The business to be in – in Abu Dhabi

This blog was originally posted in July 2012

What do they say about mad dogs and Englishmen?  Well a few days ago I decided to take a short stroll from my hotel in Abu Dhabi, the Holiday Inn, down to Mushriff Mall. This is about a 30 minute walk along a straight road. I left the hotel at about 10 am and I estimate the temperature to have been in the mid-30s C.   Within a short space of time I felt the temperature rise a few degrees, but I determined to press on.  After all it wasn’t too far!

The title of this blog is ‘The business to be in in Abu Dhabi’ has been chosen for good reason.  Throughout the 15 months that I have been coming here I am always been amazed at how well maintained and how lush the roadsides and central reservations are.   The pictures show green grass, not the thick rye grass that you get in some hot places, but a fine grass, plenty of flowers and palm trees laden with dates held in net to prevent them falling to the floor and being damaged.  So how does a country with a summer temperature the reaches 50 degrees manage to keep everything so green?

Well there are two answers.  The main answer is thousands of miles of thin plastic pip ing that carries water to the road side throughout the Emirate.  Close inspection of one of the pictures shows the piping and the plant that the water feeds.  The second answer is that teams of maintenance men can be seen tending the flora ; trimming, planting, preparing the ground.  Even in the 30 odd degree heat I passed two teams of men trimming the branches of the trees.  

Abu Dhabi has many construction large construction sites and I passed three major sites on the way to the Mall.  It seems that even during building the greenery is still maintained to provide a pleasant foreground to the cranes and trucks.  

I recently delivered training in the ‘garden city’ of Al Ain which is about an hour and a half drive though the dessert.  Throughout the journey trees and grass lined the road side and again the central reservation was festooned with well-maintained flowers and shrubs and miles and miles of plastic piping could be seen.

So I am in the process of finding out who provides the miles of plastic piping with a view to investing in the company.  As Abu Dhabi continues to spread across the desert the will be a requirement to produce and deliver enough piping to reach the moon and back.  Someone must be making a lot on money somewhere!

Miles of piping watering trees and grass
 Miles of piping watering trees and grass
Dates hanging from the trees in the central reservation
 Dates hanging from the trees in the central reservation
Lush grass that is well manicured
 Lush grass that is well manicured

Travelling in Al Ain, UAE

This blog was originally posted in February 2012

Despite the fact that Abu Dhabi is one of the hottest places in the world it is surprising how green and lush the city and surrounding areas are.  This is in no doubt due to the extensive system of pipes and sprinklers that spray recycled or desalinated water on the verges and gardens.  The gardens along the Corniche area of Abu Dhabu, especially in the area in front of the Sheraton Khalidiya are especially lovely with their manicured lawns and fountains.  It is perhaps for this reason that weekends in the ‘spring’ see many families enjoying a picnic on the grass.  I say spring because the temperatures are a nice low to mid 20 degree C rather than the fierce and humid 45 degree C last summer.

The last two days have seen gale force winds howling around the buildings of Abu Dhabi creating a cacophony of strange whistles and shrieks.  At one point I was convinced that there was a hovercraft moored outside my hotel for a full morning before I realised it was the wind bouncing off the tall buildings. As the day went on visibility dropped and the skyscrapers in the distance vanished in a haze of dust and sand.  The cars were covered in sand and there was grit in the air.  The gale continued for a second day and as I travel to the garden city of Al Ain the sand from the dunes is blowing across the road and gathering in piles on one side much the way that snow does.  Visibility is down to less than a mile and the car is being buffeted from side to side as an especially strong gust broadsides us.

The desert along the side of the road consists of small scrub bushes for about 200 metres and then there are dunes of sand that stretch on for miles.  On the right a line of pylons and electricity cables stretch into the distance following the line of the road and the contour of the land. Service stations appear every so often many with a Mosque at the side to enable the people to pray as they travel.  I cannot recall ever seeing a church at a service station in the UK.  About 53 kilometres from Al Ain the geography changes as trees line the side of the highway and palm trees grow in the central reservation fed by kilometres of thin plastic tubing. 

