Logistics is not a dirty word….

Police Logistics Planning

I am not a professional Logistician, but I run a support headquarters at the moment where I have 4 highly experienced senior logisticians working for me plus their staff.
Upon hearing today that the Met Police failed to arrange supporting logistics for their officers by means of water and food during the ‘Day of Rage’ demonstrations I asked these logisticians what they thought about that. I can’t print their replies.

Suffice to say a failure of this nature is an absolute failure of leadership. It is a leader’s responsibility to ensure that the welfare of their team is taken care of, irrespective of how big or small that team is.

I’d like to think that this is an isolated incident but sadly my own experiences in this area have been less than desirable. On one occasion as a junior cop I stood on a cordon of a large fire, smoke billowing over me for hours, no water, no relief, no comfort break and not one leader checking on me.

After this incident I took the time to review our major incident SOP and wasn’t surprised to discover that logistics and planning guidance played little part in the document.

More recently my cops had to look after a long term locus that was to run for some months under the direction of a major incident team. My fellow Sgts and I had to constantly lobby for the most basic of facilities to be provided for officers who were required to resource the locus to keep them safe, out of the elements and provide a measure of basic comfort and sustenance to officers there 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week in all weathers.

I’m sure all of you would have your own experiences of poor logistical support on a day to day basis, let alone for major events or incidents.

Frankly, we need to pay more attention to how we support policing operations. It starts with logistic planning considerations that should be understood and actively considered by our ops planning staff.

We also need to establish minimum support standards for operations and not deviate from those. Running police operations come at a cost and basic logistics support needs to be factored into those costs. A set scale of support that can be expected by officers based on incident size, duration and climatic conditions is the minimum we should expect. Officers should be assigned in the specific role of providing logistic support and supervision in operations orders. This should not be combined in the execution phase with the commander. A separate officer should retain logistics as their sole focus.

Built into this is the requirement to assign correct staffing levels to the incident. 10 points on a cordon does not make for 10 officers required. It makes for 10 officers plus a relief that can be rotated through those officers to allow for suitable breaks and shelter from the elements where required.

It’s not like it’s hard to find this stuff either. A simple google search on ‘tactical logistics’ will find you a myriad of staff estimates, principals and guides to use if you are logistically illiterate. There are examples across the piece at all levels of operation that can be reviewed for inspiration. Perhaps we should look to the Fire Service for ideas as they seem to do this a lot better than us at the moment.

I suspect however there is a lot of logistics guidance floating about policing organisations, it’s just not followed.

Police leaders and planners must engage with and understand logistic principles and ensure they are enshrined in our operational construct. They cannot be seen as an afterthought or paid lip-service as they too often are now. A detailed understanding is required in order to ensure operational success and critically, the health, safety and welfare of our officers.

Logistics is leader’s business.
 

 

Everybody Fights…

Developing Tactical Policing Reserves



The concept of maintaining a reserve isn’t new. In military circles factoring in a reserve into planning is crucial to provide the commander with flexibility to ensure mission success.

Over the last few weeks I’ve watched from the side lines as cops from around the country have switched to 12 hrs shifts, combined with multiple cancelled rest days in order to meet major incident demands.

 We are now seeing an increase in concerns raised by commanders on social media with regards to the effect of these long hours on sustainability and resilience. It reminded me of a concept I had been considering last year – how we develop tactical policing reserves.

What is a reserve?

To make it clear, in this instance I am talking about reserves not in terms of part time resources such as SC or auxiliary forces. A tactical (or operational) policing reserve in this case is:

A group of policing personnel who are initially not committed to frontline operations that are available to address unforeseen situations or exploit sudden opportunities. Such forces may be committed to reinforce existing operations or to serve as relief for officers already committed.

Reserve Tasks

Policing Reserves can be used to reinforce standing operational officers for planned or exigent operations or relieve in place standing operational officers that require rest and recuperation. They can be used for short term, regular deployment (generally with minimal impact on their own daily operations) or for longer term deployments, acknowledging that this can impact on the policing services that they normally provide, which are prioritised against the greater operational need.

