Police pre-employment training in the U.K and U.S.A

In his report into his Review of Police Leadership and Training, Peter Neyroud (2011) provided impetus to the development of police pre-employment training schemes in England and Wales. He argued that, as with other professions, such as medicine and law, individual cops should take responsibility for their own training and development beginning before entry. He recommended that a new national pre-join Police Initial Qualification (PIQ) should be implemented and that this should be equivalent to an academic Level 4 qualification (i.e. foundation degree). To help deliver this qualification (and police training and education more broadly) Professor Neyroud envisages a central role for the higher and further education sector.

In March last year, Tom Winsor (now HMCIC), published his report into his Review of Police Officer and Staff Remuneration and Conditions, which also concluded that there is a need to introduce a requirement for police pre-employment qualifications. Whereas Neyroud had argued that the PIQ should be at Level 4, Winsor recommended that individuals seeking to become police officers should have either a Level 3 qualification (equivalent to A levels) or some other nationally recognised police qualification. Currently, the only nationally recognised pre-employment qualification is the (Level 3) Certificate in Knowledge of Policing (CKP).

For some, the debate surrounding the level of the PIQ may seem somewhat academic (excuse the pun). After all, the primary reasons for having a police pre-employment qualification include shifting a proportion of the cost of training onto individuals, along with a laudable aim to professionalise policing. A well structured PIQ framework should achieve these objectives, so why should anyone worry about what level it is?   There is, however, much at stake here, particularly for higher and further education providers who are trying to establish which direction the police training policy wind is blowing in order to plan ahead and develop programmes and partnerships. A Level 4 PIQ launches police pre-join education into the orbit of the higher education sector, whereas a level 3 award more likely leaves it predominantly in the realm of commercial training companies, FE colleges and police training academies.

Any uncertainties surrounding the future development of police pre-employment training and education in England and Wales will be resolved by the nascent College of Policing (Cop) but presently several different approaches for pre-join training are emerging. The time therefore seemed right to conduct research in a country which has an established tradition of police pre-employment training and qualifications to find out if there are any useful lessons which might be learnt.

In 2012 I was awarded a Fulbright Police Research Fellowship which enabled me to spend three months in the U.S.A researching the American approach to pre-employment training. I was hosted by the University of Cincinnati (UC) School of Criminal Justice and the Cincinnati Police Department and I would like to acknowledge the tremendous help and support which both institutions provided me with at all stages of this project.

Perhaps the most challenging methodological issues which confront anyone setting out to research policing in America relate to the sheer size of the country (the third largest in the world in both population and geographic size) and the fact that it has an extremely diverse and fragmented police system.  The U.S constitution, in place since 1787, establishes a federal system of government with relatively few powers reserved for national government and many powers delegated to the states. One consequence of this federal system, with a strong emphasis on local governance, is that the U.S. has over 18,000 separate law enforcement agencies, most of them local and small.  Although many colleagues in the U.K will be aware of some of the major agencies in American law enforcement, such as the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), it is perhaps not always appreciated that these large and well resourced agencies are not necessarily representative of the majority of policing organisations in the U.S.A. Approximately 50% of all police departments in America employ less than 10 officers and almost 75% have less than 25 sworn police. Whilst it is understandable why an agency such as the LAPD – with a compliment of approximately 10,000 sworn officers – chooses to have its own state-of-the-art police academy, clearly this is not an option for a local police department comprised of 12 cops.

Consequently, a mixed market model of police entry-level training and education has also evolved in the U.S.A which reflects its diverse system of policing. Police academies exist in every state and at the federal level and each state has an agency which certifies and closely regulates police academies and their programmes.  In the state of Ohio, for example, where I was based, that agency is the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC).

During my three months stay I conducted observations at a range of police academies in Ohio (and the neighbouring state of Kentucky) and consulted with many people (including students, academics, police practitioners, etc) on a country wide basis about police training in America.

There are two ways for someone to enter a police academy and undertake a basic police training programme in the U.S.A. The first is to be employed by a law enforcement agency and attend an academy (post-employment). The second is for a person to self-fund their basic police training pre-employment and to be admitted to an academy through a system which is commonly referred to in the U.S.A as open enrolment.

Published statistics show that out of the 648 state and local law enforcement training academies operating across the U.S.A, a total of 292, (45%) were operated by an academic institution.  Some of these police academies are operated by major universities (such as UC), whilst others are run by community colleges or technical schools. Some of these institutions deliver programmes for other public safety professionals, such as the Fire Department, whilst others specialise in law enforcement.  Whilst the majority of the programmes are operated as stand alone police basic training courses, others form part of a higher qualification such as a criminal justice degree. Many of these privately run academies deliver the full basic police training curriculum, including, for example, instruction in firearms, defensive tactics and driver training.

In summary, key findings from my research include:

  • A  mixed provision approach appears to work well, whereby some police  agencies train officers on a post-employment basis, whilst others rely on  pre-join training programmes.
  • A  mixed market approach works well for pre-join training and education,  whereby some police academies are operated by major universities, whilst others are run by small colleges, technical schools and law enforcement agencies.
  • The  pre-join training delivered within academic institutions is based on the police academy model. In other words, these campuses based academies duplicate the curriculum and approach of ‘traditional’ police academies found in police departments.
  • Pre-join training in the U.S.A is tightly controlled and regulated at the state level by a governing body (i.e. OPOTC).

As U.K police finances continue to be squeezed  it is likely that an increasing number of constabularies will look to only recruit individuals who already have a policing qualification and/or prior police work experience. As indicated earlier, a number of different institutional arrangements for police pre-join training and education are emerging in England and Wales.  Several commercial training companies and FE colleges are now approved providers of the CKP qualification and the Metropolitan Police Service will only consider applications from prospective recruits who hold a pre-join award.  In contrast, Sussex Police, for example, are delivering their own pre-employment training programme. At the other end of the spectrum, HE institutions such as, for example, the University of Central Lancashire and the University of Chester are delivering a more comprehensive police initial  learning curriculum which forms part of a foundation degree programme and which also involves vocational experience serving as a special constable. On the other hand, many constabularies in England and Wales currently have no provisions in place to recruit individuals who hold a pre-join qualification and they continue to train their sworn officers on a traditional post-employment basis.

