It’s been a few weeks since I updated you all. A great deal is going on!
First, you will have seen we have begun promotion processes for chief inspectors and superintendents. We have opened both processes to officers in other forces. This is not because we lack talent or don’t value the people here! I do intend us to continue to progress as the best force in the country and I intend to attract the best talent for senior roles. We are also not diverse enough in senior ranks and a good mix of new people in these roles bring in new ideas. It is also exactly what happens with police staff. This is not the plan with Inspectors and Sergeants where there is a wide choice and a high number of staff qualified although we will explore both fast track and direct entry Inspector schemes this year. The new senior leaders will be posted for the start of the first set of WMP2020 changes in November as will the next phase of sergeant promotions.
Last week the force’s senior leaders and I reviewed the plans for transition state one in November. I was hugely impressed with the plans I saw and lots of excitement across senior leaders.
It is worth remembering November is not the end of change but a start. The current LPU based way of working is not sustainable with our reduced numbers. The move to new Force Response, Force Support and a move towards Force Investigations reduces some of the inefficiencies of 10 operating units. The new Integrated Offender Management and neighbourhood policing units will strengthen a focus on demand reduction. This will be coordinated and tasked by a new 24/7 Coordination and Tasking Centre (CTaC) supported by real team Intelligence staff.
Can I use an analogy for the first transition of change? It is like buying a new home. The house is a better place to live, now and for the future. To start with not every room will be how we see it being in the future. There are only so many things you can do at once. Over time we will invest a bit more in different parts to make it the way we really want it but we know this is the right place to live and we cope with the changes even though the old place was familiar and comfortable. Like any move there will be a few challenges with the unpacking!
The plan for the first change transition is ambitious and offers a better way forward for the force. The ambition is also shown by the pace of supporting work. We are aiming to complete a roll out of smart phones to Force Support and Response staff by the 28 November and soon after to neighbourhood roles.
I am convinced the operating arrangements we are discussing are an exciting step forward to a modern West Midlands Police that is ever stronger at preventing crime, protecting the public and helping those in need. A real 24/7 organisation driven by an agile use of intelligence with prevention at its heart. I believe in the plans and have confidence for the future. It’s a good house!
As for the removal issues and the challenges living in it on day one:
Let us be honest we still have more vacancies than I would want at this point. We can now stabilise our workforce and sustain recruiting but this is taking a bit longer than we would like. We are recruiting transferees, we are using the associates scheme to bring in skilled staff, and we need to work to ensure staff are in work and have limited absence with our well-being plans. The Executive Team are monitoring this and we may need to make some adjustments as we are also trying to build the Firearms capability at the same time.
A large proportion of the force is physically relocating at a similar time. We begin the repopulation of Lloyd House in October which offers a fantastic new working environment for about a tenth of the force. Walsall neighbourhood policing units and other NPUs also move into the new and exciting Bloxwich station. This building is a real pathfinder for what our future police buildings will look like. Hot desking and open plan offices are also up and running in the two new custody suites. There is also a great deal of other change with the roll out of agile working to office based staff and mobility to operational staff. Support departments from Corporate Asset Management (Estates, Fleet etc), IT & Digital, Shared Services, HR and people are flat out!
Finally and critically whilst I think there is a good understanding of where you will be working and how your own area changes we need to spend more time in the next two months understanding how all parts of the force fit together and operate in harmony. Back to the house analogy some familiar home comforts have changed but the potential is worth it.
Now is a critical time for all leaders. Just as we have set out in the People Deal and the leadership promise, you are here to be an organisational advocate, so leaders have a personal responsibility to understand these changes and communicate them. We need real attentiveness to glitches and challenges faced by staff and help people adapt to new ways of working. Most of all we need to keep a strong vision and focus on the goals we are aiming towards with a can do attitude.
Most of all. We are making the changes not to cope but because we have ambition to deliver significantly improved services for those we serve. The old shape of the force just does not have that potential for the present and the future.