Where can they be drawn from?

All police forces have uniformed officers that undertake duties that whilst important, are not necessarily operationally essential. If I was to use as an example from my own force construct; our Corporate Headquarters on the West Coast of Scotland likely contains up to 100 uniformed officers. These officers resource departments such as licensing, organisational development, project offices, human resources etc.

Additionally when I look to Divisional headquarters, and our national and regional training centres again we see officers involved in various similar functions that keep the wheels turning but may be able to be reduced temporarily to support regional operations. We also have officers in various stages of training. 

Deployment Model

Generating a reserve like this can be done by organising identified cops from these departmental areas into regional resources based on standing reserve teams. Teams of Inspectors (and above), Sgts and Cops can be taken from across functional areas in a manner that doesn’t strip a single area necessarily of its entire capability. 4 such ‘shifts’ of multiple smaller teams can then undertake one week a month as the designated on call regional reserve, able to be deployed by local commanders to both short and longer terms tasks in the numbers required to complete frontline duties to manage contingencies.

To quantify the potential for such a reserve, take my own force of 17,000+ officers: the ability to identify say, 80 all ranks officers per command as a tactical reserve gives each regional command 4 shifts of 20 officers per week to be deployed within the region, or in our terms, 10 additional crews per command available if the ‘on call’ reserve is to be deployed, or 40 additional crews to be deployed on a ‘full’ regional reserve call out, concentrated or spread by shift and locality as required.

There are opportunities for smaller forces already cooperating across operational lines to pool regional reserves to generate efficiencies.

The deployment scale and methods are numerous and can be tailored to the circumstance and task required. The mechanics and methodology of call out are not insurmountable, relying on local ICT where it is available and looking at local policies to cover areas such as reporting, carriage of PPE, transport and terms and conditions of service. 

Police Federations can participate in the formulation of terms and conditions knowing that the outcome is better resilience for their frontline officers

Examples of Reserve Deployments.

A tactical reserve can be used for both planned and exigent operations at the discretion of the commander and in line with local policies, with the express intent of supplementing or supporting existing frontline resource. Some examples might be:

· Reinforce local areas for a single shift when local tasking exceeds response capacity.

· Major incident reinforcement over a specified period of time.

· Relieve in place of frontline teams for long term sustainment of major incident resourcing in order to allow those officers to rest and recuperate – with the potential to even temporarily redeploy those frontline officers in rear supporting tasks from which the reserve was drawn once rested in order to increase opportunity to recuperate prior to engagement back into the frontline.

· Planned reserve deployment to cover events / marches.

We have actually completed operations like this on an ad-hoc basis for major events such as the London Olympics and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. This would put that concept on a firmer footing and likely make planning future operations like these easier.

In my own force these duties would replace the current Local Day of Action / Campaign Against Violence one a month shift that non-operational officers complete at this time.

It might also be argued that more regular exposure to frontline duties ensures that non-operational officers retain suitable skills currency and a better perspective of frontline conditions which positively influence policy making. 

To quote one of my favourite movies… Starship Troopers:

‘Everyone fights…. Nobody quits’

– Jonny Rico, Mobile Infantry

All cops should remain a potential operational asset, regardless of their current post.

If we do what we always do we will get what we’ve always gotten…

….and in this case that is tired and broken officers trying to do all of their traditional taskings whilst resourcing major incident after major incident. It is unsustainable and as leaders it is our job to work out how to do this better, make the most of our uniformed resource and, where required, make the tough calls on what tasks temporarily take the hit.

If your force is not already doing something like this then you have to ask why it hasn’t been considered. 

The wellbeing of our officers and the effectiveness of sustained policing operations depend on us finding a solution to this problem. We are not going to be any less busy in the coming years.


 
 

‘Grafting Out The Win’

One thing I’ve learned so far about leading a support headquarters is it’s not ‘sexy’.