Al Ain itself bears little comparison to Abu Dhabi despite its proximity.  It is an hour and a half drive through the desert on a straight four-lane highway.  The city itself has the odd oasis and is also quite a lush area.  It has a mountain on one side that has a track up the side, but the rest is fairly flat. It has the usual mix of malls, shops and hotels, but the pace of life does seem to be a bit sower and it is definitely a little cooler and fresher.  There are fewer taxis on the road and one driver told me that the lack of tourists meant that they made less money.  Al Ain is not what you would call a typical tourist destination, but it does have a character of itself and seems to be growing up to match its reputation.

The majority of the people that I have spoken to speak of a fondness for Al Ain and they are complimentary of the policing here.  Having recently visited Towaya Park, an area that last year was covered in graffiti, broken seats and an unguarded fountain, I found a lovely park that was extremely clean and tidy.  No graffiti.  No broken seats and a nice fence around the fountain.

I can see why people like it here.  There is serenity, even in the shopping malls!  It is an area that I look forward to visiting again soon.

A mural celebrating National Day
 A mural celebrating National Day
Nicely tended lawns
 Nicely tended lawns
Clear instructions in English and Arabic
 Clear instructions in English and Arabic
Benches for families to use
 Benches for families to use
Giving instructions to users of the park
 Giving instructions to users of the park

Bratton – the return of the Chosen One?

This blog was originally posted in December 2013

I read today that former Commissioner of the New York Police, Bill Bratton,  is to return and take up his old role once again.  Bratton is associated with a highly politicised term in office, often falling out with Mayor Guiliani during a period where there was a significant drop in crime.  The reason for the drop in crime will depend upon who you talk to; some say it is because of increased police numbers, some say it’s because of an aggressive zero tolerance style of policing and others say that the CompStat system of interrogating District Commanders ‘encouraged’ them to focus on the crimes being measured.

Politically speaking this made Bratton a prime candidate for the role of Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in London.  The British Government took a long hard look at Bratton, who also had academic support in some quarters, before deciding to give the job to Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. 

In the years that Bratton has been away the landscape of policing, in the UK especially, has changed.  We are seeing a move away from the culture of chasing targets and an increase in front line discretion, both of which were key elements of his previous regime.  So it will be interesting to see whether he adopts a different tack, especially as the outgoing Commissioner seems to have done an equally good job of reducing crime and preventing terror attacks. 

On being appointed, Bratton is reported to have said that his first duty will be “to bring police and community together. … It must be done fairly, compassionately and consistently.”  This is one the back of concerns relating to the use of stop-and-frisk tactics. 

The newly elected Mayor has stressed he will try to continue the city’s record public safety gains while improving police-community relations, which he said he believes have been strained by the police tactic known as stop-and-frisk. The tactic allows police to stop anyone believed to be acting suspiciously. Its supporters say it has driven down crime while its critics say it unfairly targets black and Latino men.  A similar tactic that was introduced in the UK post McPherson inquiry.  On each occasion that a person was asked to account for their themselves   a ‘stop and account’ form had to be completed.  This was found to be very time consuming and bureaucratic and for this reason the requirement to complete a requisite form was withdrawn in 2011.  

However, Bratton, a Boston native, has said he supports the proper use of the tactic. According to a study by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government police stops surged 49% during his time in Los Angeles, A federal judge ruled over the summer that the NYPD sometimes carried out its stops unconstitutionally by unfairly targeting minorities. Her ruling is on hold pending an appeal by the city.

This poses an interesting problem for Bratton who supports a tactic that appears to unfairly target minority communities.  UK policing is moving towards a programme of ‘using’ communities as social capital and enabling them to take some level of responsibility for policing their issues themselves.  The importance of engaging communities and building relationships rather than disaffecting them is becoming a key aspect of UK policing and I wonder whether Bratton will recognise the value of this and follow suit?

Time will tell whether Bratton has learned new ideas since his time in New York, or whether he will revert to type and use targets, public CompStat meetings and a lack of front line discretion.

I am indebted to information provided by in the preparation of this blog.

Are you telling or listening to your community?