Indeed, whilst the implementation of pre-join training remains an option for many police forces in this country, America’s diverse and fragmented system of policing could not function without it. Although on the face of it, police initial training in the U.S.A also appears to be similarly fragmented, the training is, in fact, well organised around the police academy model and is in many ways more closely regulated and consistent than is currently the case in this country. The fact that 292 American police academies are operated by an academic institution suggests that this is a successful model for delivering police pre-employment training.

Sergeant Richard Heslop, West Yorkshire Police, U.K

As part of my commitment to share all information about my Fulbright project I have created my own blog site at http://www.richardheslop.net/blog.html. The site provides further details about my visit and experiences and contains copies of all my research documents including my full report into this research project: A study of police pre-employment training in the United States of America.   



Hitting the Target, Missing the Point

Policing is at a crossroads. At a time of unprecedented cuts and unparalleled reforms, the British police service faces enormous challenges, both financial and cultural. Police leaders and policy makers are searching for new approaches capable of achieving the outcomes that conventional management practices have so spectacularly failed to deliver.

So what’s the answer? Well, I argue that solutions lie in adopting a systemic approach to understanding how police forces operate and what drives behaviour at all levels. Having reviewed much of the existing literature on target-driven performance management, as well as through face-to-face interactions with several UK police forces and a questionnaire-based research programme intended to examine police performance management and operational practice, I have encountered common pitfalls (which are easy to avoid), as well as ground-breaking good practice, (which is easy to emulate – with due regard to local context, of course…) Furthermore, as a serving police officer I’ve also applied the theories myself, in real life and seen the benefits with my own eyes.

Central to the solutions I propose is the notion of understanding data in context – by doing so, police leaders can unleash a latent evidence base that provides a mandate to act (or not to act, as the case may be). Using the ‘right measures, measured right’ as I like to say, this ensures that operational activity remains focused on true purpose, rather than the latest management whims or de facto purposes, such as those which are inadvertently brought to the table by the application of numerical targets. I contend that numerical targets are the single most pernicious tool of modern-day performance management, and that their application has led to years of dysfunctional behaviour in policing and beyond. Experience has shown that organisations can become adept at ‘hitting the target whilst missing the point’, and the police service is no different.

But there’s more to fixing the system than simply removing targets. We must tackle such traditional blunt performance management tools as those infamous ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrows, the feared ‘red’ and ‘green’ performance descriptors, and the reviled ‘team vs team’ league tables, all of which cause unhealthy internalised competition, unnecessary bureaucracy, sub optimisation and ultimately a poorer service to the public. My research and experience draws strong parallels with existing literature that documents widespread dysfunctional behaviour caused by target-driven performance management regimes in public services.

My work also explores the consequences of risk aversion, waste and knee-jerk reactions in policing and the wider public sector, along with the behavioural outcomes associated with the dominant mode of management and system design. These dysfunctions tend to reoccur despite the good intentions of managers and the efforts of workers who are trying to do their best. My contention is that these dysfunctions are a symptom of the system, rather than a product of lazy or bad people.

I argue that we need to learn how to identify and capitalise on the opportunities that are already present within the system, such as using performance data to actually learn about performance, rather than inadvertently distort it. Only then can we understand the extent of existing capacity, identify areas for action, and work upon the system in a fashion that fosters continuous learning and improvement. By refocusing effort on doing the right thing and building a culture that values intrinsic motivation, professional judgment and frontline autonomy, there exists an opportunity to build a new model of policing – one which puts the service user at the heart of organisational focus.

My book, Intelligent Policing, explores the behavioural phenomena associated with conventional forms of police management practice, and presents practical alternatives which, I argue, have the potential to transform police organisational norms and service delivery.

Simon Guilfoyle is a serving Police Inspector and systems thinker, currently studying for a PhD at Warwick Business School. For details of publications and current engagements, see http://inspguilfoyle.wordpress.com/about/

“We have done that”: Race and Ethnic Relations within Constabularies

Recently, Tom Winsor, the new Chief Inspector of Constabulary, gave his first public speech outlining priorities for the police (http://tinyurl.com/dxtr6um). Winsor has apparently spent the last few months talking to “frontline officers and police staff” about their priorities. In his speech he responded to the officers’ views, considering them within the context of current financial constraints and other social conditions. Most of his recommendations for change in policing – about crime prevention, more collaboration between forces, to name just two – are not new.

There should not be disappointment about Winsor’s lack of novelty. Good ideas are simply good ideas and there is nothing wrong with his drawing attention to them. More importantly, Tom Windsor raised important and prior questions about the extent and content of change in UK constabularies. Why, when good policies have been advocated time and again by governments, think-tanks, working groups and individuals, have they not been implemented adequately and, crucially, found their way into the ‘common-sense’ of the lower ranks when they consider their work of policing?

For many years I have been researching aspects of race and ethnic relations within constabularies (Holdaway 1991; Holdaway 1996; Holdaway and Barron 1997; Holdaway 2009). Winsor’s implied question about the lack of policy and practice implementation is very sharp when we consider the current state of race relations within constabularies and related subjects.

Winsor recently spoke at the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee Conference about ‘Police Leadership and Integrity’. If his ear had been tuned-in when he listened to chief officers at the event he would have heard a member of the audience ask a telling question of Hugh Orde, the President of ACPO. The question was about the extent to which the ranks he represents are ethnically diverse. His answer was that he was very concerned about the lack diversity within the ACPO ranks (http://tinyurl.com/auexmdz). Just 2.8% of ACPO ranks are from ethnic minorities.

A rather different question occurred for me as a criminologist researching, writing about and at times involved closely with the development of policy for the recruitment, retention and promotion of minority ethnic (BME) officers. It was this, ‘Considerable research, policy and practice attention has been given to this subject. How have the police arrived at a point where consideration of police race relations within constabularies has waned? In this brief article I will focus upon one central aspect of an answer to my question. This is the lack of resilient strategy to increase ethnic minority representation and, crucially, the promotion of ethnic minority officers to ACPO rank.

An important part of the answer is that very few police policies about race and ethnic relations have been related closely to concerted strategy within constabularies. After the Lawrence Inquiry report was published and accepted by the Home Secretary, important work drawing on research and previous practice was considered (Sir William Macpherson of Cluny 1999). New initiatives were introduced. Black Police Associations developed in many constabularies. Many innovative policies and practices to recruit and, to a lesser extent, retain BME officers could be found throughout the country.