Problems solved are more likely the result of critical analysis, detailed staff work and selection of the best option within the limited resources (financial, logistical, equipment) you have at your disposal.

Its often about making choices as to where to focus your efforts. 

Gains are marginal at best but important nonetheless.

Solutions arise from working with experts as far forward to the frontline as you can to get a realistic picture of both the art of the possible and the impact of your decisions. They are often not easy solutions in the sense that they can be unpopular with those who don’t understand the nature of your work, but they are made with the best intent, balancing team, task and individual.

Knowing this I was disappointed to hear the Met Police are introducing a direct entry pathway for Detectives. It seems to be the latest venture into solving complex problems by throwing ‘money and glitter’ at an issue rather than doing the grafting work of coming up with solutions that drive at the heart of issues which led to the problems in the first place.

Do you have senior leaders not rounded enough to cope with the demands of leading large organisations? We’ll buy in the expertise rather than focus on how we better develop pathways for them to attain the necessary skill sets on the way up.

Are your frontline leaders not considered to have a broad enough perspective on their job? Never mind the current neglected talent pool, we’ll throw money at it and start a new program to bring in folk from outside, writing off the folk who have worked hard within the current system to get into position to promote – the ones that are currently keeping the lid on despite huge cut backs and resource limitations.

Its apparently too much like hard graft to pick and develop the exceptional from that large and already capable pool of talent.

In the latest guise we discovered there was a lack of uniformed officers wanting to be detectives. We let this get to ‘crisis’ proportions without making tough decisions to fix it. 

Do we explore why this is the case and work as a priority to deal with the very serious issues that are stopping cops applying? No, we’ll prioritise just paying for a new program to bring in folk that don’t know any better and ignore the deep, troubling issues that are stopping qualified in-service folk stepping up.

I have no issue with trying something new. I genuinely like innovation. What I think is really disappointing however is that at a time of unprecedented financial limitations we consistently seem to pour money into these projects rather than do the hard yards and invest in the amazing talent we have within our police. They deserve to be the focus of our innovation, investment and development when funds are tight.

Working these complex problems isn’t easy. It takes leaders to genuinely listen and act on frontline concerns and recognise that the solutions likely lie within their current talent pool: not the paid consultancies that soak up money, repackaging old programs that likely failed in their previous guise anyway.   

It also takes more than just saying ‘we are consulting’ with the frontline. You actually have to do something positive with what you find.

It’s certainly not as sexy as launching a ‘new exciting opportunity to be involved in improving your community’ (otherwise known as being a cop to you and I) but it garners headlines, attracts funding from the Home Office and no doubt makes for a great 250 words on a promotion form.

Long after these programs suck up the cash and deliver less than the value of the resources we sink into them, for few ‘new’ programs truly deliver the revolutionary change that they promise, it’s the marginal gains won by leaders who have consistently listened, grafted away and implemented real, meaningful, positive change that will have made the difference.

Perhaps it’s those leaders we should be investing in.

 

 

‘Don’t Screw the GI’

Making the Hard Calls for the Right Reasons

I was recently speaking to a relatively senior American Military Officer who lamented to me of his senior leaders ‘If they can make a decision that screws the GI, they will…’ I was a little shocked by the candid nature of his comments. He went on to list a number of examples, particularly in the area of operational welfare, that got me thinking about the parallels to policing leadership.

I’ve worked for some genuinely impressive army leaders over the years. Men and women who instinctively knew what was fair and right when it came to their people and often with great moral courage, advocated for it without compromising the completion of the mission.

They decided that the implications of inaction far outweighed any concern for personal gain. 

I have been reflecting on this as each day passed this week during our ‘CRITICAL’ alert phase. I kept hearing what I consider to be the somewhat disingenuous statements from senior police leaders that they have deployed ‘extra police’ when we know the reality is that they have simply switched assets to 12 hours shifts, cancelled rest days and kept folk past their shift end times repeatedly to ensure police are ‘seen’; the bulk of whom can do little to counter any renewed terrorist attack in any event due to their arming state & training. 

