Blog 3 2021 – Daring to Share

Welcome to the third of my bimonthly one page blogs of this year which I publish in the hope they will stimulate thoughts and discussion without taking up too much of your busy time. Please feel free to contribute, challenge and share any comments and ideas about the points raised.


For those of you who were not aware, I had a sudden and unexpected diagnosis of stomach cancer following a routine stomach ulcer biopsy which as a dad of three children under seven and in his thirties felt catastrophic at that time. Although the survival rates for that form of cancer were not good it had not spread and I was otherwise fit, so strong enough to endure successfully the six cycles of chemotherapy I started this month in 2004 and eventually, the complete removal of my stomach.


The publication of the Five Trust Tests by PurpleSpace and the start of the Safe to Say campaign has caused me to reflect on the start of my disability journey seventeen years ago and the dichotomy I experienced as a police officer living with his ‘new normal’, wishing to fit in yet needing to adapt to a different life alongside the other 86% of those with disabilities who acquire their condition during their lifetime.


After a year of treatment and recovery I was able to return to work on light duties to the service I loved. I was lucky in that I did not require further medical treatment other than a quarterly injection for the rest of my life, but of course I still had to learn to adapt to the change in my body. To be honest it took around two years to get used to new ways of eating and drinking (a sandwich feels like it used to after a Sunday roast!) but it took around a further three years to work through the impact of what had happened, the new doubts about the future and mourning the physical loss of part of me. A digestive system with less capacity and efficiency combined with less stored energy inevitably leads to increased fatigue as well as constant borderline anaemia and dehydration. Unsurprisingly this can really affect my levels of concentration at times as well as other ways in which I think or speak, but I did not refer to myself as being ‘disabled’.


No one would have guessed from looking at me that I was disabled according to the Equality Act, and as with the many thousands of others with less-visible conditions (we do not ‘hide’ them) we want to fit in and ‘belong’ whilst being afforded compassion and support in order to thrive at work. My home force has come such a long way from then when disability was almost exclusively associated with illness and the potential for absence. I returned to work and a meeting with occupational health was only to agree my phased return to work plan with no discussion about how my life had changed. At times I was mocked when I needed to eat in long meetings and on the occasions when I started to experience crippling cramps around my back and abdomen I would pretend I was leaving to make an urgent call so I could pace an empty office somewhere for 45 minutes waiting for the pain to ease. One of the most disabling circumstances we experience is not feeling able to go to work as our authentic selves. I was lucky that a few individuals believed in me and encouraged me to become an active operational commander even during the many moments I continued to doubt my credibility and resilience…and still occasionally do.


At that time the force had an identified ‘Disability Champion’ whose primary interest was disability in the community and there was minimal knowledge or interest in ‘reasonable adjustments’ so I knew that being open as being ‘disabled’ could change how I might be perceived and treated – accepting that I hated that label and believed it could affect my future career, I needed to work as my true self. I also wished to play an active part in supporting others who had diverse abilities yet restricted by others who were distracted by what those colleagues were less able to do. This led to me becoming the Chair of our local network and eventually the national lead of our association, which is immense privilege. We have a way to go in terms of disability being valued as much as some other diverse characteristics and in some meetings I still have to push to make our voice heard, feeling at times like I am the wasp at the picnic! However, we are making progress.


The Five Trust Tests should be commended to all organisations and clearly sets out what it takes to secure the confidence of their staff , including active support for staff networks, so those who are mentally or physically different can dare to share their identity of living (not necessarily suffering) with those conditions (not necessarily illnesses). It takes more than identified champions, policies and campaigns to achieve that and forces will benefit from being seen to ‘walk the talk’ before those staff trust there is a psychologically safe environment within which they can bring their true selves to work and be supported to fulfil their potential. We have the opportunity to ensure others are now supported and included and I will certainly continue to play my part by laying a path for others.