The subject of race and ethnic relations within the police was certainly a tough one and not easy to settle when negotiations with BPAs and outside agencies were undertaken. Increased numbers of BME recruits nevertheless joined constabularies. Problems of prejudice and discrimination towards BME officers remained but those matters were made known to chief officers aware of their seriousness and impact within and out with constabularies. Despite some damaging industrial tribunal cases when chief constables were found to have discriminated against their minority ethnic officers, chief officers were willing to learn about how to improve the employment experiences of BME colleagues.

When Hugh Orde recognised that ACPO has a less than ethnically diverse membership I was reminded of a radio programme I took part in last year (http://tinyurl.com/by8rkt7). ‘File on Four’ investigated the manner in which West Yorkshire Police disciplined a number of its Asian officers who later resigned from the police service. Listening to the officers’ accounts of what had happened to them I knew from my extensive interviews with BME serving and erstwhile officers that something was very wrong. The acting-chief constable’s answer to a question about why the constabulary had acted as it had was, in summary, “There is a great deal more about this that I cannot reveal.” The programmes reporter also interviewed Chief Constable Alf Hitchcock, then Chair of ACPO’s Race and Diversity Committee and Chief of Bedfordshire Police. When asked about the high number of Asian officers resigning from the service it became clear that he was unaware of the figures and had little to say about the West Yorkshire situation.

Earlier in the year, Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and the erstwhile, excellent Chair of the ACPO Race and Diversity Committee, was reported in the national press arguing that positive discrimination is the proper and only appropriate response to the BME, chief officer deficit (http://tinyurl.com/b8j6j2a). In other words, the solution to the problem did not lie within constabularies but outside them. The law rather than police policy needed to be reformed.

Police race relations often point to generic problems of policing. Chief officers and their BME colleagues responded to the Lawrence Inquiry in a sincere and concerted way. Some, albeit modest progress in the number of BME officers recruited was made (http://tinyurl.com/boe7byr para 344), partly because the Home Office and HMIC monitored the situation. Chief officers wanted fairness for BME officers within their constabularies. They established initiatives, projects, sometimes monitored this and that but did not develop a concerted series of inter-related actions that had flexibility and, recognising the problem could not be solved overnight or in a year or two, set a path of strategic action for years ahead. Without that, chief officers could not remind themselves of what they were committed to do; their colleagues implementing the strategy and related policies were not provided with an established framework of action that would remain a fundamental aspect of their constabularies work; and Black Police Associations could not refer to an agreed policy underpinned by rigorous strategy that would support them as their worked for fairness within the police workforce.

As progress was made, officers working on BME projects came and went. Chief officers with specific responsibility for BME personnel were transferred frequently into and out of their posts. Because less media attention was given to police race relations, the urgency to do something disappeared. Importantly, the Home Office diverted its attention from race relations within constabularies. Chief officers moved on to their next projects and initiatives dealing with a different subject of the moment. It was assumed that the initial run of activity was sufficient for progress to be made inevitably, naturally.

What does this tell us? It tells us about a particular meaning of time amongst chief officers. It seems that for them strategy and policy are a series of initiatives and projects that realise short and medium term results. They do not stretch into a strategy requiring years of work. Chief officers tend to view their work in terms of initiatives and projects rather than policy and strategy.

It tells that problem-solving in constabularies is to take action and to deal with a particular, discrete subject. It does not consider that concerted work on the recruitment of BME officers has necessarily to be set within years of effort to ensure that recruitment, retention and promotion policies are interrelated as parts of a single strategy; that a defined notion of positive action supports everything that is done. It does not understand that race relations within constabularies (and other subjects like crime prevention and collaboration) requires concerted, long term strategy and action.

I recently accepted a very welcome invitation from students on the 2013 senior command course to speak about police race relations. It shocked me when I learned that this was the only session about race relations for these future chief officers. The next morning I talked informally to some BME officers on the High Potential Course and asked them how the subject of race relations within constabularies was addressed? They expressed frustration about the inadequate attention given to it. I asked, “How has this situation arisen?” “We have done that, the police has done race relations”, they said with more than a hint of cynicism. Projects and initiatives, the work apparently required to deal with diversity within constabularies, had been introduced after Lawrence. They had done it. There seems to be a long way to go before strategy becomes a stock in trade of policing.

Simon Holdaway is Professor Emeritus of Criminology and Sociology at the University of Sheffield and part-time Professor of Criminology at Nottingham trent University

The Power of Three? Examining Quality Service in Policing

Legitimacy and public confidence have been key elements of policing since the inception of the modern police service in 1829. There are a plethora of issues that affect both legitimacy and confidence the impact of which result in a waxing and waning of public support for policing over time. In general terms there are two ways that the police tend to deal with this; they adopt a coercive enforcement style of policing which reflects the identity of a police ‘force’, or they adopt a more welfare oriented style of police ‘service’.

Throughout time the police have, to various degrees, focussed on a style of policing that emphasises the critical nature of engaging communities in order to help or allow them to pursue their mission of preventing or detecting crime. The relationship between the police and citizens has resulted in the coming and going of a multitude of tactical options from Community Policing, Reassurance Policing, Problem Oriented Policing and Neighbourhood Policing to name a few.

The link between each of these tactics is the standard of service delivered to the community. Commonly referred to a ‘quality of service’, Waters (1996) divides the concept of ‘quality service’ into three areas –

• Functional – this aspect embraces operational activity such as crime clear up rates and response times to emergency calls

• Internal quality – the internal quality dimension is concerned with organisational culture, management and staff development

• Interactional – interactional relates to inter agency partnerships, responding to community requirements and the provision of a reassuring police service.

This is the first of three blogs that will examine the impact of politics on the establishment of a quality service style of policing.

The objective of ‘quality service’ is to deliver a police service that the public want (Waters, 1996), a reflection of Peel’s philosophy for policing. As the public become more conscious of their rights and their expectations of public services increase, citizens are not only likely to ask for more services, but they are likely to expect higher quality service (Butler, 2000). It can be argued that just like all other complex agencies that are involved in service delivery, it is important for the police to know the level of satisfaction with the services that they deliver as this enables them to analyse and identify gaps, alter activity and ultimately improve the service to the public (Sacco, 1998). Hirst (1991) argues that in consequence of its monopoly the police should have the greatest commitment to ‘quality service.’