Despite the strain on officers we appear to fail to examine the second order consequences of ‘show deployments’; of ‘increased’ unarmed patrols, unarmed officers searching at the front of police stations or sending unarmed stations to ‘confirm’ firearms related incidents. All of this required despite Op TEMPERER deployments.

At what point do senior police leaders say enough is enough? If we are unable to cope with raising our alert state to its highest level without breaking the service and its officers isn’t it time for the Association of Police Chiefs to stand up and be counted? 

Cops deserve leaders that put themselves metaphorically on the line to make hard edged operational decisions that will set our police service on the path to sustainable deployment, preferably without the use of the British Army and absolutely not at the expense of the frontline officer. 

I genuinely don’t believe any senior police officer deliberately sets out to ‘screw the cop’. They were all frontline officers themselves once and have been through the similar trials and hardships within their own context. Frankly, if any take any joy from making decisions that adversely affect officers they are no leader in any context.

Rather, I believe that distance from the frontline has caused an imbalance for some in their understanding of the concepts of ‘team, task and individual’ whereby the task is achieved at all costs, especially to the individual.

This is ‘short termism’ at its worst. Its results can be seen in attitude surveys amongst officers across the UK. By and large, with some notable exceptions, frontline officers do not trust their senior leadership to make the right decisions.  I certainly don’t expect my senior leaders to give up on the morale of their officers. I expect them to fight to improve the morale of those they lead knowing that it is a vital component of police effectiveness. I expect them to make a difference. 

I guess some would say that it’s our job to occasionally have to exceed our capabilities to deal with unexpected situations. I completely agree. It’s our commitment to service that enables us to do this. We are good at it and it’s something to be proud of. But I would expect that this is the exception not the default position. Once identified the first time, the next time a similar scenario comes around a good leader has mitigated for it. 

It is a leader’s job to correctly assess troops to task for both most likely and most dangerous scenarios. Any plan that sees us continually rely on working officers to the bone to ambiguous effect is not a good one. Tasks should be ruthlessly assessed for necessity and effect when resources are tight. 

Perhaps an additional contributing factor is the lack of a consistent and robust planning process that our ops planning teams can use to effectively assess missions and tasks and resource them accordingly. Too often the answer to the next deployment is to pull out a similar order from the last one without a detailed mission analysis & examination of the effects we are looking to achieve. We all have examples of wondering why resourcing for Christmas and New Year seems such a challenge to get right every year! It is a leader’s job to ensure planning is effective.

Our current response to enhanced threat states requires a root and branch review: Resources required, how they are tasked and how they are equipped to respond to the task. The British Army, like the Police, will do as ordered and do it well. The Army will always be there to secure the British People at home and abroad. But even Op TEMPERER hasn’t mitigated the strain on officers sufficiently.

It’s all well & good to keep saying ‘We have to have a conversation with partners & the public about what police do.’ Its past time to be taking tough decisions with regards to what drops off to deal with higher priority risks. We cannot keep resorting to directing the teams to simply work harder. 

The phrase ‘we’ll just get the cops to…’ just doesn’t cut it anymore. It will take leaders with significant moral courage to redress the situation. Now is the time for bold and fearless police leadership. The long term health & welfare of our officers, & the subsequent effectiveness of policing in the UK depends on it. 


I haven’t blogged for a while, as many of you know I am away at the moment working overseas with the fantastic support of my force back home. I see many parallels between military operations and leadership and how we lead cops on a day to day basis where every call is ‘operational’. I hope to reflect some of these occasionally while I am away.

 

Where to from here? 

The Scottish Police Federation Emergency Motion

As those who follow my twitter feed will be aware I had the fantastic opportunity to attend the Scottish Police Federation Conference as an ordinary member. I am very grateful to the General Secretary for enabling me to attend and see the proceedings first hand.