The following blog was published in July 2013 and was written in collaboration with Susan Ritchie and is based upon the work that we have been doing in relation to enabling the police to ‘listen’ to communities.  Further blogs are available to view at  I encourage you to take a read.

The last few weeks have seen some very troubling headlines for the police which raises questions about their legitimacy and the confidence that the public have in their ability to keep them safe.  Despite much work being done to address the ‘confidence’ issue over the years, we know that there is more crime taking place than police can realistically respond to, and that communities are becoming increasingly reluctant to report.

Our social norms and acceptance levels relating to ‘criminality’ are changing and communities often feel misunderstood.   The necessity to engage effectively with the communities they serve is more important now than ever before, yet 34 years ago John Alderson (former Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall Police) warned:

“If the police cannot relate [to communities], save as an occupying force, the potential for misunderstanding and lack of cooperation is considerable and this can turn to hostility.”
(Policing Freedom, 1979)

But we can go further back than that – to the founding father of the modern police service, Sir Robert Peel.   As the Peelian Principles state:

“Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.”

It has been well documented that the link between the police and the public has been lost in recent years as police have focused on performance targets and reputational issues, rather than closing the gap which was emerging between the police and the public.   Too often the police think about community engagement as an opportunity to pass on, or request, information, which is the very basic element of Sherry Arnstein’s well-known Ladder of Participation (1969, A Ladder of Citizen Participation).  Rather than ‘engaging’ and understanding and listening to the community their activity tends to be focused on ‘telling’.   Communication is of course, an important part of the police working with communities but engaging communities effectively has the potential to solve the ‘wicked’ and seemingly intractable problems that they grapple with on a daily basis.

Over the years organisations have become preoccupied with definitions – engagement, involvement, consultation, participation etc., but to solve the problems that they are facing they need to engage in a:

“dynamic process of dialogue between individuals or groups, based upon a genuine exchange of views, with the objective of influencing decisions, policies or programmes of action…”

(The Consultation Institute)

What’s interesting is that this quote defines consultation – a term which has become trivialised and almost passé in the language of public sector engagement.  The obsession with terminology and language has missed the point.  What the police and their partners should be doing is focusing on the key words in definition above – dynamic, dialogue, genuine, influence.  Telling the public they are safe and shouldn’t feel unsafe (the old debate about reality and perceptions of crime levels) is not engagement.  Telling the public that they should come forward with information is not engagement.  Telling the public about the range of services they might access is not engagement.  Telling them to protect their property is not engagement.  Telling them that crime is down is not engagement if we focus on those four key words.

The key issue is the engaging of views with the objective of LISTENING AND INFLUENCING.  How often do the police actually enable communities to have a voice and influence police activity?

As a former police Superintendent Andrew had strategic responsibility for neighbourhood policing, confidence, satisfaction and diversity.  He was convinced that all of the events, meetings and ceremonies that developed were ‘community engagement.’  On reflection, and as a result of the work that MutualGain has been conducting in Manchester, he can see that they were more akin to community communication.

The trigger that shifted his thinking was the ‘what next?’ question.   The police arrange a meeting and ‘tell’ people what they are doing, but rarely ‘genuinely’ ask about their experiences and perceptions, and neither do they work with them to understand their behaviours outside of a police perspective.    The ‘what happens next?’ question is the challenge for police forces everywhere.  By telling people to behave differently or by telling them that the police are doing a great job we somehow think they will believe us and change their behaviours and perceptions accordingly.   This is where the confusion for the police arises.  The reality is that people cope with life in various ways and the influence that police have on their lives is often miniscule (unless a crisis emerges).

The police need to converse differently using alternative methods of engagement and start to build a new and different relationship with those who we serve.  In short, they need a paradigm shift. How are they to understand the changing social norms of the public they serve if they don’t start to listen better?

Police/Community Engagement – It’s time to get it right

Originally posted February 2014

The last few weeks can, at best, be described as ‘difficult’ for the police.  Issues such as the Metropolitan Police (and the IPCC) apologising to the family of Mark Duggan, the Metropolitan Police (again), Lord Stevens and Chief HMIC admitting to crime figures being ‘fiddled’ and Tom Winsor (again) alleging in The Times (18.01.14) that there are ‘no go areas’ for the police; areas where ‘law abiding’ citizens who were “born under other skies” administer their own form of justice.  