This is an aspiration that can be traced back to the foundation of modern day policing in 1829 by Sir Robert Peel and his first two Commissioners, Rowan and Mayne. The ‘new police’ was established as a result of increasing urbanisation, increased crime and the unsatisfactory use of militia to deal with public insurrection (Lee, 1901; Reith, 1948; Critchley, 1977; Alderson, 1979; Ignatieff, 1979; Stead, 1980; Emsley, 1983; Bittner, 1990; Alderson, 1998; Reiner, 2000).

Peel constantly supported reform linked to capitalism and encumbrances on trade as he had an economic obsession that warped his wider political judgement (Evans, 1991). This suggests the possibility that the ‘new police’ arose as a functional corollary of the structural trajectory of capitalism, industrialisation and urbanisation (Johnston, 2000). In other words, Peel wanted to encourage financial investment in the capital and may have seen the increases in crime and insurrection as a threat to this.

Peel was aware that engaging citizens was a crucial factor in successfully establishing the police. The link between the police mission of preventing crime and the quality of the relationship between the police and citizens is demonstrated by Peel who stated: –

“It should be understood at the outset that the principle object to be attained is the prevention of crime. To this great end every effort of the police is to be directed…He [the Constable] will be civil and obliging to all people of every rank and class…” (Critchley, 1967: 52)

In order to break down barriers and refute ideas that the new police were spies for the government Peel made four key decisions. First he developed a uniform for the police that would encourage people to approach them for assistance (Critchley, 1977). This is evidenced by Rowan who in 1833 gave evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee and stated

“There was a discussion with the Secretary of State [Peel] whether they [police officers] should be put into uniform or not. The question was discussed at great length, and the advantages and the disadvantages of the two systems weighed; it was thought more desirable that they should be in uniform; it was obvious, if it was a quiet uniform, that a person wanting assistance might obtain the aid of a policeman.” (Critchley 1977:89)

Second, Peel did not arm the police. This decision was significant as it ultimately endeared them to the community (Palmer, 1998). As the police were not armed and had limited powers they were compelled to rely on public support and approval rather than the exercise of oppressive authority (Critchley, 1973).

Third, in the recruiting strategy for constables of the ‘new police’ Peel realised that if he appointed gentlemen to higher ranks they would not have associated with the common man, so ordinary policemen were drawn from the lower orders of society, but were often distanced from their social origins (Critchley, 1973; Emsley, 1983; Palmer, 1998; Reiner, 2000; Hurd, 2007; Emsley, 2008).

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, in order to ensure compliance with Peel’s mission, detailed General Instructions were published for all ranks. The instructions were documented in three volumes that served to guide the ‘new police’ in terms of structure and legality. By giving direct instructions to each rank they were left in no doubt as to what their role was in relation to the mission of preventing crime, and the value of a quality service built through engaging citizens.

The importance of the requirement to build a relationship with the public was identified by Reith (1956) who stated that without the cooperation of the public the police would cease to function. In providing leadership and direction to constables and how they would establish a relationship with the people of London, Rowan wrote: –

“He will be civil and obliging to all people of every rank and class. He must be particularly cautious not to interfere idly or unnecessarily in order to make a display of his authority; when required to act. He will do so with decision and boldness; on all occasions he may expect to receive the fullest support in the proper exercise of his authority. He must remember that there is no qualification so indispensable to a police officer as a perfect command of temper, never suffering himself to be moved in the slightest degree by any language or threats that may be used: if he do his duty in a quiet and determined manner, such conduct will probably excite the well disposed of the bystanders to assist him, if he requires them.” (Ascoli 1979:86)

Did Peel achieve his mission of building a relationship based on a ‘quality service?’ Well, it is well documented that initially there was a great deal of violence against the new police, especially as they became established throughout the country. The initial lack of police legitimacy prevented police leadership from pursuing its original mission of crime prevention through community engagement. The result was that the police mission veered from one that sought to prevent crime through community engagement to one of enforcement and coercion with the salient feature of early police experience being associated with conflict (Adlam, 2000; Crawford, 2007).

It is difficult to establish the exact date that the police obtained their legitimacy. It is likely that acceptance of the police was almost complete some years after the Great Exhibition as Reiner (2000) states that it seems that police had attained a large measure of legitimacy by 1870. As the working class became incorporated into the political, social and economic fabric, so acceptance of the police spread down through the social order in the UK (Reiner, 1992) with the majority of settled and respectable working class together with upper and middle class eventually joining the veneration of the ‘bobby’ as the embodiment of citizenly idea (Palmer, 1988).

So the police service in its modern form was established, but would face political turmoil and challenge over the forthcoming years. The next in this sequence of three blogs will look at the impact of the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher on quality service.

Dr Andrew Fisher is a Consultant in police-community engagement and an Associate Lecturer at Liverpool Hope University

‘Watching the Detectives’: Tales of a Police Researcher in Cincinnati and Glasgow

Ross Deuchar – University of the West of Scotland

Research on violence and street gangs around the world provides convincing evidence of the strong correlation between gang membership and criminal offending, and over the years a wide range of anti-gang and violence reduction initiatives have been implemented with somewhat limited success. But, in recent years, focused deterrence approaches to reducing gang violence have proven successful in several cities within the USA. These strategies draw upon problem-oriented policing, where senior officers undertake intelligence analysis to identify the most prolific offenders and deal with the issue of gang violence through untraditional responses. The principles were operationalized within the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV) in Ohio from 2006 onwards, where young gang members were routinely ‘called in’ to Hamilton County Sheriff Court and given a very powerful anti-violence message from senior officers. It was made clear to them that, if they continued to engage in violent street activity, there would be serious criminal justice implications. But then the message softened, with contributions from ‘untraditional’ partners such as ex-gang members and mothers of those who had lost their lives to crime, who appealed to the young male offenders to make alternative choices. Finally came the message of hope – if these young men left the violence behind, they could be fast-tracked to a range of social services, including opportunities for education and employment training (Deuchar and Engel, 2013).

