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Police Chiefs' Blog: CC Sara Thornton - Chief Constables' Council April 2017

13 Apr 2017

For our April meeting we travelled to Durham with a focus on reform and welcomed two guests; Dame Vera Baird, Chair of the APCC and Commissioner Erik Akerboom of the Netherlands Police, to speak to us about their organisations.

Dame Vera gave a positive update on the work that we are doing together on police reform and transformation. There was a strong emphasis on more joint working and we were given an insight into the portfolio structure of the APCC. This was the first time that the chair of the APCC had attended Chief Constables Council and we had a good debate with Dame Vera which colleagues found highly valuable. 

Commissioner Erik Akerboom, the Head of the Netherlands Police also attended with Frank Paauw who is the Chief of Police for Rotterdam.  They gave an interesting overview of the structural changes in the Netherlands Police which is now one force. He explained how they have, through local mayors and their local Chief Crown Prosecutors, preserved important local links.  The Chief of Rotterdam described how he was part of one organisation in terms of technology, human resources or uniform but was very much working with the Mayor and the Chief Crown Prosecutor in Rotterdam.

The attack on Westminster was at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Mark Rowley was able to give chiefs’ a detailed operational briefing on the attack and two-minute silence was observed to pay our respects to those who lost their lives. We were all devastated by the loss of our brave colleague PC Keith Palmer as he went about his duties.

Specialist capabilities was high on our agenda with presentations from all the leads on firearms, surveillance, technical surveillance, roads policing and major investigation. Colleagues were supportive of the proposals to network these specialist capabilities across forces. In effect, this means that we are agreeing to share high-end capabilities so that we can be both more effective and more efficient.

We discussed proposals for five options around the transformation of forensics which were increasingly more collaborative.  Colleagues discussed this at some length and most forces and regions were in support of the most collaborated approach.  This option not only provided the opportunity to be more efficient and effective but it was also the one that most adequately dealt with the very real problem of standardisation within forensic science, an issue which has been a concern to the forensic regulator. 

Modern slavery and the associated crimes are a major challenge for all of us, but there is a strong commitment to tackle these issues and prevent harm and suffering. There was a joint presentation by Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer and the National Crime Agency on the uplift in resources nationally since the Police Transformation Fund Bid was agreed last year.  It was clear that progress has been made in this area and work will continue to keep up with the threat.

At our council meeting in October we had commissioned the development of a national strategy to raise the standards of all forces in preventing police officers abusing their powers for sexual gain. Chief Constable Stephen Watson gave us an update on the strategy and this was agreed by chiefs. We are all committed to high standards of behaviour and taking robust action against those who fall short of these standards. There is no place in policing for this type of conduct.

Chiefs also supported the need to do more work on the balance between performance and misconduct, to look at how to further embed organisational learning and the need to develop a culture of learning rather than a culture of blame.  This has followed on from the work we began with Matthew Syed and the focus is very much on ‘Learning Leaders’. Chiefs acknowledged that if we are to make progress on developing a learning culture then we need to involve the staff associations and bodies such as IPCC and HMIC.

We closed council with a discussion about possible changes to chief officer recruitment following a recent letter from the Home Office. Chiefs agreed on the importance of proper consultation on this matter and the need for a sound understanding of the rationale for this proposal. In particular, it would represent a significant constitutional shift from the current arrangement of a Police and Crime Commissioner elected by the public holding to account the operational leader of the force and relying on him or her for their professional expertise.