The themes running through these issues include honesty, trust, legitimacy and the ‘C’ word; confidence.  The fact that the Metropolitan Police have stated that they intend to appoint a ‘senior officer’ to ‘head up’ community engagement in the capital has been met with concern by some and derision by others.  Professor Simon Holdaway hit the nail on the head when he responded to the news of the pending appointment with the following comment on Twitter “For how many years has it been recognised that community engagement is central to policing – 25+?”

Professor Holdaway is of course correct.  Along with a colleague from MutualGain ( I am in the process of completing a paper outlining the fact that despite the fact that community engagement has consistently been identified as central to policing, over time three issues have emerged.  First, community engagement truly becomes a focus during times of crisis; second, what the police view as community engagement is often something else and third the police are not, and have never been trained in techniques or methods of community engagement.

Taking the first issue, at times of crisis senior officers will often call upon their ‘community relations’ or similar department to contact influential members of community and pass on key messages.  Or they will plan engagement events at which senior staff ‘tell’ those attending how they are working at a local level to address the situation.  Think about the activity to engage communities following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, or the murder of Rhys Jones or the riots of 2011 or the headlines post the Coroners verdict in relation to Mark Duggan.  While all this activity is commendable, the fact is that once the crisis is over, and matters return to ‘normal’ the emphasis on maintaining that relationship with communities diminishes.  New crises emerge, or performance against targets has to be addressed diverting the police attention from the community engagement, or their interpretation of it.  This has not been helped by the austerity measures undertaken by some police forces.  In a number of forces the first cuts came in the area of community relations or citizen focus.  And yet, ask yourself how often you have seen a senior officer on the TV asking for information relating to a serious crime?  Then ask yourself ‘could there come a time when the relationship with a community is so strong that after a shooting incident involving criminal gangs, the community come forward without having to be asked? ‘ 

The second issue is that the police do not engage with communities in the manner prescribed by their own policies.  In 2012 the NPIA helpfully defined community engagement as being “The process of enabling the participation of citizens and communities in policing at their chosen level, ranging from providing information and reassurance, to empowering them to identify and implement solutions to local problems and influence strategic priorities and decisions. The police, citizens, and communities must have the willingness, capacity and opportunity to participate. The police service and partner organisations must have a responsibility to engage and, unless there is a justifiable reason, the presumption is that they must respond to community input.”  The key issue here is that the police will do leaflet drops and will hold community ‘tell’ events, but how often do they ‘empower communities’ by building social capital and using the assets that exist within communities?  I think the answer to that is ‘rarely.’  

Along with a colleague I recently attended a gala event in a large force.  A series of senior officers were lined up ready to ‘tell’ communities about rates of crime and the activity being undertaken to make them feel safe in that area.  The room was set up for 200 people; in the end nine people attended.  Of course this is not an isolated incident.  Attendance at PACT, or similar meetings, is inconsistent with the usual suspects attending to complain about the usual issues.  I recall speaking to a neighbourhood inspector in one force as he left a PACT meeting in a local church.  I asked how it had gone and his reply was ‘Lonely.  Been there for an hour and no one turned up.’  And yet there is a consistent belief that the community are interested and will come out to speak to the police and air their grievances.

This brings me to the third point.  Engaging communities is a fundamental part of the role of neighbourhood teams, and yet the training in how to do this is in need of review. According to Savage (2007) community engagement is not about a passive partnership between the regular police and the community; it is about the police taking the lead role in mobilising community resources to achieve goals of public safety and senses of security.  Alderson (1979) saw the community constable as being a ‘social diagnostician’; an agent for identifying and solving social problems.  Community engagement is a social science and should be taught as such during initial training and throughout the career of those engaged in policing neighbourhoods.   The training needs to instil the virtues of ‘listening’ to communities, being able to analyse what they are saying and enable them to participate in not only solving the issues, but preventing them from occurring in the first place.  