In 2008, the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) began to look Stateside for answers to the prolific gang problems in Glasgow, where the east end of the city is home to 55 street gangs with over 600 members. Following a visit to Cincinnati, members of the VRU and Strathclyde Police brought CIRV (re-named the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence) to Glasgow. Young offenders from the east of Glasgow were brought to Glasgow Sheriff Court and given the same types of messages as those in Cincinnati, and a wide range of social agencies collaborated with the police in order to divert the young men’s violent activity onto more productive pursuits. Over the past two years, my research has focused on exploring the cultural shift that has taken place in both police departments in order to accommodate the CIRV strategy and also to look at the remaining challenges in terms of police culture. I have conducted semi-structured interviews with police officers and also engaged in participant observation, where I shadowed frontline officers during their patrols within the Gangs Task Force Units that have been set up in both cities.

My research has shown me that the emphasis on focused deterrence and preventive approaches to violence that was at the centre of CIRV has changed many of the structural conditions of police work at command level in both cities. A liberal democratic model of ‘soft’ policing has emerged, but with a corresponding emphasis on radical perspectives associated with ‘hard’ policing tactics such as the detection and disruption of those gang members who continue to offend (Hopkins, 2004). But, during interviews, some senior officers recognised that trying to convince frontline officers to embrace the welfare-oriented approaches has been a challenge. We’ve still got some cops that don’t see it,’ one senior officer in Glasgow told me. ‘They’ll say, “no, it’s no’ our job to do that, our job’s to do this”.’ One officer in Cincinnati admitted that ‘cracking the police culture’ further down the ranks is still a ‘work in progress’ and that some cops still view ‘real police work’ as being solely about enforcement (Van Maanen, 1978; Reiner, 2000).

In Cincinnati, I saw evidence of this during police patrols. While hugely committed to making communities safer, some officers still viewed themselves as the ‘hard chargers’: the aggressive, courageous street cops that charge at the tower at the least sign of perceived disorder (Chare, 2011). As one young cop told me, ‘I like the adventuresome side of it (policing) … I guess you could call it the risk-taking activity, the adrenalin … the fun, the chases … the game side.’ I saw the impact of this when some officers’ focus on authoritarian enforcement antagonised young men out on the streets and undermined the way in which the Cincinnati Police Department was trying to build positive community relationships through CIRV. In Glasgow, Task Force officers had more success. While focusing primarily on enforcement and sometimes targeting young men for ‘stop and search’ through stereotypical profiling, they also took time to build positive relationships with them through informal dialogue. As one young officer in Glasgow told me, ‘your mouth’s the best thing you can use, you know … it’s being able to “chew the fat” – just being able to talk to people.’ These cops saw themselves as enforcers, but they were also humanitarian peacekeepers (Hodgson, 2001).

In spite of some of the remaining challenges, the CIRV initiative has led to a 41 per cent reduction in group-related homicides in Cincinnati and a 50 per cent reduction in youth violence in Glasgow. But what have I learned from my experience of shadowing cops out on the streets? Fundamentally, I believe that there has been an over-emphasis on the ‘critical police research tradition’ where academics have often focused exclusively on the perceived inadequacies and injustices in police practice, and officers have subsequently viewed academics as doing more harm than good. To overcome these hurdles, we need intimate and continuous partnerships between police and universities. This takes time, energy, persistence and perseverance. By exploring, analysing and actively participating in police practice as a ‘marginal native’, I believe that I have managed to build more trust and really gained first-hand insight into the positive aspects of police practice as well as the challenges. In so doing, I hope that I am beginning to create research insights that can generate impact and that will support the police in positive ways as they continue with the challenging job of making our communities safer on both sides of the Atlantic.

Ross Deuchar is the Director of the Centre for Youth Crime, Justice and Deterrence Research at the University of the West of Scotland and co- author of the forthcoming book, ‘Policing Youth Violence – Atlantic Connections (2013, Trentham).

PCCs in 100 Days: Early Observations from the Field

Sophie Chambers, Cardiff University

Matthew Davies, University of Oxford

At the end of 2012, policing across England and Wales underwent significant reform with the election of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) across the 41 force areas outside London. Under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs were introduced to replace police authorities who were seen as the weak link in the tripartite governance of the police. Accordingly, PCCs were handed a range of tools to exert greater influence over the police. This included powers to hire and fire Chief Constables, set Police and Crime Plans and direct crime reduction budgets in their local force areas. Architects of the policy hoped that public election of these figures would excite interest and involvement in local policing and crime issues through localised campaigning. It was also anticipated that the election of a single recognisable figurehead would make the democratic arm of the police more visible to local communities, further enabling greater engagement between the public and the police. However, with an average turnout of 15% and a recent poll indicating that only 11% of people know who their PCC is (Populus, 2013), hopes that the elections would reignite local involvement in policing and crime matters soon evaporated. The downfall of the elections in terms of low turnout has been well documented in both academic circles and the public media, and has raised serious questions about whether PCCs even have a mandate for the role. Nevertheless, PCCs are in power for at least the next 3 years and it is important to contemplate just who was elected, what they have been doing and what we might expect from them based on their first few months in office.

While unsurprising that the majority of the elected PCCs were affiliated with the Conservative party, considering this is a Tory—led policy, the success of 12 Independent candidates was unexpected. When the policy was first discussed, it was assumed by many that the public would vote for the person affiliated to the party they usually align with and Independents would be largely unsuccessful. Instead it appears that the popular Independent candidate line ‘keep politics out of policing’ won the public over in almost a third of areas. Former jobs of successful candidates are fairly predictable: they include local and national politicians with experience of elections, and those with experience of the police and criminal justice arena. While politics may well be wanted out of policing, one could also argue that these individuals are likely to ‘know the job’. But of course, ‘knowing the job’ might sometimes also come at a price. One of the concerns regarding police authorities was that they were not sufficiently independent from the police and in some cases had the appearance of an ‘old boys club’ (Myhill et al. 2003). This is particularly pertinent where former officers have become PCCs and raises questions about just how well they will be able to hold chief constables to account.