Blog 2 2021 – Fit to Serve

Welcome to the second of my bimonthly one page blogs of this year which I publish in the hope they will stimulate thoughts and discussion without taking up too much of your busy time. Please feel free to contribute, challenge and share any comments and ideas about the points raised.

This time I will share some of my thoughts on the police fitness test, fitness in general and our service commitment to staff wellbeing. This has been the subject of much debate recently including the #WeCops discussion and the important gender perspectives raised by Team #BleepKind on Twitter. During my 27 years of police service I have experienced many positive changes, including the greater awareness and support for wellbeing at a local level and through Oscar Kilo. For many years prior to the introduction of the Job-Related Fitness Test (JRFT) and the Alternative Job-Related Fitness Test (AJRFT) the vast majority of police officers maintained their physical fitness through professional pride, however many including myself had not previously considered the importance of investing in our mental health.

In brief, the JRFT was introduced several years ago as a result of a national review. Anecdotal evidence from some Police Chiefs suggested that some forces were struggling to deliver operational policing due to a critical number of their officers not being ‘fully deployable’. It is incredibly important for the police service to be able to discharge its response and mobilisation responsibilities and I do not in any way suggest that a number of officers should be able to chase and restrain, particularly when they join, but I suggest we need to define accurately the actual deployable capacity required. I do not believe a comprehensive equality impact assessment was completed before these substantial changes to Police Regulations were enacted, as it would have identified the significant and disproportionate impact on those from certain protected groups, including those with long-term conditions that result in a substantial impact on their day-today-lives (disabilities).

The JRFT is a shuttle run between measured distances, requiring the individual to reach each line and turn back in time with an audible bleep which repeats sooner over time. The AJRFT provides the alternative of a treadmill which increases in gradient. There is a lot of technical information relating to the testing of the individual’s oxygen capacity and efficiency which I do not have the space to explain here, but officers are required to reach different levels and duration according to their general or specialist roles. All officers are required to pass the test once a year and if they fail several times they have previously faced the prospect of misconduct procedures or more recently Unsatisfactory Performance Procedures (UPP). Although not enforced to date this also permits a force to remove an ‘x factor’ or what is claimed to be an operational element (8%) of an officer’s salary and even exit them from the service under ‘capability dismissal’.

JRFT guidelines actually define the purpose of the test as being a Health and Safety requirement prior to taking part in Police Safety Training, which is the same core package for every officer irrespective of role – we need to consider how proportionate and necessary that is. The test is usually taken on the beginning of day one of the training and the consequences as a result of failure varies greatly across 43 forces. Some allow participation in First Aid training to continue, many send the officer away and others allow a senior officer to assess the specific circumstances of that individual, including any disabilities. Officers who have not shared previously details of their less obvious disability due to being fearful of how they might be treated if they did, have been ‘outed’ by the test and removed from operational duties even though they may be well-respected and effective members of their response teams. Some forces such as my home force have become more measured and supportive in their response to this, including considering reasonable adjustments – others have not.

I am very fortunate in that following the start of my life with a disability in 2005 I have always been able to pass the JRFT since its introduction, however the test is not the motivator for myself and most others to maintain a good standard of fitness. The focus has become the test rather than the importance of being as physically and mentally fit as we can be and in the interests of personal wellbeing. A considerable number of otherwise resilient individuals suffer a disproportionate level of stress caused by having to take the test on the day and these peculiar circumstances sometimes contribute to poor mental health. Now is the ideal opportunity to have a mature conversation about the test, including how our future workforce now has a thirty-five-year career and a normal retirement age of sixty, with an even higher probability over time that officers will experience a life-changing injury or illness, as I did. We can still promote fitness and wellbeing whilst ensuring those who can never pass these specific tests are still able to serve their communities with all their experience and many other abilities, I know the public still values.

If we truly value difference there needs to be equity as well as equality, breaking free of some fears and assumptions that those who serve with pride might default to the lowest standards of fitness or ‘try to have the job over’ should the focus shift from testing, to personal continuing professional health development and well-being.