So, when the Metropolitan Police appoint their senior officer to ‘lead the way’, I encourage that person to learn from the lessons of past efforts to engaging communities.  There are ample numbers of academics and practitioners who have researched and written about the subject and can provide evidence of what works.  I would also encourage the person chosen to look outward as well as inward.  There are people who have an expertise in engaging communities and yes, that may cost money, but the rewards for getting it right and building firm foundations with communities rely on the right methods being used to engage them in the first place thereby providing a significant return on investment.

It is important that the police take this opportunity to get it right, enabling them to build relationships with minority ethnic communities in particular.  There is a great opportunity to build social capital, and break down barriers so that citizens do trust the police and will report crime instead of administering their own form of justice. 

Finding the balance: falling police numbers

Originally published in August 2013

This blog follows a Twitter exchange with Kent and Dyfed Powys Police Federations in relation the comments yesterday about the reduction in police numbers. The two key comments were: Kent Police federation –

 ‘We are fast becoming a “response” service with an ever-shrinking capability for proactive policing.’

 And from Dyfed Powis Police federation –

 ‘Therefore with less 2 deploy less chance of being effective and increased chance of merely responding to incidents.’

My response was that that is an old cliché and the police have to think about other ways of policing. Let me explain my thoughts.

 It is well documented that when Peel and his first two Commissioners established a full time police service in 1829 he determined that the main role of the police would be to prevent crime. In fact he 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).

 Throughout the period since 1829 the style of policing has changed with an emphasis on reactive and proactive styles coming and going. In the 1970s new technology in the shape of radios and cars had a hugely detrimental affect on policing (Reiner, 2010) as the police services became more accessible and they became the service of ‘last resort’. People called the police as they knew they would almost always come.

 The 1980s saw the police go through a very rich period. Funding was constantly increased as were resources, yet crime rose and detections dropped (Garland, 2001: Hopkins Burke, 2004). It was inevitable that at some point there was going to be a very clear focus on police funding and performance. Cue New Public Management, targets, performance indicators, Sheehy, Posen, all seen by the police as an ‘attack’ on the service.

 Then in 2010 Home Secretary Theresa May addressed an ACPO audience in Manchester and stated:

“So let me begin by saying this: I’m not interested in running the police……So I’m not going to presume to tell you how to do your job any more than I would tell a surgeon how to operate – or an engineer how to build a bridge. Professional policing means policing run by you, the professionals, not us, the politicians.” (May, 2010: Accessed 02.06.12)

There was an immediate outcry from policing that ‘we do more than that.’  But the vagaries of the UK police structure meant that this statement could have been interpreted 43 times by 43 Chief Constables. There were those who were aware that May’s statement gave them the opportunity to engage with communities as part of their crime reduction strategy. This is the comment from one Assistant Chief Constable (ACC) that I interviewed in 2010:

 “When she [Home Secretary] said that the main purpose was to reduce crime it doesn’t mean that we were there as crime fighters but what it means is that we have to look imaginatively about how we use our resources to be able to reduce the impact that crime has on our communities. And therefore while I may not sit here as a natural political ally of Theresa May, actually I find Theresa May’s comments to be helpful on the journey that [name of force] finds itself on.”

What this ACC (and others that I have spoken to) was referring to was the potential to engage with communities, increase levels of social capital and use the assets that exist within communities as part of the fight against crime. There is a significant amount of research that shows that increasing social capital reduces crime (see forthcoming ‘A functional shift: Building a new model of engagement’ Ritchie and Fisher (2014)  and ‘ Quo Vardis: A new direction for police leadership through community engagement?’ Fisher and Phillips(2014)), however, and here is the nub, the police do not get trained in how to engage with communities. By engage, I mean the use of the National Policing Improvement Agency’s (2012) definition. In fact I doubt that the majority of the police are aware of the NPIA paper.