The first few months after the elections have been busy for PCCs, as they have had to acquaint themselves within the complex local policing and community safety networks across their forces – a particularly challenging task for those without backgrounds in police authorities or local councils. One of the most significant relationships that PCCs have had to form has been with their Chief Constables. This was not an easy task for some, given that over a third of chief constables were on temporary contracts. For example, the Chief Constable of Avon & Somerset police chose to stand down after disapproving of PCC Sue Mountstevens’ decision to advertise the job, explaining that he refused to reapply for his own job. But this in itself is not necessarily problematic and can give life to new constructive partnerships between PCCs and chief constables. Indeed, this might even be regarded as a desirable outcome by those behind the introduction of the policy, who were critical of the seeming immovability of some chief constables. New policing minister Damian Green stated in the week the elections took place that the cosy relationship enjoyed by chief constables and the police authorities needed to be addressed, a situation supported by many chief constables who would prefer ‘challenge or tension’ (Travis & Perkins 2012, The Guardian). With the appointment of a number of new chief constables across the country, new approaches to tackling crime may be developed and the relationships that are formed between PCCs and these chief constables will be critical to determining the success of this policy.

Relationships with Police and Crime Panels will also be important to observe, given Panels’ scrutiny role over PCCs.  Thus far, some PCCs have gone about their business with little objection from their Police and Crime Panels. However, in some areas, Panels have openly criticised decisions made by PCCs, particularly in relation to the appointment of other staff. For example, Panels in Humberside and Sussex have opposed the appointment of their PCCs’ choice of deputy (although both PCCs went on to appoint their choice of deputy regardless of the Panel’s discontent). Gloucestershire Police and Crime Panel recently scolded PCC Martin Surl’s decision to appoint and publicly announce a new chief constable without formal ratification from the Panel. In the West Midlands, the Police and Crime Panel strongly rejected the appointment of three assistant police commissioners proposed by PCC Bob Jones. The Panel refused to take any part in the appointment of the assistants and declined the offer of attending ‘strategic board meetings’ suggested by the PCC. While such cases illustrate that some Panels are being more critical friends than others, ultimately it appears that they have very little power to stop a PCC from doing what he or she wants.

The PCCs are currently drafting their first Police and Crime Plans that will detail their strategic priorities for the next four years –a tough assignment considering they’ve only been in office for four months. Final drafts are to be published in March, but the plans can be altered at any time, with approval of the Police and Crime Panel. Many PCCs have sought public consultation on their plans, utilising social media and the internet to distribute surveys, as well as face-to-face conversations with the public. However, some plans are in excess of 50 pages long: is a member of the general public really going to read that? And even if they did, would their feedback be taken into account at this late stage? While some PCCs closed online survey consultation at the end of January, potentially so that they had time to work the feedback into their plans, others remain ‘open’ even this close to the deadline. One has to wonder whether this is a case of cynical consultation, in which the public think and feel that they are participating and engaging with the PCCs, but feedback as actually ignored.

Brief analysis of the draft plans highlights similarities in priorities between force areas. A reduction of the incidence and impact of anti-social behaviour is mentioned in many, as well as the phrase ‘putting victims at the heart of the criminal justice system’. Tackling violence against women and girls is widely prioritised, and the importance of working in partnership with relevant agencies is frequently highlighted. Few of the plans provide specific details of how they will go about meeting this priorities: time will tell whether this is due to not wanting to tread on the toes of the chief constable’s operational duties, or whether the PCC simply doesn’t know. If public consultation on the plans is conducted and subsequently used in the right way, these plans can become more localised to individual communities’ needs, rather than the template priorities that seem to be included in the drafts. 

It has been just over 3 months since PCCs were introduced, but evidently a lot has happened in that time and a great deal more change is likely. The introduction of a number of independent candidates, the forging of new relationships with chief constables and panels, and the delivery of Police and Crime Plans all provide opportunities for fresh thinking about how to best engage local communities, hold the police to account and to stimulate innovative and cost-effective ways of dealing with crime. These are exciting times for Police and Crime Commissioners and perhaps even more so for those conducting research on them.

Matthew Davies is a 2nd year PhD student at the University of Oxford, conducting research in collaboration with the Police Foundation into Police and Crime Commissioners. His project, ‘Elected Police and Crime Commissioners: An Experiment in Democratic Policing’, examines the introduction and implementation of the policy and specifically explores the wider implications for the democratic governance of the police.

Sophie Chambers is a 2nd year PhD student at Cardiff University Law School, funded by a President’s Research Scholarship. Her research compares two PCC covered areas in England and Wales to address the question of how Police and Crime Commissioners impact local agenda setting in the context of the devolution.

The Death of the Drug Squad

Dr Matthew Bacon  – Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Sheffield

This blog is not an obituary or lament to the drug squad, for they are not dead and buried within the history of policing but still very much alive and kicking their way through the doors of suspected drug offenders in this country and further afield. The point I want to make with this somewhat overly dramatic title is that drug squads are an endangered species with an uncertain future.

In a crude nutshell, drug squads are specialist detective units licensed to police drug markets and drug-related criminality. They have been a key element of drug law enforcement since around the 1960s, when widespread moral panic about the taking of drugs by young people prompted a dedicated and specialised police response to the novel and increasingly notorious ‘drug problem’. As half of the first full-time two-man drug squad in the north-east of England, Malcolm Young has subsequently written that he was ‘tasked with defining and dealing with the new social aberration of “flower power”, “the counter culture”, and the “psychedelic trip”’.  Up until this point in the history of drug control, drugs had been policed in a relatively routine and haphazard manner, as and when police officers stumbled across or were called upon to do something about suspected drug offenders in their area. As drug problems worsened in the 1980s, an era when ‘war on drugs’ rhetoric was reverberating on both sides of the Atlantic, the enforcement approach came to dominate drug control policy. The Thatcher government came down hard on the people responsible for international trafficking and domestic supply, pumped exorbitant amounts of money into the campaign, and gave the police more powers. Although they differed significantly in terms of their organisation and operations, by the late 1980s, all of the police forces in England and Wales had drugs squads in place.

Over the past decade or so, however, there has been a substantial decline in the number of drug squads operating at both force and district level. To further investigate this largely unreported sea change in drug policy, I set out to examine the culture and daily activities of plain clothes drug detectives working in two contrasting constabularies: one metropolitan area in the south, which I call ‘Metropolis’, and a small town in the north, ‘Smallville’.

