The manner in which chief constables are being investigated is shaking confidence in the ranks, says Peter Neyroud.
Police leadership never seems to be out of the news at the moment. This week, following the end of this yearâ€™s Strategic Command Course, we have Irene Curtisâ€™ trenchant and well-spoken comments on the need to continue reforming the culture in policing. These came on top of Doreen Lawrenceâ€™s timely reminder to remain focused on the issues of race and diversity.
In the same seven days, events in Lincolnshire have continued to be uncomfortable. Neil Rhodes is not the only chief constable suspended and awaiting the outcome of an investigation that follows on from the IPCC forming a judgement that there was nothing worthy of their interest in the allegations put to them. Stuart Hyde has already been waiting an unacceptably long time for the resolution of his situation. In neither case do the officers concerned seem to have had the benefit of reasonable disclosure of the allegations nor, in the case of Lincolnshire, has the Police and Crime Panel, which is supposed to scrutinise such suspensions, had sight of them. Having listened to the less than impressive blusterings of the Lincolnshire PCC in his local media, we can only hope that Sir Peter Fahy can make a quicker job of sorting the case out than has been done so far in Cumbria.
These issues matter hugely not just for the public, who must be bewildered by what is going on, and for the individuals involved, whose personal and professional reputations are on the line, but also for the future of police leadership. Having recently taught a session on the High Potential Development Scheme, it would be foolish to underestimate the impact that these recent developments are having on the current generation of fast track candidates for future leadership. They were already well versed in the challenges that Irene Curtis and Doreen Lawrence have set out, but the sight of so many of their chiefs being treated with such apparent disdain is a new dimension to add to the potent cocktail of direct entry and severe cuts to senior management posts. From the ground, in sergeant and inspector posts, looking up, both the prospects for and desirability of the top posts must be waning.
Problems at senior level are not confined to these shores as a recent scandal in one of the USAâ€™s largest law enforcement agencies have shown. If anything, as a long-term member of the US Police Executive Research Forum, which represents the chiefs of the largest agencies, it is apparent to me that the proximity of elected officials to the operational decisions in policing requires a much greater set of checks and counter balances than we have put in place in the UK. The Police and Crime Panels, with a few honourable exceptions, seem to be toothless tigers.
The new world of policing also needs a significant, long term investment in the development of future chiefs, not quick fix schemes to shunt a few businessmen and under-employed soldiers into middle management with minimal training. That will neither assist with Irene and Doreenâ€™s challenge nor provide the operationally credible leadership that the service and the public would trust with our safety.
From Police Oracle