 So, by ‘really’ engaging with communities (not football matches and fun days, or walking down the street and having a cup of tea – although all good things to do in their own right) and building social capital to empower communities by working with them, communities will start to take some level of responsibility for policing themselves. ‘Policing’ is referred to here as policing with a small ‘p’: where communities look out for each other in a positive way, and support each other to create new social norms. This may be low-level environmental issues such as addressing litter or graffiti, or more significantly ASB, Domestic Abuse etc., but these are the things that matter to communities and they are some of the ‘other things’ that the police often get charged with addressing. As networks grow and they see the positive outcomes of their activity, confidence and trust in policing grows and the demands on their services reduce. The community takes responsibility for some of those ‘we do other things’ and through their networks and with support they will start to build their social efficacy. Academics refer to the role of the police in this as ‘community leaders’ and ‘social diagnosticians’ they have a role, but their role diminishes as communities become empowered and confident.

 So, yes we do need police officers on the streets, but we need them to work and think differently. We need them to think about how they can access and use the assets that exist all around them to make their job easier and give them the space to reduce crime. The police need to invest in order to enable and give space for their own pro activity.

To make this happen two things need to be in place: visionary police leadership that is willing to try new ways of policing and a commitment to enable innovation to occur with communities. This is being tried and evaluated in at least two UK police forces at the moment. The results will prove interesting and may yet have an impact on how the police use their reducing resources in the future.

 The debate on Twitter started with the Kent Police federation stating: 

Policing is far more than just about reducing crime.’

I agree that it is, but that is what the Home Secretary has instructed the police to do, and as public servants that is what democracy requires them to do. But they have a choice as to how to do it. Using different ways of listening to the public will help the police to create new social norms whereby the citizens become the police and the police become the citizens. Now where have I heard that before?

Women in Policing – a historical view

This blog was originally published in November 2014

When the ‘new police’ were created in 1829 there was no place for women in the workplace.  It was a masculine domain and so it remained for many years. 

 Pressure for the introduction of women into policing came from two angles.  First from feminist organisations as part of their campaign to change the nature of society and carve out a political role for women and second from voluntary organisations active in rescue preventative work.

 The role of policewomen in those early days must have been very difficult.  Miss Lillian Wyles wrote of the ordeal of the first twenty five police woman when they first appeared on London streets in 1919. She ‘shuddered’ and ‘regretted her choice of career’ when she saw herself in the mirror clad in the ‘appalling’ uniform supplied and fitted by HARRODS! Now the uniform of a policewoman has not been without complaint, but I can’t recall uniform being provided by Harrods in the modern age.

 This first batch of policewomen ‘allowed’ to patrol the streets was drawn from shop assistants, laundresses, tram conductress, school mistresses, typists, nurses, and a few with university degrees but they faced downright malice and a vindictive spirit from men.

 They were required to patrol in pairs followed closely by two police men who were given orders not to let them out of their sight and go to their aid if they were in trouble. (Critchley, 1967). 

 Police woman were formed into a Police Women’s Section and were confined to dealing with missing children and other welfare centred issues.  Even the government of the time (1922) was unconvinced of the role of police women with Home Secretary, Sir Edward Short recommending the complete abolition of the women’s section across the Metropolitan Police.  His insistence was that their work was ‘welfare work, not police work proper.’  Short was persuaded to keep a section of 24 women constable attached to the Metropolitan Police.

 The First and Second world wars saw woman taking a greater role in policing in the absence of men who were at war.  Among the famous people who became police constables was Celia Johnson, the actress famous for the film Brief Encounter with Trevor Howard.

 The number of women police officers has risen slowly over the years. Brown (1997) stated that as the number of women in the police increases, the ratio moves towards a ‘tip over’ stage from minority to gender balance and it is at this stage that women may have the greatest impact on the nature of policing.  Yet by 1981 women accounted for 8.6% of total force establishment in England and Wales. This had risen to 13.2% by 1994 and by 2004 women still only accounted for 20% of officer strength.

 Rising to the top ranks of policing has taken longer still, and Merseyside Police played a significant role in this.  In 1983 Alison Halford became an Assistant Chief Constable in Merseyside.  Alison was the first woman to hold that rank in British police history and the first woman outside the Metropolitan Police to hold Chief Officer rank. 

 It took a further twelve years before a woman was appointed as a Chief Constable.  This was former Merseyside officer  Pauline Clare who in 1995 was became Chief Constable of Lancashire.

