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Police “command and control’ vs ‘HR culture’

  • January 21st, 2011

The following came to me prompted by Wednesday's post on the PWC report on the Police. I'd describe the source in journalistic terms as "authoritative". 


It is long, too  long for the attention span of most of us. I started to edit it down, but to understand the cynicism that is corroding the performance and integrity of our Police, you should see this anguish as it comes.



        "A 'complaint' is made.   Often this consists of little or no evidence and simply some innuendo.   


The new EPM (an HR personage called an "Employment Manager") now assumes that the Code of Conduct (foist upon all because of the move to an employment relations regime) requires 'an investigation’.  Of course it doesn't, it simply requires him to determine whether there is any evidence of performance shortcoming or misconduct.    If there is, he can start some sort of investigation if it truly merits some sort of action.   However, commonly there is no regard to whether there is sufficient 'evidence' or a threshold of material justifying the instigation of an inquiry.   Instead, the EPM has been conditioned to believe that because the complaint has been made 'the Department' has determined that this person is to be 'dealt to'.   An inquiry is launched.


From where I sit even if the minority of these instances had some 'very minor issue' we would be hard pushed to construe a performance issue at all.   Instead, the majority, far from having strong and compelling issues were, quite to the contrary, COMPLETELY DEVOID OF EVIDENCE!!   But (now 3 years into the new regime whereby ostensibly managers all understand the 'case for change' and the urgency for implementing the principles of the employment relations regime) we see a system more than happy to advance very serious punitive steps on the basis of absolutely nothing!!!  


Think about it.   You receive a formal notice that accuses you of things you know never happened.  You are also given a notice of stand down.   Effectively you are suspended.   Some are required to stay at home, deliver up their identity cards, phones, are told they may not enter any Police premises and that they are forbidden to socialise or communicate with any Police member.   If you have well over 30 years of high quality and unblemished service – why the hell should you be faced with this??


Without going any    further into it, I know that the present hierarchy are on notice of their shortcomings, are committed to maintaining their present course, are happy to maintain a long (and fine) history of witch hunts and if anything, are grateful for the new verbiage and 'tools' that enable them to manufacture and present 'evidence' that will assist them deftly to their goals.


There is no 'bell curve' of behaviour in this.   If any such bell curve is found to exist on these matters, it would beggar belief.   However, I suspect the bell curve is non-existent and that we have a wholly perverse graph (whatever shape it might prove to be).


On one level the PWC report, touches on key issues that need to be addressed.   It relies on John Kotter's theory of change management but it’s heavy on jargon and platitudes.    In the absence of hard data, it has had to create possible solutions and in one breath it castigates the present hierarchy for not performing and showing enough urgency and in the next, it points out that not everything can be done at once and the steps should be measured.   Most Police will not have a clue how to 'translate' the jargon into meaningful KPIs.    Certainly there is no guide as to how to develop the coherent and simply worded 'story' that is plainly required to communicate an effective strategy  to the masses.


What is missed in all this, is that the present (and new) HR regime can report that it has dealt with various 'non-performers' and 'reactionaries' (apply whatever label you like).   Certainly those people exist in the Department with some abundance however, the uniform pattern in those I know who have suffered its attention, has been of genuine, caring, hardworking and dedicated people.   However, once the Dept applies this 'label' to them, they become 'the enemy.'  


The present ‘change’ imperative requires urgent and definitive steps by District and Area Commanders.    They are happy to 'deal' to these people on the basis of 'the evidence' put before them.    In turn, that 'evidence' comprises lies, innuendo, hearsay which has simply been groomed by the EPM (or similar) to make it look half credible.    Such 'new leaders' aren't to sully themselves with the minutiae of the actual facts and issues and instead, can rely upon the newly hired specialists from outside the Department!    


Indeed, soon after Dame Margaret's report hit the desk, the Police hierarchy went into a form of shock.    It is to be remembered that there were some pretty old school types round the table and none of them wanted to get into the 'warm fuzzies' surrounding 'this PC bullshit'.   Notions of 'good faith' were quite foreign to them and no one would have put their hands up to suddenly train and learn about what precisely had to be done.   Better to be seen to move quickly and to hire experts from outside.  


In comes a former unionist.    That sounds like a good CV and better, he proves to be bombastic, 'in your face' and a 'real non-nonsense' sort of fellow.   That suited the hierarchy, hell he was 'almost one of us.'    Newcomer hires various 'specialists' from outside the department and soon has a whole fiefdom stretching throughout the districts.    Anything remotely smacking of HR work, has to be thrust into this new unit.    Indeed, they are insistent . They can now interfere in operational decision making to an alarming degree.  With operational Police not understanding where the lines are to be drawn between ‘policing’ and ‘HR’, they acquiesce.  


The new unit embarks on various inquiries but soon shows itself to be inept.   First they have little regard to so called employment principles.  Second, they have no understanding whatsoever as to the existing Police culture with the effect that many older, very wise and effective Police officers are labelled 'reactionaries', of the 'old school' and are sidelined and undermined.   Their real world experience is lost to the Dept.  Third, they know little about investigation or even the very law they are charged with implementing.    Lots of paper and systems are thrust around and much training is done but as the PWC report shows (see the table towards the end of the paper) the general performance of this area amounts to a clusterfuck.  


What both PWC and the Dept have missed is that with every witch hunt, there will be 30 people who directly and slightly removed, can see the injustice for what it is.    The culture was so entrenched when I arrived in the early 70s that people took the monthly witch hunt in their stride.    Everyone would talk about 'who was under the knife' with gay abandon.   It was the hot topic at morning tea, lunch dinner, drinks whatever.   It was happening so often, there was always something to talk about!!   The problem was that with every proven and clear injustice (and even where perhaps there was an inquiry with justification) the folklore became more and more rigidly entrenched to the effect that 'the hierarchy couldn't give a shit about you and will burn you down, any time it suits them.'    This was not simply perception, it was cold hard fact.     Therefore, because it was actually based on solid fact, the bedrock of folklore gavie rise to very solid and clear perceptions as to the leadership’s real objectives and to all the related issues.  


There remains rock-solid perceptions that there is an ‘us and them' regime.    Worse, many perceive little chance of a 'fair deal', that they (bosses) will lie and cheat and connive, to cover up their own shortcomings, to lay blame elsewhere or just to 'get' someone they don't happen to like.


The problem:  very little has changed.    Right at the moment, there needs to be a full survey done of all disgruntled officers for the period since the Bazley report began to be implemented.   There will be hundreds.    Only then will the complete absurdity of expecting cultural change within the present framework, be seen for what it is.   Under the old witch hunt regime, everyone knew what it was – 'a witch hunt'.   Under the new 'change management' regime, everyone sees it for what it is, 'a witch hunt with a nice new facade.'


Today, as with yesterday, when those close to the action see an injustice, they tell their neighbour.    40 people know by lunch and by tomorrow, about 2-300.  In a big Police District 1000 could know by the weekend. Only by then, the stereotypical veneers have been added to further underscore the validity of the existing folklore.    Every injustice involves a demonstrated lack of integrity.  Every lack of integrity adds to the layers of bedrock constituting the present culture. 


 PWC reports will be 'nice'. They may generate them a lot of fees over 10 years. They will result in a huge amount of 'running around' by leaders who really don't see the problem for what it is, but mostly, it will be pissing into the wind!"     

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