC Commissioner James Dipple-Johnstone will oversee the investigation.
I am grateful to my old pal Sam Chapman (@TopoftheCops) for bringing this to my attention. You can read his excellent blog posted in the early hours of this morning here. Sam, with customary legal precision, questions whether Mr Betts can 'step aside' in the way that he has announced. (See Sally Chidzoy's piece for information as well).

I do not have much to add at this stage about the case in question since clearly due process will now ensue. As regular readers know, I have recorded some earlier thoughts about this before including some FoI investigations which reached a rather troubling conclusion for me.

However, I do wish to pick up on the point that Sam makes at the end of his piece:
Oh, and should you think this PCC's conduct, past or present, is more evidence against the PCC reform, then remember – he used to chair the Police Authority.
The conduct of various PCCs is not the evidence against PCC reform since we all know that people elected to power are sometimes, sadly, far lesser people than we would wish them to be... No: the issue is that by having a governance structure that is so dependent upon one person, this is what makes it a very weak, risky and dangerous structure - one which needs to be reformed.

Indeed nearly all of Sam's article is about this precise point: the powers of the PCC cannot be delegated. There can be no stepping aside... This would not happen if there were a body of people (not just a lone individual) elected to make strategic decisions...

The importance of O.W.L.S

Yesterday, to much hilarity and raised eyebrows, @LabourPress tweeted  "Everybody should have his own owl"... I didn't see the tweet, but the BBC reports it here and the comedic tweets which greeted this hacked account. I especially liked John O'Farrell's take.

I quite like the idea as I think that we should all have our:
  • Own
  • Way of
  • Living
  • Superbly!
It is a bit corny, I know. But I say it with a deep passion: this is what guides me in all the dimensions of my work (both paid and unpaid). For example, I spent yesterday in a primary school in Banbury co-facilitating five ChildLine workshops for over 100 children. The message we seek to impart is simple: every child has the right to be happy and safe... and we seek to help them to know this and know how they can take action to maintain or achieve it. 

The day before, I sat in a meeting of the Aylesbury Vale Transport Users Group to celebrate the fact that we are one step closer to establishing a fast coach service between High Wycombe and Northampton. The aim of this service is also simple: make it easier for all people to gain skills and find work along that corridor (especially if they don't have access to other forms of transport). Public transport is about public transport!

On Monday night, I contributed to the town council discussion of our internal auditor's report which is all about ensuring the council's financial and risk systems are fit for purpose. If they were not, we could face closure and the subsequent loss to the local public of the work we do for the town on behalf of them. 

(NB: there is karaoke tonight in the Woolpack, Well Street as part of the Buckingham Fringe! The pub is also in the middle of a beer festival - what more could you want!) 

As the town council, our aim is to make the town a place where people can live their lives superbly! This includes organising cracking entertainment to build communities and foster fun. The fringe ends with Jeremy Hardy on Sunday evening... still a few tickets left!)

These are all examples of the brass tacks of my local politics and voluntary work. The focus is always on how can I help create a society and community where everyone has resources (psychological as well as material etc) so that we can all realise our dreams and ambitions. 

And it is the same in my professional work: I spent a good few days a short while back writing a bid for a piece of work to help a police service develop its organisational culture so that it could do even more to support safer local communities. (The tender has since been withdrawn, but that is another story...!) 

In my book, all public services have the responsibility to create the conditions in which all people (not just the wealthy few) enjoy the privilege of being empowered & enabled authors of their own lives. All of my leadership and organisational development work is focused on this aim.

So, we all need our own OWLS! 

What is your contribution towards helping to create a society in which everyone gets their Own Way of Living Superbly?

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Art of Listening to the Public (the Secret PCC explains all)

Although I have my doubters: I am very much a government for the people, by the people sort of chap (unless, of course, the issue is a tad too complicated for the lumpen electorate - in which case I believe in benign autocracy. Hah! I am just joking of course. The autocracy doesn't always have to be benign...!).