 Today there are many more female Chief Constables, eight in fact.  But eight out of forty three is still a significant minority. 

 Below is a time line of woman in policing and there are a number of historical pictures of woman in policing on my web site

1883 – Metropolitan Police began to employ a female visitor to visit women convicts on licence and under police supervision

1886 – A second visitor is appointed

1889 – Fourteen women employed as Police Matrons

1915 – Women’s Police Volunteers developed following the outbreak of war

1918 – Some forces incorporated Women Police Volunteers into the police force

1918 – Police orders set out the qualifications and conditions for the new ‘Metropolitan Police Womens Patrols’

1919 – A nucleus of 100 women police were attached to Metropolitan Police

1920s –  A committee reporting on the efficiency of women in the war recommended that police women be expanded across the country

1922 – Sir Edward Short (Home Secretary) states that Policemen’s wives could not do Women’s police work

1923 – women police officers were attested and given a power of arrest in Metropolitan Police

1927 – police women in the Metropolitan Police who married had to resign (this did not apply to those already married and remained in force until 1946)

1930 – Lillian Wyles becomes a detective in London dealing with cases involving children and woman

1935 – Police women first used at a state ceremony.  Theye were not allowed to march but were placed near to the Royal Box

1945 – First woman Assistant Inspector of Constabulary appointed (Miss B M Denis de Vitre)

1929 – Royal Commission on Powers and Procedure recommended that the ‘time is ripe for the substantial increase in their [police woman’s] numbers, more particularly in cities for patrol work in uniform’

1983 – Alison Halford becomes the first woman Assistant Chief Constable

1993 – Three female Deputy Chief Constables appointed

1995 – Pauline Clare becomes the female first Chief Constable

2014 – there are eight female Chief Constables

  1. Humberside – Justine Curran
  2. West Yorkshire – Dee Collins
  3. Suzette Davenport – Gloucestershire
  4. Jackie Cheer – Cleveland
  5. Collette Paul – Bedfordshire
  6. Sara Thornton – Thames Valley
  7. Lynn Owens – Surrey
  8. Sue Sim –  Northumbria

The Home Secretary v Police Federation 2014

Originally published June 2014.

Social media has been pretty hot following the Home Secretary’s speech to the Police Federation conference last week. Tweets and blogs have been flying about in both in support of the Home Secretary and against her. 

Interestingly, while enjoying a post cycle coffee at Eureka Cycling café (@Eureka_Cafe ) I was asked whether I was asked for my view about the Federation and the comments of the Home Secretary. My view was, and is this. The Home Secretary was right to preface her comments with the negative issues that the police are facing up to at the moment. They are the issues that are gaining coverage in the news and they are the issues that are of concern to the public as they are discussed in the cafes and bars.  The Home Secretary was right to question the Federation over the ‘reserves’ totaling almost £70 million. And, the Home Secretary was right to draw attention to the ‘number two’ accounts that they would not reveal details of.

So you may think that this brief conversation in a cycling café was fairly irrelevant, but the comments from my fellow cyclists boarded on outrage. ‘How on earth can the police complain about cuts when they have almost as much money as the banks stored away’ – was pretty representative of the comments.

This is somewhat covered by the new Chair of the police Federation Steve White in his piece in the Guardian on 30th May 2014 ( In the article it states “In his first interview since securing the post, White said his priorities were unifying the federation, and “rebuild[ing] the level of trust the police service has with the public”, which has been “so severely damaged” by national stories such as “Plebgate”, tales of bullying among officials and of secret bank accounts laden with tens of millions of pounds.” This was a refreshing statement that made me think, well, they are throwing themselves on their sword and have recognised the damage that has been done to public trust.

Compare that to the article in Police Oracle on 30th May 2014 by Dennis Weeks of the Metropolitan Police Federation ( There was no acknowledgement of the impact on public trust here, instead the author goes on to attack the government and apportion blame for most of the issues raised by the Home Secretary on senior officers or the government. Here is an example that relates to Plebgate – “The vexing point here is that the government has failed to take any responsibility whatsoever, despite it being one of their number who directly initiated the incident with an admission, at least, of using abusive language towards an officer at a time when officers were extremely bitter about their treatment over pay and conditions being eroded.” There is no mention of the officers dismissed for a variety of false accounts or the role of the Federation when speaking directly to Andrew Mitchell. 