Blog 1 2021: Staff Networks – Advocates or Antagonists?

Welcome to the first of my one page blogs this year which I have been publishing every two months, in the hope they will stimulate thoughts and discussion without taking up too much of your busy time. Please feel free to contribute, challenge and share any comments and ideas about the points raised.

I suppose it would be helpful to first explain what first prompted me to become involved in my local disability staff network around seven years ago and I suspect my circumstances and motivations will mirror those of others. Like many, I had not considered myself to be ‘disabled’ because that label appeared to ignore everything else I was able to do and on the whole I was able to manage the more challenging days myself – much easier to do I might add for those in more senior positions who have greater flexibility around how we work. That said, being open about my challenges and seeking some reasonable support was liberating and I was keen to work with others with similar lived experiences, to dispel misconceptions and improve equality and inclusion for disabled colleagues, as disability had been historically side-lined as a characteristic. I was lucky to lead our network within a supportive and progressive police force and proud that it has now grown to include in excess of 1000 members.

There is occasionally some confusion regarding the role of staff networks compared to the Police Federation, Police Superintendents Association and the unions representing police staff. The statutory associations perform important official functions on behalf of their members, including providing legal representation and it is indeed a sad statistic that around 45% of the recent employment tribunals at which the Police Federation have supported police officers relate to claims of disability discrimination. Our diverse staff networks are made up of volunteers with lived experience of having protected characteristics and a source of invaluable and informed information to support the retention, recruitment and development of the diverse workforce our service needs.

Unfortunately there is no consistent funding or support for these volunteers meaning the time they are afforded to do this important work and the resources available to them depends on what is negotiable within 43 different police forces. If I had not been granted half of each week by my force to support me as a national lead it would have been impossible for me to do it. Unfortunately there are also real inconsistencies in terms of how much support with time and funds is offered to some national protected groups, compared with others and whilst recognising the financial pressures on policing remain consistently high, valuing difference is also consistently referred to as a priority? It is interesting that some Governments have decided to fund their national police association positions, understanding the value those who are also members of their communities could have in informing how those communities are served by their police.

There are occasions when I believe some leaders perceive staff networks to be a barrier, yet in my experience they are usually keen to be part of the solution. Only this week a force taking part in a national programme chose not to accept a local offer of advice and support, before going on to include incorrect information on a slide which caused avoidable offence. I would argue that one of the reasons some previous diversity strategies did not result in real change was due to insufficient engagement with our diverse networks, to ensure informed delivery plans delivered tangible improvements. As a police service we are fully invested in Independent Advisory Groups to shape how we serve our communities and yet we often choose not to adequately support or invest in the diverse knowledge within our service. This needs to change as the pressures on network volunteers has become intolerable in recent years and particularly some of those with disabilities who are becoming increasingly exhausted and having to step down in the face of multiple, conflicting pressures.

The Diversity Equality and Inclusion in Policing Survey Report, published last August by Durham University revealed some shocking findings. These included 41.8% of officers having been subjected to derogatory comments from colleagues regarding their disability; and 29.6% having experienced jokes about their disability. We need the senior leaders of all 43 forces and Police Chiefs Council to stand with us, agree that is wrong and share our determination to make things better by providing suitable and consistent support to the staff groups representing the statutory protected identities – we are neither antagonistic nor apologetic, we simply want to be part of the change we wish to see in our service.

Blog 3 2020: Disability History Month – The Value of Diversability

Welcome to the third of my bi-monthly one page blogs this year and thank you for the support you offer, even if that is simply a desire to know more. The timing for this could not be better as we are now into Disability History Month which runs between the 18th of November and 18th of December.