And so in my public role as PCC, I see it as my responsibility to go out and listen to my publics. I want to hear about what worries them, what concerns them, what they want to complain about, and what hopes they have. That is my job: I am here to listen!

Of course, listening to the public isn't always that easy to do. Some of them smell a bit, some of them don't make sense, some insist upon asking me / telling me / shouting at me about things I can do nothing about such as dog waste and chewing gum. So this listening lark is not as simple as it might sometimes appear. I make it look effortless of course: one of the best investments I made was hiring an actor to help me wear an animated concerned and listening face whenever I need to. Which, if I am being honest, is quite a lot of the time. 

I find the public remarkably tolerant & polite. Frankly I am astounded just how compliant they are. If my team ensures the public meetings are set up with rows of chairs spaced quite closely together, I can already begin the meeting to my advantage. We often turn the heating down a bit as well, so that people not only feel like cramped supplicants, but they feel like cold, cramped supplicants who keep their coats on. With imaginative use of air conditioning, I can even achieve this in the summer too.

And so, my public meetings when I am ostensibly there to listen to the public are mostly about them listening to me. They are usually too polite to interrupt and I can go one for ages talking meaningful baloney. It is brilliant! And, yes, I do get the odd person who has a "problem" and who feels driven to say it. But usually, I can shut them up with a "I will come on to that later on"... 

Of course, not all of my courageous forays out of the office to meet people are done in formal public meetings. I have been known to visit a fete or supermarket or even just a street. Usually not many people recognise me (what was that TV programme which wanted to film me in action...?) but as soon as I introduce myself, they understand. Often of course they then walk off having more pressing things to do like buy the paper. But I can usually hang on to a couple of people long enough for my press officer to take a picture. The issues "on the street" are the same old, same old so I am left wondering why I bother. But bother I must of course! I would hate to have a reputation of never being seen like some of my PCC colleagues!

Legal disclaimer: just in case you thought this series of secret PCC blogs is based upon a real person or persons: it isn't. It really isn't. Any similarity to a living PCC is entirely coincidental.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Domestic Homicide Risk: FoI update

Regular readers will know that I have been doing some investigations into the UK police services approach to domestic homicide. You can read the original blog here. I have now had most of the replies back. But there are four forces who do not appear to have responded. I have just emailed them:
Dear Derbyshire, Dorset, Lancashire & West Yorkshire police Freedom of Information departments.
I wrote to you some weeks ago about my inquiry into Domestic Homicide risk. I do not appear to have had a reply from you and we are now well past the FoI deadline date. If I have overlooked, lost or possibly not received your reply, please have my sincere apologies (I know it happens sometimes, no matter how diligent I aim to be). If this is the case, I would be most grateful if you could send your response to me again. Thank you so much.
If you have not yet got around to responding, may I respectfully request that you to get back to me very soon, or at least let me know what the current status is. Thank you.
My dear friend and colleague, Kate Dixon, was murdered by her ex-partner nearly a year ago. I am very keen to publish the results of my research before the anniversary of her death (30/6/13) in her memory… and in the earnest hope that my small piece of investigation might help to nudge the UK police services into further action that will reduce the number of domestic homicides in the UK.  
All the other forces listed have responded, although a couple have informed me they need just a little longer to complete the work at their end. And, for your information, the large majority have answered all three questions. Some have declined Q3 citing FoI exemption. (Also for your clarity Q3 refers to any record you have of where the perpetrator/victim situation was known to the MARAC system or been subject to a DASH assessment)
I look forward to your response. Thank you again.
I aim to be publishing all that I have in the next couple of weeks. Please watch this space.

