When I attest our new recruits I always give the same speech. I draw your attention to one section:
Expect to be tested. You will see the absolute worst of humanity and a cruelty to others that will break your heart. So, make sure you are seen as the best of people in this role. You will be the rescuers of many at their darkest times. Don’t judge those you serve. So many of them lack the opportunity you have had. Your friendship and service to those in need is unconditional. Never become jaded or think the public are not behind you. The British Public are in their character reserved and silent in their quiet support. Saving thanks for the big moments but always knowing you stand between them and the dark.
Last week the IOPC published Operation Hotton into misconduct by Metropolitan Police Officers at Charing Cross Police station. I am sure like me you were horrified by the language and content of the report and I thought of the section from my speech.
Policing is an incredibly challenging profession. People join with the desire to make a difference and be a protector of the vulnerable. As you begin your police life you will face violence and see the worst of society. You often have to face extreme danger and then turn immediately to offer compassion and empathy. You are drawn close to colleagues as a unit to face danger and confront fear which can develop strong bonds. You face a level of trauma and challenge only exceeded by war. We can be defensive when criticised as people outside policing do not always understand our world. Most of us manage to achieve and sustain the high ideals we joined with but some fail under this pressure.
This extreme environment requires strong values-driven leadership that values inclusion and diversity.
You know we value this strongly at West Midlands Police. We see it frequently on display but we all need to do more to improve public trust and confidence.
Policing cannot keep sustaining hits like Hotton. I have never known a period where the moral character of policing is under such scrutiny. This is not because policing overall has failed or got worse; in so many ways it is so much better. However, expectations are rightly higher and social media is providing a forum for the contemptibles that should be long banished from our offices and briefing rooms.
This is not simply a Met issue as we have seen some disappointing examples here and elsewhere. We all have an obligation to ensure the police are seen as the best of people who are accountable for their actions.
Not only does this require people to be not racist or sexist etc.. but to be actively anti-racist and anti- sexist. People who behave like they have in Operation Hotton should not find like minded souls amongst colleagues but should be called out and removed from policing.
As you can imagine we will be having another look at our position and advice on messaging apps and groups. More will follow from the DCC on this. In the meantime, if we care about the badge of the Crown that we wear none of us can be bystanders whether online, off duty, in the office or out on the streets.
Finally, we are again running Operation Maximise to continue to enhance our policing outcomes. I am encouraged by quite a lot of what I see. We are measuring lots of our performance against the year 2019/20 as it was the year before the pandemic. We now have a 17 per cent reduction in burglary and a seven per cent reduction in robbery but we have more work to do on reducing vehicle crime, which has really picked up this year.
I am encouraged around reducing Serious Violence and after seeing several years of increases, levels of hospital admissions for under 25s with sharp object wounding are reducing to levels we saw in 2016. I have also been encouraged by the work on sexual offences with last month seeing the highest outcome rate for rape in two years.
The reduction in key crime outcomes we saw on the run into and immediately after Connect are starting to increase back to a more normal level. Some of the impact of enhanced Crime Data Standards and Connect changes will shortly work themselves out of the rolling year.
Let’s keep making in-roads so we get ourselves in the strongest position as we go in to the summer!