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Chief will release officers from 'tick box mentality'

Northumbria Chief Constable Steve Ashman wants to scrap some of the bureaucracy that comes with the job.
Published - 16/02/2017 By - Martin Buhagiar - Police Oracle

A chief constable plans to release sergeants from their desks and move away from what he calls a “tick box mentality”.

Northumbria Chief Constable Steve Ashman says the current system where “sergeants sit in front of a computer and check the checking of the checkers” is “nonsense”.

He plans to arm frontline operational sergeants with laptops enabling them to access incident data away from police stations so they can work remotely.

CC Ashman told Police Oracle: “You can put a lot of barriers in place in policing and a lot of constraints. For example, we are looking at something that will remove the strict requirement for sergeants to supervise every single crime that comes through.

“Why? Because it is not adding any value at all and we should start trusting PCs.  With the training and development we have given them, they are well-paid individuals who can do their jobs on most occasions.

“If you free them up, the sergeant is free to do his or her job and focus their supervisory effort where it is needed most likes complex crimes or with officers who are struggling. You cannot do that if you have got to supervise every single theft or burglary.”

Earlier this week Police Oracle reported on CC Ashman’s plans to look beyond Northumbria’s borders when promoting because forces can “stagnate” if they do not recruit from outside.

He also spoke of his eagerness to see senior officers leading rather than simply checking or being “supervisory managers”. It is a forward thinking move brought about by a determination on CC Ashman’s part to allow officers to do their jobs - and also the harsh reality of extreme budget cuts.

 “I want us to get away from that tick box mentality when it comes to policing. What we want to say is ‘you have actually got to get out there and lead’ even though we are the hardest hit in terms of funding,” he says.

“We receive the lowest amount of money in terms of our total budget from the public by way of our tax precept by a mile.

“Therefore we are the force most reliant on the government’s grant in this country. So, when that grant is cut we are the worst hit – that is a reality for me and us as a force.  

“We are squeezing and squeezing and squeezing and if we carry on working like we have in the past it just won’t work.”

Such cuts financially – while never welcome – could bring about a cultural change many officers would surely relish.

“There is a tick box mentally,” says CC Ashman. “For example, with property lists, the sergeant will supervise the PCs and then the inspectors will supervise the sergeants’ supervision and then you will have a remote team who will do the checking of the inspectors – it is nonsense. What we want to do is to say actually you have to get out lead.

“We have actually come to the realisation that we have got to fundamentally reengineer the way we do front line policing. We have got sergeants whose daily job it is to sit in front of a computer and check the checking of the checkers and it is nonsense. 

“So whether it is looking at our resource management system and some of the bureaucracy associated and scrapping all of that. Whether it is looking at property lists and a slavish adherence to that, we will be looking at all of that. Whether it is the requirement to supervise every crime that comes in - we are going to scrap all of that too.”

The system would work with officers, particularly sergeants, being given the choice of where to focus their efforts and with more responsibility and more work away from their desks.

CC Ashman adds: “We will say you choose where your effort is needed most and to the best effect because we trust you otherwise we would not have made you a sergeant.

“Now you need to get off your backside and get out there and lead which is what they signed up to do. We, the leadership of the service, certainly here in Northumbria, have made it impossible for them to leave the station in the past so I want to address that now.

“You cannot cut it all loose – they will have laptops, certainly frontline operational sergeants will, so they can access incident data outside the station without having to come back.

”But we will trust them to get out and get on with their jobs to the best of their ability.”

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