DCC Fitzpatrick’s Blog on the first Senior Leadership Forum

Local Policing Blog 10/06/2016

In today’s blog, DCC Fitzpatrick reflects on last week’s first Senior Leadership Forum.

“I’m typing this blog from my office at the Police Scotland College, looking out at some new recruits taking part in a training role-play.  From my window I can see in their faces that every one of those officers is focused on the incident playing out in front of them, and on what it means to take the lead in dealing with it.  Of course they are learning how to put the law and their police powers into practice, but they are also learning how to develop their skills as leaders in the communities they will serve, stepping forward when others step back.  As they start their careers I find myself wondering what new challenges and trends will they face as society changes?  How will we need to mature and modernise policing to address those issues?  How can we ensure we keep local needs, collaboration and public confidence at the heart of what we do?  What shift in our culture and skills will we need to ensure we can keep improving our service within our budget?

Last week we held the very first of our new Senior Leadership Forums here at the Police Scotland College.  Around 160 of our most senior police staff and police officer colleagues came together with the Force Executive to discuss the challenges and opportunities for policing in Scotland over the next five years.  People were invited to sign up for the event, and it was so over-subscribed that the Leadership and Development Team who organised the day, led brilliantly by Angela Terry, were concerned they wouldn’t be able to fit enough tables and chairs into the assembly hall.  From the very start, there was a huge amount of energy in the room and I can honestly say that commitment and enthusiasm was evident right through to the very end of the day.

At the start of the Forum the Chief Constable set out Police Scotland’s four key pillars of excellence in service and protection for the public:

•Protecting the public

•Localism and serving diverse communities

•Culture and performance, and

•Creating a sustainable operating model.

His challenge to us was simple: as the Force’s senior leaders, what are the key issues that we will need to address over the next few years to deliver excellence in service and protection through those four themes?

As you’ll see from my photo of the assembly hall, the discussion was focused and enthusiastic, and the value of bringing together people from across different parts of the country and different parts of the organisation became clear very quickly.  There were so many individual perspectives on how to build on the strengths we already have, and so much respect for the different challenges colleagues face and the different contributions they make to serving our communities.  Dipping in to the discussions around the tables, I felt really proud to work with leaders of such commitment and quality.

After drawing the various themes of the morning together and getting some obligatory flip charts up around the walls, we moved on in the afternoon to talk about the leadership challenge of creating the right performance culture for the next phase of Police Scotland.  All those who spoke during the Forum acknowledged how much has been achieved to ensure that our approaches to tackling great harms such as domestic abuse, sexual crime, organised crime and alcohol-based violence are now much more consistent across the country and among the best in the world.  The Chief was clear that every member of Police Scotland should take great pride in those achievements but there was also a real desire from those taking part in the Forum to develop better links between our performance and our culture, based on our values.  We agreed that we need to understand the demands placed on our people and on our services much better than we currently do, and that we need in the future to focus more on achieving better outcomes with our partners for the communities and people we serve, tailored to their local needs.

We also agreed that it is our responsibility, individually and collectively, to ensure that our discussions at the first Senior Leaders Forum spread beyond that room and that day – and turn into action.  Already, some of my divisional commander colleagues are setting up local leaders forums to engage their people in these challenges, and I’m sure more will do so.  We also have the benefit of the engagement work rolling out locally to build on the Staff Survey, through which we can encourage people to influence the next steps we take.

So, I started with the new recruits I could see from my window, training to develop their skills as leaders in the communities they will go on to serve.  I feel very strongly that in building the four pillars for the next phase of policing in Scotland we have a real responsibility to give them, and all our colleagues, the best possible chance to do their best and achieve their potential.  If we don’t, the public will not get the excellence in service and protection they deserve.  If we do, I hope those new recruits will complete their policing careers feeling as positively as does a sergeant on one of our local community teams who emailed me after reading my last blog.  That sergeant will shortly be retiring after 30 years police service and 20 years in the rank and I’d like to give him the last word: “I enjoy my job as much today, as at any time in my career. Just ask my Area Commander. Community Policing, engaging with the public, getting out there, being part of something worthwhile and meaningful, being an example to younger officers, continues to provide me with the greatest satisfaction that is difficult to convey here, in the written medium.”

“I doubt we’ll ever get to perfection (!) but the journey and discovery along the way to it, continues to be an exhilarating one…”.