You may also be aware that just prior to the conference, in response to the London terror attack and the murder of PC Keith Palmer, the SPF tabled an emergency motion to be discussed at conference:


I was present when this motion was discussed. All of the speakers, including the General Secretary, the Vice Chair, the Assistant General Secretary and part-time delegates with vast policing experience in uniformed, firearms and public order policing between them, spoke in measured, considered terms. It would be reasonable to say the motion drew considerable consensus from the assembled delegates.

I will try to summarise the key themes, I hasten to add from my own impressions of the discussion, but which given their content I believe were highly significant:

  • There was a general recognition that the current policing model and resource/equipment provision no longer provides the protection that SPF members should expect & is unlikely to do so in the future.
  • It was recognised that current officer safety equipment was not suitable to enable protection from edged weapon attack (be it from terrorism, or as was recognised, regular policing operations).
  • Significant concerns were raised that whilst Armed Response Officers were superbly trained, they are presently not in a position to respond effectively to the requirement to protect unarmed officers faced with regular spontaneous edged weapon threat.
  • Great concern was expressed over the continued deployment of unarmed officers to general edged weapons calls.
  • It was discussed whether there needs to be a centre ground option between the unarmed officer and the highly trained ARV officer and that there was a role for the ‘ordinary’ armed police officer – however that model may evolve (my italics) in order to react to spontaneous attacks posing a lethal threat – particularly from edged weapons and incidents such as that seen in London.
  • There was a genuine desire from the SPF to open a wider dialogue with  Police Scotland, Scottish Government, other key stakeholders and the wider community about what would keep police officers and the community safe now and into the future.

Speakers understood that dialogue of this type may be difficult and it may take some time. They recognised that it was critical to bring both the wider SPF membership and crucially, the public, with them. Given the time it will take they wish to engage now.

They were supported in the above views by an informed and impressive preamble to the motion by a Police Federation of Northern Ireland Executive Member.

There was no knee jerk reaction to recent events, no ‘heart over head’ speeches, no demand to be automatically routinely armed. Just considered thoughts from the SPF Executive Members and part-time delegates whom for some, may have come to these conclusions having held very different opinions for the bulk of their policing service.

Critical to understanding the significance of this debate for me, is that for the first time on mainland UK to my knowledge, we have a Police Federation’s delegates questioning the ability for it’s members and the public to be protected from spontaneous lethal threat. This Federation represents the second largest force in the country. That’s pretty big to my mind.

So where do we go from here? A few personal thoughts:

  • The delegates were urged to engage their members in detailed discussion to further gauge their feelings, which I have no doubt they will do.
  • To progress the issue further though we will need to communicate to the public (and to many of our colleagues whom may not be fully aware) the lethal threat posed by edged weapons & our present inability to safely manage that threat unarmed – and also the regularity that officers deal with them.
  • We will need to be honest and open about the limitations of the armed response model to react to spontaneous events and the routine lethal edged weapon threat to unarmed officers.
  • We will need to look now at our ARV deployment model & how we look to immediately mitigate the risk to unarmed officers at the present time.
  • We should look to alternative models that bridge the unarmed officer to ARV capability gap that the SPF has, in my opinion, correctly identified.

I think Police Scotland has a unique opportunity to work with a willing staff association to explore how we can move forward together to better protect officers and the public right now and from emerging threats. I genuinely hope we grasp it.

After all, as the visiting Vice President of the Queensland Police Union said to me at the conference:

‘Every Officer has the right to go home safe to their family at the end of their shift.’

Lets lead the UK in ensuring that we do.

What’s a Uniformed Cop to Do?

Empowering Uniformed Officers to Fight Child Sexual Exploitation

I am no expert on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). I know how to identify the signs, I know to put on intelligence reports and I know what I can and can’t do under the law to immediately protect a child at risk. But I left wondering on #CSEDay17 if it’s enough?