UPDATE 1313 | 120614: Derbyshire have emailed me with the information. They said "From checking our records we responded to you on the 16 May 2014.  At the time there was no indication that the email address used was incorrect". So it would appear to have disappeared into the ether somewhere. I have written to thank them for the data. Lancashire have emailed to say "Please accept my apologies for not responding to your request as of yet. Your request is still being dealt with and we will aim to have a response with you as soon as possible. I have today sent a reminder email to the information owners and asked them to prioritise your request". I have written to say thanks.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Value added values

There has been much talk of 'British Values' in recent hours since publication of the Ofsted inspection reports into the Birmingham schools at the centre of 'Trojan Horse' controversy. Tempting though it is, I am not going to wade into the debate about any 'Islamification' of schools, what Islamophobia is (or isn't) or even whether Ofsted ever really know what is really happening in the schools they visit. I will leave all that to the legions of trolls, experts, hacks and others currently marching across the social media plains.

Instead, I would like to focus on the plans for schools to promote British values which are likely to have the "overwhelming support" of people in the UK the prime minister has said. (See the BBC article here.) The piece goes onto to report:
Speaking in Sweden after a mini-summit with other EU leaders, Mr Cameron said: "I would say freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions - those are the sorts of things that I would hope would be inculcated into the curriculum in any school in Britain whether it was a private school, state school, faith-based school, free school, academy or anything else."
I had tried Googling 'British Values' this morning and searching on Gov.UK site but found very little. Here is what the government site came up with on page one:

Perhaps they will soon have a page linking to Mr Cameron's statement in the near future. But we have a starter for ten on what constitutes "British Values" from the PM. Here is my commentary:
  • Freedom: So a core value of this country is freedom. Well yes... but freedom to do what? Surely it should be freedom within the law (which I guess is covered by a later part of the PM's statement). But as police officers well know, sometimes one person's freedom is another person's problem. Noise is a simple example of that. So freedom is a good start but by heck it needs some more unpacking.
  • Tolerance: I agree. I think the English language itself shows just how tolerant we are. English grows and diversifies because we include and incorporate words (and concepts) from across the world. London thrives because it is one of the most diverse and tolerant cities of the world, if not the most diverse and tolerant. But I do worry that tolerance means very different things to different people. Unpacking also required.
  • Respect for the rule of law: Again I can buy into that so long as we know that we mean all laws, even the ones we don't like very much. And remember laws can change, and fall short of what we think is 'right'. But of course in principle, respect for the law is the basis of a civil society. Absolutely.
  • Belief in personal and social responsibility: We live in a connected world where the actions of one group or person can, even with no intention, hurt or damage another. We all share a responsibility to people around us, as well as ourselves and our families. So if this means teaching children all about how sharing, selflessness, courtesy, cooperation and generosity make the world a better place, I am 100% behind this aspect of British Values. 
  • Respect for British institutions: I presume this means all institutions? I would love to know what list Mr Cameron would come up and what he would think of first? For me, I would list the NHS, local government, the police services, third sector bodies (large and small), schools and all the 'institutions' that make Britain British such as Wimbledon, Sunday evening whodunnits, Rik Mayall (so sad) and all other great comedians, cricket, the Wales/England rugby match, malt whisky, warm beer etc etc... What would be on your list? 
So it is a start Mr Cameron, but the list is not yet complete. I would also add the following "British Values":
  • Democracy (beginning with parish/town councils and outward from there)
  • Transparency & accountability (including registers of interests of school governors for example)
  • Respect for different cultures, social classes, others... (more than merely 'tolerance')
  • Progressive cynicism (As Brits, we can all complain, a lot, but then we get on with making things better through engineering, social action or even just conversations!)
  • Confident ambition (it is my sincere hope that a big result of this focus on values in education will be school students who feel better about themselves and who are even more prepared to take on the world!)
  • Creativity (if nothing else, the British are brilliant at coming up with ideas)

I am sure there is more. Let's have a national debate about what British Values really are! All contributions welcome...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Collaboration... a sunny morning rant