This is the time for the pride enjoyed by other groups during their own history months, when they celebrate their identity, difference, rich heritage, and some of the freedoms they have finally secured. Disability should be celebrated and championed with equal fanfare, as those I know who live with those conditions tend to be incredible problem-solvers and resilient achievers in so many ways due to their coping routines and ‘work arounds’. Our routines typically include tough days (over and above someone’s typical) and better days, bouncing back on each occasion to crack on with what needs to be done. This demonstrates why, if a disabled colleague requests support from you, they really need it! We also need to recognise why the term ‘disabled’ is not an easy one to shout out with enthusiasm as it focuses on what we are unable to do rather than all that we are able to do. Terms such as ‘diversability’ and ‘differentability’ truly reflect what those with disabilities or live with neurodiversity have to offer our society and our service. Unfortunately, the Equality Act, which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act, will always bring us back to that familiar term.

It is incredible that it is only 25 years since the Disability Discrimination Act was enacted – let’s pause and reflect on that – only 25 years since it became illegal to discriminate based upon an individual’s long-term, life affecting difference. Unfortunately I believe there are many occasions when ‘disability’ disproportionately evokes stereotypes of the ill or old; and for those of working age, work-avoidance or absence – this influences how policies are written; support offered; and opportunities for inclusion and progression provided. Only the other day I heard a news journalist refer to a disabled person living with a ‘disease’ when they were simply endeavouring to have the best possible life, living with a condition that was part of who they were since birth. ‘Suffers with’ is another regular association – they rarely do, but they often do suffer from intolerance and exclusion. Imperfections are not inadequacies – ‘normal’ is nonsense and on that note the film industry needs to stop associating non-typical physical features as a source of fear.

The theme for Disability History Month this year is Access, which is likely to prompt thoughts of wheelchairs, an image typically associated with disability and although around half of disabled persons have mobility challenges, the access issues are far wider in terms of opportunity. I believe the police service has reached one of the most important points in its history when we need to consider how much we value disability within the service, particularly disabled officers. Only around 17% of disabled persons are born with their disability, so with a new normal retirement age of 60 we can expect an increase in the total number of those who experience a life-changing illness or injury. Our service can chose to ‘exit’ those individuals along with the abilities and experience they have amassed, or support them as representatives of a community we serve. Other protected groups are campaigning for better advancement, representation, and equality – we desperately strive for retention. Of course the service needs some fully-operational number of officers to ‘chase and restrain’ or fulfil other mobilisation commitments, but how many roles genuinely, routinely and typically require that? We also need to understand that disabled candidates should be encouraged to apply to join, to increase difference within the service, if they meet the entry requirements which includes the fitness test.

History is filled with disabled achievers (oxymoron?), including Albert Einstein whose condition prevented him from speaking until he was 3-years-old; and Horatio Nelson – my shorter and more famous namesake! We sometimes forget that we continue to write history, so let’s fill it with fairness and inclusion – we can support and unlock diversability talent as well as all of the discretionary effort that comes with that.

Blog 2 – Individuality and Belonging

Welcome to the second of my one page blogs I am publishing every two months, in the hope they will stimulate thoughts and discussion without taking up too much of your busy time. Please feel free to contribute, challenge and share any comments and ideas about the points raised – I do not profess to be an expert and every day is a ‘school day’ for me!
On this occasion I am going to share some thoughts about language and categorisation and the impact on individuals. Even the term ‘Disabled’ feels like a millstone around the neck due to the intimation we are defined in some way as deactivated or largely incapable, when in fact those with disabilities usually have a multitude of other skills, talent and experience as well as incredible resilience as a result of the conditions, fatigue or pain they have to manage on a daily basis. This, as well as the fear of being treated differently or excluded, is why many with those conditions that have a long-term substantial effect on their daily living (Equality Act definition), feel reluctant to discuss this identity with others. Other terms such as ‘neurodiverse’ or ‘impairment’ go some way to avoiding the ‘disability’ stigma – nevertheless the Act affords essential protection, particularly for the only protected group whose members have to prove their identity before they are allowed to belong.

