Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe
Just over two weeks after implementing some of the biggest changes to affect WMP in a long while it’s right that we take stock and ask how are things going. Be assured, we have been checking daily with the support of our change network, senior officers and the Federation but it is a good time to step back and check again. What’s going well and what issues do we need to address here and now?
Whilst I will specifically focus on the challenges and what we are doing about them, overall I am pleased with progress and proud of the work you have done to deliver such substantial change so smoothly. Our WMP2020 operating model is already enabling us to better deliver our vision of preventing crime, protecting the public and helping those in need. Our Contact teams have led the way in using THRIVE+ and the new grading framework to great effect.
Earlier this year we worked with you to shape our organisational values and we deliberately emphasised the values of friendship and helping those in need. It is important we cherish this as we grapple with the tough challenges.
It is apparent that our new model has surfaced and exposed existing problems. While it is challenging, it is also a great opportunity to really understand and get ahead of our demand. Calls to our contact centre are about the same as before TS1 and we have the same staff working for us. Moving to the new model has exposed where we used to collaborate unofficially and spread the load.
I know that the pressures facing Response are particularly challenging at the moment – and this is not going to go away given the time of year and the additional pressures that brings.
At the same time we have issued mobile devices to almost 1,000 officers (with another 2,000 due over the next few weeks) which has meant colleagues have been asked to provide cover – placing an additional burden and workload onto already busy colleagues.
These mobile devices are critical to what we are trying to achieve and I’ve had great feedback from officers who have been issued with devices. They will really help them do their jobs in lots of ways. As such, we are keen that this rollout goes ahead as quickly as we can reasonably cope with. We always knew it was going to be logistically tough but hopefully the benefit of having the devices outweighs the short term inconvenience. Once officers and staff have these devices we must ensure they help us deal with demand better.
So, what are we doing behind the scenes to address the pressures on Response? The officers who are currently in training will shortly be posted to LPUs to undertake supervised coached patrols and in January, 40 new recruits will join us. These are set to be posted to Response as soon as they complete their training. They will be supported by 30 transferees, currently at different stages of the recruitment process.
In the short term we are looking at other resourcing opportunities to ensure we have the right people in the right places in the right numbers within this function. This includes working through the challenges of duty restrictions to enable our staff to make a great contribution in a role that best fits their specific needs.
The Mission Support function is working really well alongside Response, Force Support, Operations and Contact to ensure resources are being flexed across our biggest threat, risk and harm in line with our new model. Our CTAC team have done a great job in dealing with overwhelming demand as everyone has grasped the opportunity to task Force Support. They need our support. We are working through everything that is clogging up their inbox and, already, we can see some ways to alleviate this pressure.
One of the exciting opportunities around 2020 is the chance for us to do things differently in a truly collaborative manner. Policing by its very nature has to adopt a ‘one team working together’ approach. As is the case with embedding any new way of working there have been examples where ‘it’s no longer my role” has crept into a number of decisions which has resulted in a lack of flexibility and pushing additional demand elsewhere. Our friendship value is as important internally as externally.
Our priority is protecting the public so it’s vital that we don’t adopt an entrenched, silo approach. While all the roles in the new model have their primary responsibilities, the overall core role of protecting the public remains at the heart of everything we do. This means we have to be capable and willing to flex as we need to in order to do the best job we can for the public and respond to force priorities. Using the model flexibly should not be interpreted as it not working. The design principles are sound and I’ve seen nothing to suggest otherwise.
I’m also conscious of growing pressures in our already stretched PPU and Investigation teams. Earlier this week the Executive team met with the PPU leadership team to better understand their concerns.
With good intentions, our stretched Contact and Response teams are prioritising P1-P2 incidents but P3 incidents are often being handed over to Investigation teams without the basics of a primary investigation being completed.
We need to be assured that our responding officers do everything they can to safeguard victims, secure evidence and initiate professional investigations. Where an arrest can be made we must make that arrest, before an outstanding suspect becomes an additional job for Force Support. We all know that addressing the issue at the first point of contact creates the best opportunity for a successful outcome for the public and doesn’t create additional work for others downstream. This is an approach we have always prided ourselves upon and there is no reason this should change in the new model. TS1 was designed to help us be more efficient and intervene sooner and, while we are stretched at the front end, we still expect every effort to start good investigations, secure evidence and make arrests, even when there is pressure to get to the next call.
We have always expected we would have some ‘pinch points’ around PPU however, given the PPU were already under enormous pressure prior to TS1 and given the vulnerability and sensitivities around this area of business, it’s critical that we get this right. Vulnerability is not just a PPU issue, it is a force wide responsibility. This is everybody’s job and is fully aligned to our vision and our values! We will continue to work with the neighborhood policing units and all our corporate departments to ensure we are clear on the role we all have to play in protecting our neighbourhoods’ from threat, risk and harm in line with our Intervention and Prevention agenda.
It’s human nature that we sometimes adopt the path of least resistance – but we need to be mindful of what this approach does to our colleagues. While we can walk away with a clear ‘in-box’, we are simply shifting the problem to someone else to deal with.
A lot of our challenges such as outstanding domestic abuse arrests, seasonal demand and restricted officers etc, are not new. The exposure of these perennial issues, while understandably difficult for those affected, gives us a great opportunity to address them properly with a much better understanding of the reality of our demand.
So far I’ve concentrated on some of the challenges we are facing but we shouldn’t lose sight of how much we’ve achieved over the last few weeks and the many benefits TS1 has brought us already.
Neighbourhood teams are saying they are being far more proactive and our initial investigations have been hugely successful to-date, with a huge reduction in officers having to attend appointments. There are many more set to follow. Prisoner handling teams are also proving successful, with more to come in the New Year.
We have continued confidence that the model has landed well but recognise we have some teething, bedding-in challenges. It may not feel great for everyone right now – but there is an awful lot of work going on to understand these challenges and strengthen the design at a force level, rather than providing short term fixes at local level which will have long term consequences.
On behalf of the Exec team, I want to thank you for your dedication and hard work especially during these challenging days and I wish you and your families a happy and enjoyable Christmas and New Year.