New chief says College needs to simplify its offerCEO Mike Cunningham speaks to Police Oracle about his hopes for developing better connections between officers and the College of Policing
"We need to be simpler and we need to be clearer, that means establishing in very clear unequivocal terms on one side of a piece of paper what our priorities are."
Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, recently sworn back in as an officer following a spell with HMIC, has taken over as chief executive of the College of Policing.
In the role for a matter of weeks, he is still examining what needs to be done but is sure that the organisation needs to spell out "our purpose and our priorities".
He told Police Oracle: "At the moment I think the College has nearly become a jack-of-all-trades, something which will hoover up anything to be done and that's unsustainable.
"Instinctively many people know what we're here to do around setting standards, leadership development, it's around equipping officers with the skills to do the jobs.
"The other thing that tends to happen is we get focused on big but controversial issues like direct entry or the education qualifications framework and actually, as important as they are, they're not the sole business of the College. We need to make sure the other stuff the College is doing gets the recognition it requires."
An evaluation of direct entry will be presented to parliament next year and the first forces will take on apprentices in a few months time.
Yet the contradiction between simplifying the organisation and promoting the many things it does, emerges as the former Staffordshire chief sets out his stall.
One of the College's last apparent attempts to define what it would do was the 2015 leadership review which ran to 23 pages, contained 10 recommendations and set out numerous new tasks for itself, including reviewing all policing ranks and developing new leadership training.
Within those, even more ideas, like allowing specials to supervise regulars, also appeared.
But CC Cunningham says he will look at what the College can do less of, and his ultimate aim, he says, is to establish a genuine connection with the rank-and-file.
"In other professions people wear their professional membership as a badge of honour. We're not there yet with the College of Policing but that's where I'd like to be.
"I would love for officers and staff working in busy operational environments to refer very naturally to the College of Policing and feel a sense of pride that it's something that they're members of."
He says he wants to support officers and staff in dealing with the many issues they face in their roles, and is visiting forces to speak to those in frontline jobs as well as other chief constables.
Police Oracle's reporter put it to him that in other professions the government doesn't often give directives to the professional body, such as implementing direct entry. Does that make his role more difficult?
"I see it as part of the balance that I have to strike. I have to be independent but we are what's called an arm's length body of the Home Office, so of course it would be remiss of me to ignore what the government are saying.
"Having said that, when push comes to shove I have to be able to uphold my own values and the values of the College of Policing and the interests of policing, and that requires me to have an independent voice. I think frontline officers and chief constables would expect that of me.
"I have a relationship with government, I have a relationship with chief constables, I have a relationship with PCCs. It's a complicated landscape, and that makes life very interesting, but I don't think it fetters my ability to put improvements in place where I think it needs it."
CC Cunningham on membership
Numbers: "We're ahead of where we thought we'd be. We've got 25,000 members, that's fine that's a healthy number though it's nowhere near the totality pf policing. But[…] I wouldn't want to be heading up an organisation that had 25,000, or 100,000 passive, resistant, reluctant members, I want to be the head of an organisation with a number who are engaged, receptive, who appreciate the offer, have a stake and a voice in the College."
Fees: "It's not in my thinking, I have no plans for it, I'm not working that up. It's not an issue for us. I can't say that will never happen because I simply don't know, but I have absolutely no plans for payment for membership, it's not being prepared for."
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