The clustering of diverse groups occurs in an attempt to better manage and understand the characteristics and needs of protected communities in general terms. Disability for example covers a broad ranges of conditions, but then the impact of a permanent injury or condition on each individual often varies greatly. Other groups face similar clustering such as ‘BAME’ which does little to reflect the vast range of cultures, colours, religions and heritage within those communities; or ‘LGBT+’ for which the powerful rainbow image coveys so much in terms of many different sexual orientations. The same spectrum of identities is true for other groups and we must never lose sight of the individuals behind the labels who deserve our support and protection. This week there was another helpful and interesting debate on Twitter about intersectionality, facilitated by @WeCops which I recommend you read – valuing difference has to mean valuing individual difference for it to offer true value.

Does this mean that diversity, equality and inclusion for individuals is too complex and intractable to support? Not at all, if we recognise that ‘normal’ is entirely subjective and it takes genuine curiosity and interest to allow meaningful support and empathy towards those different to us. Strategies are important but must rely on those with lived experience to inform plans that are more likely to result in lasting improvements. Moreover they have to be confident that those plans will be implemented consistently, without being stymied by politics and regardless of where they work or live. Staff networks offer that lived experience and free advice – the members may be outspoken at times and sceptical following many years of outrage and frustration, but they are highly committed to supporting change for the better and those who genuinely seek it (we know and value many of them).


We all have a common need in that we wish to be recognised as individuals whilst being given every opportunity to belong. This includes those who are not considered to be part of a ‘minority group’ and real risks arise from using derogatory language such as ‘just white middle-aged men’ or ‘male, stale and pale’ (I could add ‘agile’ but I won’t!) – They need to know they are valued and we need their support whilst informing them of real examples of discrimination, exclusion and inequality others suffer because of their difference. We also need to recognise it is easy to make assumptions as not all differences are obvious; and the most pressing needs may not relate to someone’s visible difference. I believe an overwhelming majority of individuals at all levels want to do the right thing and should not be swayed by the risk of being labelled ‘politically correct’, ‘Virtue Signaller’ or ‘Woke’ in the negative sense. We must work closer than ever to be the change we want to see and be, the ‘wholehearted people’ Brené Brown once described: with the courage to be imperfect; the compassion to be kind to ourselves and others; and connecting though authenticity, to be who we really are and enable others to confidently and securely say ‘I am enough’.

Blog 1 2020 – Looking forwards…

This is the first one page blog as the president of the Disabled Police Association I will be publishing every two months, in the hope they will stimulate thoughts and discussions without taking up too much of your busy time! Please feel free to contribute, challenge and share any thoughts and ideas you have along the way.

 
It is an immense privilege for me to lead our association after 8 years of being actively involved in disability issues and after deciding to be open about the permanent impact cancer had on me as a senior-ish (!) police leader, but I have to say that after 27 years of service I have never felt so motivated. Someone once said I sometimes expect the police service to progress faster than it is able to, but I believe it is time the service made real progress in the modern age and I feel it is my responsibility to express some supportive outrage when things need to change. Our association supports tens of thousands of local disabled staff network members, representing them with the benefit of lived experience. We work closely with the unions and statutory staff associations such as the Police Superintendents Association, which has actively sought to support and established the first National Executive Committee disability place in its history; and the Police Federation, which is seeking to establish a disability steering group. Many do not realise that our staff association receives absolutely no national funding and only exists due to committed volunteers who have busy ‘day jobs’ and have their own conditions to manage, which often include associated fatigue. Any committee time we have is negotiated locally and thankfully, Chief Constable Jo Shiner in Sussex is allowing me as the national lead to spend half of my week supporting the association committee and members with this important work – it would have otherwise been impossible.