A tender notification dropped into my inbox this morning: National Uniform Managed Service - NUMS. The tender documents include such words as:
The NUMS Project has the support of all 43 forces in England & Wales plus other Emergency Service and non-Home Office agencies (such as BTP, CNC, NCA, MDP)
  • Standardisation, alignment, uniformity have all been discussed for many years – with various degrees of success. Significant savings and wider benefits could be realised by forces if they considered a Managed Service route. 
  • A wide range of specifications, sourcing methods, contracts and prices; which can often be for the same garment! 
  • Mix of in-house and small outsourced provision, no common disposal or tracking strategy or approach to tax tabbing and divided demand. 
  • Nationally, the 43 forces of England and Wales provide uniform services for over 160,000 uniformed officers and civilian staff.
  • The cost of uniform products is estimated to be in excess of £50million nationally.
  • According to Home Office estimates, the cost of provision of that uniform product to staff is estimated at a significantly higher proportion of spend and key driver for NUMS.
  • Across all 43 forces in England and Wales, there is in excess of £12million worth of stock being held. 
  • There are over several thousand products and in excess of 100,000 line items (SKUs) across all forces.
[my added emphases]

Of course it is well known that policing varies so much between different police force areas that this variety of uniforms is business requirement.... yeah right...

And see this: A standardised national uniform contains only four items currently: Trousers (men’s and women’s); Shirts (men’s and women’s, long and short-sleeved); Fleeces (unisex); Jackets, blouson, high-visibility (unisex) 

So after how many hours of senior officer time, gallons of coffee & crates of sandwiches have the UK police services arrived at this point? What does this say about the real commitment to collaboration if police forces up and down the country have only just managed to agree on four items of uniform? And even then we are in the situation where, as the tender document goes onto to explain that the successful contractor will need to
Deliver a quality service which provides savings for those forces that collaborate within NUMS 
In other words, even when the service is set up, not all forces will necessarily choose to collaborate.

This is nothing short of an epic scandal of inefficiency and the police service should hang its collective head in shame. One test of the influence of PCCs will be to see if they can make collective progress on this matter.

But perhaps I am missing something here: I am entirely open to being told that I am failing to understand the complexities of standardising uniforms across the country. So please just tell me...! 

In the absence of being given these subtleties, I will continue to doubt the fine words anyone in the police service says about collaboration in general.

OK. Morning rant over.


UPDATE 0823 | 060614: In reply to a tweet from CC Lynne Owens who said "This is progress Jon & to suggest otherwise is a little unfair", I would say that I agree. My rant is not at the tender stage we have reached, but at the length of time it has taken to get here and the paucity of ambition contained within it. Yes it is progress but there is room for a great deal more...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Commendable but...

I note that the Thames Valley PCC and Chief Constable have announced on 2 June: Police property act fund launches to support voluntary and community groups. You can read more details here. As the website says:
The Fund, which is jointly managed by the PCC and the Chief Constable, is created from money recovered by the police and the proceeds from the sale of items that cannot be returned to identified owners, which includes seizures from criminals.
This year the PCC and Chief Constable expect to allocate around £200,000 and applications are invited from local voluntary and community groups who contribute towards reducing crime and/or whose work supports the PCC’s Police and Crime Plan objectives.
This is highly commendable. However... the website goes onto to say:
The closing date for this round of applications is midnight on Sunday 22nd June 2014 and applications will be considered jointly by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and the Chief Constable.
So that is just under three weeks to respond to what are quite a few questions on the application pages (see here), and not least make the decision to apply in the first place.

In my experience, 3rd sector organisations are by their very nature, reasonably informal collections of voluntary and some paid workers who juggle many challenges and demands. And so I think 3 weeks is too tight a deadline - especially, as I suspect, many local bodies won't get to hear about this until it is too late. Which is a great pity as this is a good idea to use such funds in this way...

So Mr Stansfeld and CC Thornton... how about extending the time limit to (at least) a month later and so give more organisations a chance to organise themselves and make a good application for these funds?