Mr White on the other hand has a slightly more balanced view stating White said there had “absolutely not” been a plot against Mitchell and said the whole affair had “no winners”, with the reputation of the police service being the “biggest loser”, and added: “I don’t think there is anything right about this affair.”

Throwing mud to deflect the blame does not move away from the fact that the police are a ‘public service’ and as such are accountable to the people they have sworn to serve. The social contract that the police have with the public is a key feature of policing by consent and as such it is quite right that the public should have expectations of those who are supposed to be protecting them.

Fortunately this fact was not lost by many of those commenting on Mr Weeks’ article. Many tell the Federation to ‘stop moaning.’ In fact one comment from jackiow pretty much captures the feelings – “But most of her criticism of the Federation was fair, and there have been more than the usual amount of mistakes and corruption over the last few years. As good as our police are, the public are beginning to wonder , and it needed to be addressed. Take it on the chin like the rest of us.”

This was reflected in the statements in Eureka. The public are beginning to wonder. Mr White, who is spoken of as a reformer, again recognises the lack of trust and faith in the Federation stating, “We have been in a fairly dire place for 18 months … we were quite close to being irrelevant.” The Federation has a right to be relevant and to protect its members in an openly transparent manner that acknowledges the fact that many of them are serving police officers and as such are there to uphold the law and morals related to the tradition of British Policing first, and representing their members second.

Proactivity and fighting fires Cleveland Style

Originally published in June 2014

Dr Tim Brain (2013) challenges whether pro activity is sustainable during times of austerity. The point that he is making is that as public services are cut, something has to give and the opportunity to solve problems in a proactive fashion may be one of the prime candidates to hit the cutting room floor.

This may not be the case in all public services. Last week I visited Cleveland Fire Brigade who, like most public services, is having their budgets reduced by a significant figure. However, as a result of a sustained program of pro activity they are using this approach to reduce calls for service. During my visit I spoke to Les Jones, Head of Community Safety, Denise Lee, Community Engagement and Events Officer and Steve McCarten, District Manager for Hartlepool and Stockton.

For those who are not knowledgeable about Cleveland Fire Brigade, they have 419 whole time and 74 retained fire fighters, and 114 support staff, they cover an area of 597 square kilometres and they have the third highest number of Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) sites in Europe (they are the ones that if they go on fire they cause a BIG problem). The Brigade is now responding to under 8,000 incidents per year, an all-time low and half of what they responded to 10 years ago (Service Plan 2014-15). They are also members of The WOW! Awards and are multiple winners of national customer service awards.

However, it is perhaps their sustained youth engagement programme that is having the greatest impact. The Brigade has been working with young people and with the Princes Trust for some time in educating them about the dangers of fire, particularly fire in the home. As a result, Cleveland Fire Brigade did not attend a single house fire started by a young person in last 12 months. Bearing in mind the cost of such an incident by all emergency services; dowsing the fire, the subsequent investigation and any emergency treatment, I would say that is an impressive statistic.

But, their proactive work does not stop there. The work that the Brigade is undertaking with offenders is also impressive. As part of their community service, offenders from a nearby open prison work with the Brigade to cut fire breaks in the moorland that surrounds the area.

During hot summers and in windy conditions moorland fires pose a big threat to wild life, properties and communities. So the offenders cut fire breaks to enable the fire fighters control fires and keep them localised to a small area.

I was also told of a young man who was jailed for five years for his part in an armed robbery. As a result of working with the Princes Trust the young man was given the opportunity to work with the Brigade and start to learn new skills and behaviours that would enable him to contribute to society instead of taking from it. As a result, this young man went on to get a job with West Middlesbrough Trust.

These are only a few of the stories that I was told. The Fire Service nationally appears to be taking pro activity very seriously and is reducing the opportunities for people to be hurt in fires. This is good news for the public and demonstrates a clear strategy to ‘prevent’ fire instead of having to ‘respond’ to fire.