 
The Covid-19 crisis has caused many of us to pause and reflect on our priorities and attitudes, not least the inequalities faced by BAME communities and the disproportionate effect the pandemic has had on them. This includes some of our members and it is all too easy to forget intersectionality while our diverse groups strive to highlight our particular needs and challenges. Individuals have specific needs that are sometimes blended across several groups but this should never be perceived as complexity or an excuse not to support – just ask each of them what they need most to thrive. Quite rightly the impact of the pandemic on BAME communities has been widely commented upon by Government and police chiefs, however there has been considerable silence with respect to the impact on those who live with disabilities. As an association we have done what we could to support and highlights concerns, particularly the consequential impact in public on those who live with sensory or cognitive challenges. Without clear national support and direction from the National Police Chiefs Council forces are often tempted to use attendance policies as a tool for managing disability and some have even continued to hold half-pay/no pay hearings during the crisis.

 
I hear much about the importance of valuing difference and I do believe a majority of colleagues at all levels genuinely desire that, however without a comprehensive national diversity, equality and inclusion strategy within which all protected groups can recognise their needs, and associated action plans that drive discernible improvements, it is particularly difficult to feel optimistic for the future of disability in policing – where is it valued in national plans, particularly in relation to officers? If they are safe to be proud of that identity and supported with their challenges, the service will unlock all of the capacity available through the many other skills, experience and abilities their colleagues possess.

 
The DPA seeks to be part of the solution and work with a dedicated NPCC lead for disability to find a way for disabled colleagues who often fear for their job security or how they would be perceived if they shared the disabled identity they should be proud of – I hope that might happen soon.

Someone’s Somebody

Recent media articles and a campaign we’ve launched in Sussex Police have helpfully reintroduced debates and conversations about rape. Having tweeted the worrying article in the Telegraph ‘Drunk women in short skirts partly to blame for sexual assaults’ a couple of groups and individuals asked if I would be able to offer a personal perspective, based upon my policing experience. I need to be clear, this has not been as a result of routinely investigating those crimes or aligned with academic study, so please only regard this as an account of someone who has been part of operational policing for 23 years. Hopefully we can confront a few myths, without treading on eggshells, pointing at the occasional elephant in the room, and without combining too many metaphors!

Firstly, I need to make it clear that although I believe I’ve got a decent EQ I’m fortunate I’m not able to discuss rape from personal experience, but I have been through a life-changing trauma which at least allows me in part to appreciate impact. I’ve also always been conscious of the risk of seeing these horrific offences through a lens of crime performance data or disconnected names and places reported in the media – these are women and men we know – our siblings, children, partners, and friends.

An image of rape which often comes to the public mind is a male dragging a female off the street into an alleyway. These terrible stranger rapes happen but they are rare and often investigated by Major Crime Teams due to the particular challenges and risks; it’s far more likely a victim will be attacked by a perpetrator already known to them, even if they only met that day. It still astounds me that marital rape has only become a crime during my period of police service. There’s also a misconception among some that the motivation is sexual gratification, when most usually it’s about physically imposing power and taking away the power and control of those they attack.

‘Attack’? Yes, this is sexual violence. No, there is not a difference between ‘rapes’ and ‘sort of rapes’: consent to sex is either given or it’s not, and that means true consent – the ability to give that consent could be affected by drunkenness, substance misuse, or other factors. I remember having a discussion with a young guy on Twitter who thought rape was wrong but thought it was different if a woman ‘led a bloke on and changed her mind at the last minute’. Get your head together guys, it doesn’t matter where your hormones are, if they decide for whatever reason, even during role play, that they don’t wish to have sex, it’s their choice and their body. Don’t ever dismiss sexual assaults as ‘banter’, without true consent sex is rape and if you don’t agree with how they’ve behaved, move on. And no, it’s not getting to the ‘point where you’ll have to get them to sign a form’, a vast majority of guys know when it’s fun for both and consensual.