Before fieldwork commenced in Metropolis, I learned that the drug squad had become the firearms squad a few years earlier, and while the detectives employed therein remained the primary drug law enforcers of the district, their focus was now on firearms offences. Towards the end of the fieldwork period their focus changed to gang-related criminal activity and the firearms squad was rechristened the gang squad. As for the situation in Smallville, plans were put into motion to disband the drug squad as the research project was coming to a close, with the intention of merging the separate squads of the proactive investigation department into a generalist crime squad.

The Smallville detectives did not react terribly well to the pending demise of the drug squad. It provoked them into questioning the motivations and competencies of their supervisors and chief officers. Signs of anger and frustration were regularly displayed as they told me about how management ‘didn’t have a clue’ and would ‘end up regretting their decision’. The detectives were convinced that drug dealers would take advantage of their newfound freedom and in turn there would be more drugs on the streets and more drug-related crime. They truly believed in the importance of their work, so not only did the decision to disband the squad deprive them of their territory, it also challenged their sense of mission and made them feel devalued and dejected. From their perspective, the police service no longer considered the control of drug supply to be a priority and this was a huge mistake. The Metropolis detectives said they remembered reacting similarly when the drug squad became the firearms squad, but they soon accepted the decision and the need to concentrate on dealing with the most harmful criminal elements of the drug trade, seeing as ‘it is impossible to deal with them all’.

This downgrading of drug policing can probably be attributed to a combination of three factors: resources, results and realisation.

At the organisational level, police managers have to decide how to prioritise the deployment of limited resources to enforce the law and perform other policing tasks. Within this constraint – common in many policy realms – further decisions about the appropriate use of the law and the suspects against whom it should be used were made. ‘Drugs have always been and will always be a priority,’ the police frequently assured me. Yet albeit an official priority, during fieldwork it was found that drug law enforcement had been unofficially deprioritised and was downplayed when there were deemed to be more serious and pressing issues to deal with. In the words of the senior officer who made the decision to refocus the detectives of Metropolis onto firearms:

‘If all other crimes somehow go down, if we can get rid of all the serious crime, all the shootings and stabbings, the terrorist threat, then maybe drugs will become a priority again.’

Police managers regularly asserted that they struggled to justify using their limited resources to enforce drug laws when there were victims of crime in need of police services. In addition, they told me that, since the Updated Drug Strategy of 2002 had removed drug offences from the national performance indicators, it had become practically impossible to continue to prioritise drugs and meet targets. Take the following interview excerpt, for example, in which the officer really highlights the selective nature of drug law enforcement:

‘We could choose to ignore drugs if we wanted to, because it’s victimless and isn’t performance managed anymore … In the police there’s a saying: “you only have a drug problem if you look for it”. The more we police drugs the more problems we find, and management don’t want us to go out and find any more problems – just look outside, we’ve got enough work on.’

Detective Inspector, Metropolis

Furthermore, the officers I studied acknowledged that their efforts could only ever have a marginal impact upon the drug trade, whether they were to police drugs through routine police work alone or in combination with a specialised response. This much is evident in the following quotations:

‘One thing you quickly come to realise in this job is that no matter how many dealers you put away there’s always someone out there selling.’

Detective, Smallville

‘The fact of the matter is millions of people commit drug offences every year – what are we supposed to do about that?! Apart from the ones that cause people harm, I’d say no one expects us to do anything.’

Detective, Metropolis

These findings can be interpreted as being connected to the pragmatic dimensions of police culture and the need for managerial efficiency. They also suggest that drug law enforcement is more of a symbolic police priority than an actual priority, which represents their values and sense of mission rather than their true objectives and practices.

So what are the more important implications of the study?

The decline in the number of drug squads and the deprioritisation of drug law enforcement strongly suggests that both the government and the police have started to move away from the heroic but quixotic drug war towards a more realistic management approach to dealing with drug-related problems. If anything, the recent public sector budget cuts will force them to walk even further down this path and become even more minimalist in their interventions.

The aforementioned changes might, on the one hand, result in enforcement initiatives being aimed solely at reducing the most socially harmful problems that are caused by and associated with drug distribution. Such an approach would lead to a reduction in the number of people entering the criminal justice system for relatively harmless supply and possession offences. On the other hand, seeing as officers carrying out routine patrol and response tend only to encounter users and street dealers, it could equally lead to the over-policing of the lower levels of the market. Whatever happens, the CID will continue to investigate drug dealers and uniformed officers will continue to police drugs in their neighbourhoods. Devoid of drug squads, however, the police will inevitably mount fewer investigations, from which one can infer that dealers – especially closed-market retailers and middle-market distributors – are at less risk of being detected and arrested.

Taking a selective approach to enforcement can be criticised for flying in the face of the rule of law and to some extent condoning the buying and selling of certain drugs in certain contexts. But if one works on the assumption that the drug trade is a constant and that policing is a marginal activity there are few alternatives if drugs remain situated within a criminal law framework. Given that drug law enforcement is under-resourced and the drug trade is increasingly under-policed, it is time to seriously start thinking about alternative policing methods and policies for dealing with drugs.

Lessons from Ladybird?

Professor Mike Rowe. Professor of Criminology at Northumbria University. 

A grim picture of policing in England and Wales emerged from the end-of-year reviews provided by much of the media in recent weeks. The ‘pleb-gate’ row was reignited as an officer was arrested shortly before Christmas and several newspapers carried prominent stories suggesting that the former Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, may have been the victim of a set-up. Allegations of police corruption had featured in a number of cases reported in 2012: several senior officers continue to be under investigation in relation to inappropriate behaviour. The Leveson inquiry revealed details of widespread financial relationships between officers and journalists prepared to trade cash for information about investigations and individuals of public interest. Newspapers also pointed to the expose of police malpractice in relation to the Hillsborough disaster and the clashes at Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike as further evidence that the police service had reached a new low point. Coupled with budget cuts that have already led to a reduction in police numbers, looming changes to officers’ pay and conditions, and the continuing prospect that aspects of policing a ripe for privatisation it seems reasonable to suggest that the policeman’s lot is not a happy one and that 2012 has been an especially fraught year for the police service.