If you’re a parent can I ask you this? Would you expect your 14 year old to be in the company of adults you didn’t know without your express permission or knowledge? I imagine the answer is no. But what do you expect the police to do? In particular what do you expect the police to do about the three 22 year old men we find your 14 year old daughter in the company of in some random flat?

Unless there is a current offence disclosed to us or obvious on our arrival we can certainly return her home. But she can be picked up the next day in a car having texted those same men, or they having messaged her and there isn’t a lot we can do about it when you call us. Sure we can put in intelligence reports, we can repeatedly organise missing person searches or submit vulnerable person referrals. If the child is in care we can perhaps pursue subsequent harbouring / assisting charges.

But is it enough?

Shouldn’t we be putting the obligation on the adult to ensure the child in their company is there with the express permission of the parent or guardian?

We talk a good game when it comes to CSE but when it comes to laws to protect the child we haven’t really made it easy for ourselves to undertake that duty to protect.

In Scotland we rely heavily on s12 Children & Young Person’s (Scotland) Act 1937, yes that’s not a typo, 1937.

It’s not a bad charge but it contains reasonably high bars to utilise to good effect and is of very limited use in the bulk of circumstances officers here in Scotland find themselves when they come into contact with children in the presence of adults whom are not their parents or guardians. It is mostly used against parents who wilfully neglect children.

Perhaps it’s time we craft the offence differently? Make it an obligation on adults in the presence of children not their own to ensure they have the permission of parents or guardians for them to be there. Something along the lines of:

‘It is an offence for an adult to have charge or care of a (young?) child without the permission of, or reckless as to whether the parent of guardian of the child has permitted them, to have such charge or care.’

Again I am no lawyer and greater minds than I can craft a suitable statute however let me give you a couple of examples whereby a law of this type comes into it’s own:

At 0200 in the morning officers attend a noisy party to find three 24 year old males in the company of a 14 year old girl who is not related to them in any way. The girl is known to officers as vulnerable. Officers suspect that it is likely that the young girl may be subject to exploitation but have no evidence that this may be the case. None of the males are stating they know the girl well and the girl isn’t telling cops anything.

Whilst passing a care home officers note a 15 year old child known to be vulnerable and a drug user get into a car with 3 males. On stopping the vehicle it is established that the 3 males are not known to the officers and have no previous known links to the child but an intelligence check reveals that one male has a marker for CSE. The child is highly uncooperative and the males are telling the cops they were flagged down and asked by the child to drop them into town.

Any of us who work in uniform know the circumstances I have outlined above are not rare events.

In both of these cases officers can safeguard the child immediately. But where is the deterrent for the males involved? Where is the immediate follow up action that the officers can take to dig into this behaviour? At the time they have been found/stopped they have not committed any offences.

However, viewing these circumstances as a parent of guardian of the children involved here are you happy with that? Is it good enough that these men should be able to be in the company of children such as this in the circumstances outlined, knowingly or recklessly doing so without your permission?

I’m not saying crafting such a statute would be easy but it would open up investigative options for officers to ensure we could really drive down into the behaviour of the adults in this instance:

  • We have the option to arrest the adults on suspicion for the offence detected.
  • We could provide search options for the person and any vehicles the child is found in.
  • We could seize phones for analysis of text messages.
  • We could provide police with powers to force entry to premises and open up search options where there is a suspicion that they are used as premises where children frequent the company of adults in circumstances that you would not expect as a parent.
  • We could open up necessary and proportionate covert options to protect high-risk vulnerable children where we suspect they are being picked up by adults or attending premises where they may be exposed to exploitation.
  • We could produce guidance for prosecutors and officers as to how the law is to be interpreted.
  • We could send a clear message that if you are an adult and there is a 14 year old child in your charge or care at your flat at 0200 in the morning, you better have permission of the parent or guardian. It’s YOUR responsibility and the facts as they are know will be reported to prosecutorial services and ultimately the courts for them to decide what your intent was in having that child in your flat with your two 20 something mates…..

