A Way to Prevent Police Bashing

Another LinkedIn post by an activist criticising the Police. Arguably with merit, but I sometimes wonder.

The whole world knows what is wrong with the police. They know what is wrong because they’ve seen it on the telly. They know police have been lazy with an investigation because Gibbs’ NCIS team have the ability to press a button and get an amalgamation of phone records, bank records, driving licence records and DNA results all on the screen at once. Just after the incident. They know they’ve been lazy because every case has a team of 5 working on it and they can detect it in a day. They know real cops are incompetent because the Blue Bloods family can get a criminal to confess based on a cheeky fib. And although there’s usually a huge pile of paper on their desks – no paperwork is ever seen being done or moaned about. Just like real life.

What they don’t know is that it takes days to get a routine DNA identification. It takes as much as two weeks to get bank records. and they don’t all arrive in the same digitally-convenient format. We don’t have huge plasma computer screens on the wall. And oddly enough, we know that a confession based on a  lie is inadmissible in court – just as it is in the USA, but don’t let stupidity get in the way of a good plot, eh? And the one-page file I’d submit in 1986 for a minor public order offence is now a ream.

And the final kicker – we do not ever, ever have one case to deal with at a time. Even if we are focused on ‘one’, all our other work is building up in our absence.

Which is why police officers make mistakes. Not mistakes of intent, but mistakes of prioritisation. Bear with me.

When you have a million things to do (okay, I can exaggerate, too) there is a tendency to try and avoid adding to the list. This results in looking at incidents and exploring why we shouldn’t be dealing with it, instead of investigating why we should. Human nature. This tendency is underpinned by the mindset of policing which unconsciously defaults into making everything Urgent even when it isn’t Important.

I know that’s a subjective assessment and two people will see things differently. But it’s still true. Admin want their bit of paper NOW while you’re trying to find a vulnerable misper, and deferring either will create problems. So what do you do – you try to manage work by avoiding what you can.

Mistakes are therefore made in those assessments. And the response is usually disciplinary action, civil suits, bad press, and so on. That’s trying to cure the acute problems without addressing the chronic issues that lie behind them.

Lack of input on how to manage your work. (Vested interest but you KNOW I am right.) Not just on how you manage it, but how the organisation creates it without thought and passes the demands down to the busiest people. I’ve often been bewildered how many ‘partnerships’ mean ‘doing work for our partners because THEY are busy’. And how easily the top echelons, albeit with positive intent, go along with it.

“New Policy!” shouts the Home Office. “We’ll do that,” says Chiefy at conference. Who then says, “Organise that, Super.” Who then says, “Set up an operation, Inspector.” Who assembles the sergeants and enlightens them as to their new project. Who then add that stuff to the work their teams are already coping with – if they are coping at all. Because you can’t say ‘No’, upwards.

The very least we can do is help the front line by managing expectations, both within and outside the organisation. Taking on new stuff? Get rid of some of the old.

The next, possibly more appropriate step is to teach people – by training and by demonstration – that there will be enough time available for what needs to be done, and that they will be given that time. That the default Urgency Mindset is now an Importance Mindset – and not every Urgency is Important. And not every Important thing is Urgent, either. You. Have. Time.

The responsibility of the front line will then be on executing good time management practice, and on helping their managers by telling them what they are doing, how they will do it, and what they need in order to do it. Mistakes will start to dissipate.

This has been argued for twenty years and still awaits implementation.

How about it, Boss?

Published by policetimemanagement

30 year policing veteran and time management authority. Now I've combined the two.

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