We were joined by Chief Richard Smith from the USA, the Vice President of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), and Cyprus Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou. Both talked about their policing challenges. There are differences between our policing models but whether it be tackling terrorism, handling the interplay between policing and politics or working to build police legitimacy, we have much in common and there are opportunities to learn from each other.
Terrorism and security were at the top of our agenda. Our lead for counter terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley, talked to us about the threat, which is becoming more diverse. The evidence is pointing to the increased tempo of terrorist activity as a shift rather than spike – we can no longer regard individual terror attacks as part of some short-term surge. Our specialist counterterrorist units provide the cornerstone of our response, not the whole building. That means we have to ensure that the whole of policing is playing its part in fighting terrorism, with neighbourhood police officers building relationships with communities and gathering vital intelligence.
We then discussed the role of armed police in responding to terror attacks. Colleagues emphasised the importance of continuing to be a routinely unarmed service which adheres to the principle of minimal use of force. But in light of the increasing threat of terrorism, we need to review our ability to protect the public and protect our officers and staff. Colleagues agreed to a review of the level of armed response we can provide to incidents which will examine, amongst other issues, the number of armed officers, the availability of armed response vehicles and the deployment of CEDs.
We also supported work being undertaken by the College of Policing to explore how suitably trained probationers and Specials could carry Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs). The Home Secretary would have to approve any such decision.
Alex Marshall, the outgoing CEO of the College of Policing, made the case for investing in professional development. While colleagues are generally supportive of the Police Education Qualifications Framework there were concerns about the impact on forces and whether the implementation plans for all newly appointed superintendents or chief officers to have a masters degree by 2022 were achievable. It was clear that there are emerging plans in many forces to introduce higher level apprenticeships as a route into policing.
We also need to ensure we get the best people from diverse backgrounds into the top jobs in policing. Asssitant Commissioner Helen Ball, currently at the College of Policing, discussed her recent review of the assessment and training of chief officers. Work to encourage underrepresented groups to apply had led to 97 per cent of those approached they saying they would consider applying when they previously wouldn’t. Really good news that shows that reaching out to talented people works.
Investing in our people isn’t just about developing their professional skills, it’s about supporting them to deal with the pressures, strains and sometimes trauma that is part of the job. Representatives from both the Superintendents’ Association and Police Federation gave presentations on the recent personal resilience surveys they’ve done with their members. Their surveys showed that officers are battling with increasing demands and pressures which can have a detrimental effect on their health and work-life balance. Amongst other suggestions, the Police Superintendents’ Association recommended that every force should have a system for accurately recording and monitoring hours while ensuring that sufficient training is available along with annual health checks. The Police Federation asked for all chiefs to attend workshops to discuss possible ways forward. There was commitment across the board to work with the staff associations to deal with issues and much appreciation for the thorough data they had provided.