All of the above investigative options are already open where we have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been the subject of CSE. The issue is for many of our most vulnerable children, even reaching that bar is a challenge. Our hands are tied and the deterrent is insufficient.

Lets run the vehicle scenario again with these options opened to officers:

  • The males are arrested on suspicion of having charge or care of a child without the permission of a parent or guardian.
  • A search of the vehicle reveals condoms and lubricant purchased at a store two hours before the vehicle stop.
  • The males are charged and held custody and sent to court on the original offence and receive suitable bail conditions.
  • The phones of the males and the child are seized and on analysis communications are identified that enable subsequent sexual offences to be detected and prosecuted.

Of course multiple investigative strands open up to both proactively target a stop like this having used covert methods to follow up on the protection of a high-risk child and subsequently through the execution of searches where grounds have been identified post arrest. The potential to garner significant intelligence is also obvious.

As a lay-person I’m sure there are many legislative and practical issues around the introduction of such a law to ensure that officers can more proactively target CSE offenders.

If however, as a parent you feel the above circumstances are really not acceptable, and that CSE, as one of our most insidious, complex and heinous crimes needs cutting edge and aggressive tactics to counter, then perhaps the onus is on us within the Criminal Justice system to work out how to avail ourselves of such tools.

‘Black Box’ Thinking for Policing

Introducing Force-Wide Notable Incident Procedures

In Matthew Syed’s great book, Black Box Thinking, he identifies that both airlines and medical systems have well-honed procedures which allow the identification of potential safety issues and the distribution of lessons identified quickly to encourage rapid organisational learning.

My own force C3 Division has successfully introduced a really good system which is similar called a Notable Incident Process. The goal of this process is:

‘To promote an improvement culture where staff are encouraged to report adverse incidents or ‘near misses’ and introduce processes as soon as possible where these can be recorded, assessed and any improvement identified and implemented’.

This is an excellent idea, well executed. It removes the traditional blame culture ethos and ensures staff can be confident that if there are issues then they can raise them and have them acted on for the benefit of all. It’s early days for this in my force and I am sure there will be challenges, but it looks really promising.

Whilst we all have ‘near miss’ procedures in our own organisations I am not sure we are really making the best of what we could when incidents occur. Near misses are recorded inconsistently, if at all and there is little rapid sharing of information to ensure wider organisational learning.

Perhaps it’s time to roll this sort of scheme out force wide for all incidents? I could see a simplified system working as follows:

· An online portal form to allow for rapid information capture across the force.

· A daily review to assess / edit and approve dissemination of Notable Incidents that come in.

· A push email linking each notable incident to frontline supervisors in the relevant work area to ensure the learning is disseminated in a timely fashion and reaches the attention of the right people in the right timescale so they can brief their teams.

Of course there are a couple of pitfalls. We have already seen elements of the Scottish media use the Notable Report Process to try and trash the excellent work of C3 Division in this area. Frankly the quality of journalism surrounding this has been lazy and sensationalist and it requires (as we have seen from the SMT in this area) a robust force level response and the staff to be directly reassured that they are doing the right thing reporting.

It also requires some leaders to reassess their attitude towards errors in the work place and approach these with a less punitive outlook. The system falls at the first hurdle if the leaders within the job don’t get that reporting and subsequent learning is more important in making sure someone is ‘held responsible’. This direction of travel needs to come from the very top.

Finally it requires a relationship with our Police Investigations &  Review Commissioner (PIRC) that endorses and understands what the intention of the force is. This may be the toughest nut to crack. You’d like to think however that this is somehing that the PIRC would encourage and actively support. 

Aspiring to generate fast learning across the Force has to be a no-brainer. We can use the example of our own C3 Division as a model for the rest of us to continually get better at the job.

We take millions of calls a year and make tens of millions of decisions around those calls on top of that. By and large we get them right. But when we don’t a Notable Incident Process gives us a valuable opportunity to identify issues and trends from these calls & improve how we look after both the public and ourselves.