‘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.




Author: West Coast Response

I'm a Police Sergeant here on the West Coast of Scotland. I love the job and the folk that do it. I enjoy polite debate on policing and criminal justice and am particularly interested in the practical impact of policing policy, police leadership & making the job better for frontline officers.

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