Although in no way comparable to survivor experiences, police officers can also find it traumatic to deal with rapes. Most join because they want to be there and seek justice for others when they most need us, and prevent the suffering that results from crime. I recall when I was a Chief Inspector in Brighton coming into our daily morning review meetings at the weekend and discussing a rape which had occurred the evening before. Very often the series of events had been: male and female meet in a bar; male suggests taking very drunk female somewhere else, without the knowledge of her friends; male rapes the female; the following morning the survivor believes something may have happened but is unable to remember. I will be totally clear here as I have before, the only person to blame for rape is the perpetrator and there is no ‘but’ or ‘however’. We relentlessly investigated these crimes and with some success even though the odds were stacked against us. Each time we heard of these circumstances there was a palpable sense of frustration driven by a desire to catch criminals, but we wanted justice for those who had been attacked and continued to do our best for them.

I led some work with the security companies to try to expose some of these males who I believed were actively targeting vulnerable victims during an evening but these were particularly difficult to identify. Unfortunately, there are still many in society who consciously or unconsciously believe how a woman looks or acts is a factor in rape – these perpetrators need no form of encouragement or excuses. Often our best hope was to highlight to potential victims how they can stay safe, such as telling friends where they’re going and who with. Our view has always been ‘It’s better to prevent a crime in the first place’ but these discussions are incredibly sensitive and there is a high likelihood any advice will be perceived as ‘victim-blaming’ by some. In spite of that, if based on observation without judgement, I consider there might be a way others could avoid being raped, I’ll tell them. In the meantime, we focus on the best possible victim care with the wealth of quality victim support out there, do all that we can to secure forensic evidence, and work with others in the justice system in pursuit of a suitable sentence for the rapist.

I’ve been constantly humbled and inspired by the victims who have found the courage to come forward to give evidence and moved on as survivors. Very often they are tougher because of the scars they bear and gradually found a way forward to live and trust. The fact remains, they may be ‘someone’s somebody‘ but it’s their body and theirs alone – no person has the right to compromise their intimate privacy without their clear and willing consent.

If you’re a guy who is now questioning his attitude to consent, that’s good, it could lead to a happier future for you and others.

If you have experienced rape please know there are many out there to help you, both within the police service and local rape victim support groups. You can find more information here: rapecrisis.org.uk/

Good Intentions and Unintended Consequences (an article for policinginsight.com)

Once again, diversity and poor representation of minority groups within the police service have made the recent media headlines, with the Home Secretary criticising police forces for the insufficient number of officers from black and minority ethnic groups. This lack of representation has been a constant source of disappointment both within and external to the service since I joined, despite various schemes being introduced which resulted in varying degrees of success. If we haven’t found the right answers, perhaps we have to consider whether the right questions are being asked. We also need to acknowledge that police officers are only one part of the ‘police family’ and likely to make up a smaller percentage over future years.

Since the days of Sir Robert Peel the fundamental principle remains: ‘The police are the public and the public are the police…in the interests of community welfare and existence.’ Until members of the service are as diverse as those communities they serve it’s impossible to comprehensively achieve local confidence in us and our commitment to them. Unfortunately much of the national and media focus continues to be on visible difference and tangible diversity. Disability has been appropriately described as the ‘Cinderella’ of protected characteristics and occasionally forgotten when offers of additional support for those with protected characteristics is circulated by national police bodies. The National Disabled Police Association has been highlighting this for some time and we still await a dedicated Police Chief lead for disability within the police service.

What should be a source of real concern to us all is the potential consequences for disabled officers, arising from proposed changes to police officer pay and conditions, recommended by the same person who has become Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary. In particular:

  • A new pension scheme with a later normal retirement age of 60, increasing the probability that a police officer will experience a critical illness or life-changing injury resulting in a disability during their period of service.
  • An absolute Job Related Fitness Test which officers are required to pass each year, based upon a running test, regularly changing direction between cones, and no nationally agreed alternative test.
  • Officers on limited duties for more than 12 months are likely to have thousands of pounds removed from the annual salary (referred to as the ‘X Factor’.) Once again, 43 local forces have been left to decide how they will implement this.
  • The concept of compulsory severance for police officers and how it might be implemented and administered in the future.

