In the last few weeks there has been a great deal of internal and external discussion on diversity in the force. The Birmingham Mail/Live article on promotions, Ali Layne Smith’s blog and the Diversity and Inclusion discussions at the Lead2Achieve events. I suspect there will be further external coverage on a recent input at Force Leadership Conference on the concept of “whiteness” where senior leaders heard from a leading academic about how ingrained certain norms are in our society. It was a challenging input designed to encourage senior leaders to reflect how we work and what we can do to make a fairer and more inclusive force.
We are strengthening our diversity and inclusion work because West Midlands Police does not treat everyone fairly. We are not representative of the communities we face and underrepresented groups often have a different experience working in the force and in receiving our services. A more representative force creates legitimacy, more diversity of thought and ultimately a better police service.
Our Dignity at Work policy reflects the clear expectation that everyone at WMP should be able to be themselves, be treated respectfully and not treat others disrespectfully. Working in policing is tough and we should never make it tougher for each other.
The recent diversity roadshows have been to enable you to discuss this case for change. We have listened to the conversation and appreciate there is much to do particularly in relation to raising the awareness of positive action; what it is and why we use it. We will be addressing this issue with further activity in the new year. We were however very pleased to hear the positive views of many colleagues from all backgrounds who understand and support what we are doing. Each of your departments are preparing plans for how they will improve our approach to diversity and inclusion.
These plans will lead to set commitments at a force level. I want everyone to be a believer in this agenda, but I accept not everyone will be. I do however pay people to be leaders and now having had our conversation we are going to get on with acting in line with our values: “I challenge unreasonable and discriminatory behaviour” and “I want to work in a diverse team”.
It is important to set the tone of this challenge. Yes there will be cases where behaviour is so unacceptable disciplinary action should follow. I expect any decent human being should understand where this line is.
In the main challenge and challenging conversations are good and will help us to learn. One of these areas has been the approach to booking on to assessment centres. Let me start by saying that I think we have created a very fair assessment process. This has involved hard work by POD. We have tried to be open to allowing access to the centres which at this stage has created a very large pool of candidates to manage. Positive Action is important in this work ahead of assessment.
I do however feel the recent Chief Inspectors’ process needed to be challenged. An authentic desire to address under-representation did create a risk of disadvantage to officers who had the ability to book a centre constrained. I do not think this was fair and that’s why the centres are cancelled and we will debrief the review of the process and set out the assessment centre and booking timetable in the new year.
In making these challenges it is important to demonstrate most people in WMP are trying to do the right thing and that while we may have a different view we are respectful to each other.
Newsbeat enables you to express your views on important issues the force is addressing. I like to hear that voice and some brilliant points have been made and we want to expand this facility as we develop the intranet.
I also ought to say some of the voices have been less than professional, respectful or even at an adult level.
My response to this is not to close down the debate. I am pleased to see so many of you choose to put comments in your own names and not anonymously. Debate is good. I recognise that in a very hierarchical organisation some people are learning how to be heard. I guess I would reflect that even senior leaders are real people with feelings.
I also would observe a tone from some commentators that I think we can see at times in the force. People sometimes appear to speak differently to police staff and female staff than they do to male police officers.
We have discussed diversity and inclusion at the Lead2Achieve events where we have brought together the core leadership of frontline services in West Midlands Police. I have enjoyed these sessions and I hope participants have too. We have been discussing with front line leaders how they ensure their teams have clear purpose, (not remits!), so that people know what is expected of them, how the team is doing and how we celebrate good work. We have launched with them 100 Little Things which is our improvement and ideas programme which we will explain this week in Newsbeat so you understand what your sergeant or staff leader is discussing with you when you are back at work.
One area we discussed at these events were rumours in the force. FSU is a hot topic at present. So… more details will follow but FSU – you are staying but with some changes!
Finally – the 80 point plan – three weeks in and we have seen an improvement again thanks to your efforts. Response times for P1s and P2s are down and robbery detections are up. The figures represent extremely hard work throughout the force and a significant achievement within a very short period of time. Good work and let’s keep going.