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Mentoring: a career pathfinder

A former Staffordshire superintendent will be one of the mentors on a new scheme aimed at helping officers from under-represented groups achieve their potential in the service. He tells Gary Mason how mentoring influenced his own career
Published - 24/09/2020 By - Gary Mason

Throughout his long policing career Ricky Fields has sat on promotion boards on both sides of the table as an applicant and a board member.

“I don’t think any process is infallible,” he says. “But you turn up on the day and hopefully give your best performance and you need to remember it is a competitive process. We have all gone through disappointments in our careers but I can say that the boards I failed made me come back stronger.”     

But it shouldn’t be a lottery and if you are lucky enough to have had some good mentoring or professional help at key points in your career it can give you the edge you need.

Ricky, who retired from Staffordshire Police in April this year after 30 years’ service having risen to the rank of superintendent, pinpoints a key experience in his own career.

In 2010 he was successful getting onto the Releasing of Potential Programme for BAME chief inspectors at Bramshill (the former police staff college) with 11 other BAME candidates from forces around the country.

It was designed to assist BAME chief inspectors with the potential to reach more senior ranks within the service and was a real eye-opener he says.

“That was the first time in my career that I had sat with other BAME officers from all over the country. Without a shadow of a doubt it provided me with the platform to progress further.”

The course is no longer going - it was scrapped when the Home Office withdrew funding during the austerity policing era – but produced no less than seven BAME assistant chief constables.

He says the course provided BAME officers with the opportunity to share their professional experiences and importantly all those on the course went on to be role models in their home forces as their careers progressed.

Having left the service Ricky is now going to be a mentor for a new mentoring scheme for BAME and other under-represented officers around the country set up by the Red Snapper Group which owns Police Oracle (see below).

The goals of the RSG scheme and the Bramshill course are similar in providing a mentoring programme for officers from under-represented groups who display leadership potential.

 “This isn’t about positive discrimination,” he says. “It is about giving people extra support but with the understanding that candidates still need to be good at their jobs. You are not getting an extra leg up for not performing.”

Since he first joined Staffordshire Police in 1990 Ricky was lucky enough to have experienced mentoring in both its official and unofficial forms.

He admits when he was younger policing was not a vocation for him at all and he fell into the job by pure chance.

The son of an army officer and educated at boarding school, he had just graduated and was a member of what he calls a number of nomadic cricket clubs when Staffordshire Police’s own cricket side toured Germany where the Fields family were based at the time due to his father’s military role. 

At a cricketing lunch his father and a touring Staffordshire chief inspector (who went on to become its chief constable) decided it would be a very good idea if young Ricky joined the force.

When he joined he was one of about half a dozen other BAME officers in total. Burton-on-Trent had the largest BAME population in the force and in those days the policy was if you were a BAME officer you would automatically be posted to that part of Staffordshire.

“In hindsight I would say I had no connection with Staffordshire or the community there,” he says. “So for me to go there as a BAME officer was challenging. Having been brought up in a military environment it just seemed a bit strange.”  

He says he didn’t face any overt racism or hostility from his colleagues but experienced more opposition from sections of the local community –

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