After reading a number of doom-laden newspaper pieces along these lines it was by odd coincidence that – while clearing out a relative’s attic – I came across an old Ladybird Easy Reading Book, from a series called ‘People at Work’, entitled: ‘The Policeman’. The style and content of the book will be readily familiar to many people over the age of 40; highly didactic in tone it is a part of a series that explains to children the function of key workers. Others in the collection include ‘The Fireman’, ‘The Nurse’, and ‘The Builder’: indicative of its age the series includes books explaining the role of ‘The Miner’ and ‘The Pottery Makers’. Accompanied by watercolour illustrations the book outlines the nature of the role of the policeman. Clearly the book is aimed at a young audience and a critical edge is not to be expected.  Certainly none is found; the reader is told that ‘the policeman on his beat is always willing to help children across the road’, ‘he will only use his truncheon if he is attacked’ and, reassuringly, that ‘in end detectives usually find the criminals’.

Anyone seeking to understand the cultural context of the Golden Age of British Policing would do well to start with this short volume. Curiously it was published in 1962: a convenient half-century before the apparent annus horribilis that has recently ended. It presents an image of the police officer, and the relation of the police to the public, that is as rosy and comforting as contemporary journalistic perspectives tarnish and disturb. The date of publication is also interesting, of course, as it was the year in which the Royal Commission on Policing published its findings. The Commission report instigated, among other things, the 1964 Police Act and is often seen as the starting point for contemporary policing. The key point is, though, that the Royal Commission was established following a prolonged period of concern about police corruption and accountability, officer remuneration, and perceived inefficiency. Between 1952 and 1965 seven chief constables were subject to corruption inquiries – and in two cases were subsequently imprisoned. Tensions between local watch committees, Chief Constables and the Home Office called into question arrangements for police accountability and various controversies erupted over apparent use of excessive force by police officers. These coupled with concerns over the policing of public order events such as the urban riots in Nottingham and in London, and political protests such as the CND Aldermaston march. The idyllic representation of the Ladybird book may have been highly unrealistic – even in the Golden Age.

Although more recent scandals and allegations need to be taken seriously, their potential impact is not easy to discern. A key obstacle continues to be the myth of the Golden Age: a settled past when the police officer enjoyed the automatic and unquestioning confidence of the public. Judged against that standard then the contemporary police service is clearly found wanting. Crucially, though, many the issues properly of concern in the 21st century also applied to the boys in blue depicted in the dusty Ladybird book in front of me. This is not to suggest that nothing changes, that history simply repeats itself or that nothing can be done to tackle contemporary problems. However, a more realistic historical perspective on the state of policing, which recognises that relations with the public have often been strained, would be a useful corrective to current debates.


Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities

Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: a demonstration of the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS) (ESRC and JISC)

Dr. Matthew Williams, Dr. William Housely, Mr. Adam Edwards, School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University.
Dr. Pete Burnap, Prof. Omer Rana, Prof. Nick Avis, School of Computer Science and Informatics, Cardiff University.

How has the rapid and widespread uptake of social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube created new ways for people to interact and to share information? What are the benefits and risks of using social media for civil society and what are the new challenges for agencies responsible for safeguarding the public?  These are some of the questions that we are addressing in our recently funded ESRC/JISC project “Digital Social Research Tools, Tension Indicators and Safer Communities: a demonstration of the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS)”.

 The most senior prosecutor in England and Wales recently stated that “Social media is raising difficult issues of principle, which have to be confronted not only by prosecutors, but also by others including the police, the courts and service providers.” (BBC, 2012).  There is little doubt that certain behaviours that manifest on social media networks have become of concern for policing. In 2011 several networks were implicated in playing a part in political demonstrations and riots, and subsequent HMIC reports have called for the expansion of the police diet to include the word on the ‘cyber street’ in the anticipation of future public disorder.

 Tension indicators or ‘community monitoring systems’ have been developed by police services for the purposes of anticipatory governance to provide early warning of civil unrest and its escalation into major instances of collective violence. Hitherto this community monitoring has been terrestrial, premised on qualitative intelligence from front-line police officers and other ‘sentinels’ such as watch committees, residents and tenants associations, local media and criminal justice data, including records of court proceedings. We argue that the development of digital social research tools, particularly for mining social media, can make a major contribution to the indication of ‘online’ tensions in anticipation of major civil unrest.

 Existing research has framed the issue of tension indicators and community safety in ‘panoptic’ terms, reflecting the interests of public authorities in enhancing their surveillance powers for monitoring populations of interest. In this project we propose the counter-argument that social media analysis and other Web2.0 mobile technologies give rise to ‘synoptic’ power for the many to watch the few.  With over 97 percent of the public owning mobile phones in 2009, and just under half of these using smartphone functions in 2011 (Dutton & Blank 2011), an opportunity has arisen for the reversal of the traditional power-dialectic, affording synoptic power to the masses.  Even the socially excluded and disenfranchised can yield this power with the advent of smartphones on cheaper pay-as-you-go services.  The Metropolitan Police Commissioner in 2011 stated that ‘the game [of policing public order] has changed’ referring to the short-notice or no-notice events, swift changes in protest tactics and the ability of protesters to collect video evidence of police behaviour and upload it instantaneously to the internet, all facilitated by social media networking (HMIC 2011: 3). These technologies are allowing citizens to better hold public authorities, such as police forces, to account for their actions. Opportunities for investigating rival accounts of civil unrest, in particular through accessing the sentiments expressed by those directly involved, are also opened up by the widespread mobile use of Web2.0 technologies such as Twitter.

 Our project, a joint venture between social scientists and computer scientists at Cardiff University, is developing the Cardiff Online Social Media Observatory (COSMOS): a software platform that facilities the ethical harvesting, storage, analysis and visualization of social media data.  The ‘social media tension monitoring engine’ module of COSMOS affords users (e.g. academics, law enforcement, local government, civil society) with the ability to monitor social media data streams for signs of high tension which can be analysed in order to identify deviations from the ‘norm’ (levels of cohesion/low tension).  This analysis can be overlaid onto curated (e.g. ONS neighbourhood statistics, the Vulnerable Localities Index etc.), media reports (via RSS feeds) and crime rate data to provide a multi-dimensional picture of the ‘terrestrial’ and ‘cyber’ street generating what we term ‘Neighbourhood Informatics’.  Neighbourhood Informatics will afford users to gain a more detailed and triangulated multi-layered picture of populations and their actions, perceptions and sentiments.