The consequences of the above could realistically over time result in a significant number of disabled officers either being unable to afford to remain in their jobs or required to leave as a result of ‘unsatisfactory performance’. Colleagues would not wish to see anyone remaining in the service who is intentionally unwilling to engage with support that is offered or is other than working to the best of their abilities, but in my experience those individuals are rare.

It’s reasonable for the British public to expect a majority of officers to be appropriately fit and able to pursue and apprehend criminals, but where is the logic in potentially losing so many experienced, otherwise able and committed individuals? In some parts of the UK there are officers with severe mobility challenges who still fully contribute to public service in every way other than chasing criminals. Those afforded genuine reasonable adjustments make the most of the abilities they have and contribute fully as loyal and determined public servants, but we still have a way to go in terms of effectively understanding and agreeing ‘reasonable adjustments.’

I’m fortunate in that my disability does not prevent me from complying with the new requirements but I remain concerned for others, particularly those who are diagnosed with mental disabilities, often as a result of dealing with a succession of traumatic incidents which an average member of the public would rather not. The level of support being offered at a local level and often instigated by compassionate and committed senior leaders is a significant improvement on years gone by but the national requirements will be decided and have the potential for unintended consequences. We also need to recognise the risks presented by outsourcing occupational health services and need to test the assumption that they deliver suitable support and care on our behalf.

To be clear, these thoughts are not with the intention of scaremongering, it is highlighting a genuine risk to policing by consent and relates directly to the Code of Ethics we are all expected to use to inform our decision making. The police service is acquainted with unintended consequences, as we removed the height requirements many years ago when it was recognised that they disproportionately disadvantaged and excluded members of certain ethnic groups – it would be a shame if the service started to exclude disabled colleagues, many of whom have served the public well.

I close with a simple question for politicians, police chiefs and the public – In 10 years’ time do you wish to have a proportionate representation of disabled officers as representatives of the disabled community they serve?

Guest Blog: Mindfulness for Policing

First of all, thank you for even starting to read this. I have written it not as a self-help book, but rather as a signpost to where you can find information. It is not for me, nor anyone else to direct you as to how to live your life. It is all your choice.

I know this stuff works. I know it from a personal view, I’ll talk about how it has helped me become more resilient, but also how it helped me in a conflict situation whilst off duty.

Having been a police officer for some 26 years, I know how isolated we can feel, how difficult it can be not only dealing with the public, but also dealing with the politics within our organisation. Let’s face it; we have the politics of leaders, but also a culture that is rife with politics of the office. Some will call it bullying, some will call it culture. Regardless, we all have difficult times.

Add in the uncertainty many police staff have as to whether they still have jobs, or sometimes the discrimination they receive from some officers just because they are staff. Add in the difficulty many officers face in losing money over recent years because of austerity. Add in the number of officers and staff each force will lose over coming months and years. Add in our own lives, the stresses of finances, family demands, ill relatives and death…how do we cope?

We already feel work life balance is a problem, and we don’t have enough of us to cope with workloads that just seem to be forever rising. I would suggest we haven’t seen anything yet, more losses will happen but our workloads I can’t imagine will reduce. So we have to do something different for the good of ourselves, our families and those we serve.

Well this book is a signpost to something that will come to policing. It’s inevitable. It’s a signpost to something called mindfulness. Now don’t stop reading, it gets worse before it gets better I’m afraid. But this mindfulness stuff could equally be called Resilience Training. Let’s not get hung up on titles though, try and cast aside our normal cynicism as police officers and staff, which is something we generally excel at. Try and read the meaning of what I’m trying to say, because frankly I ain’t all that eloquent!

So as for labels…let’s get them out there. Resilience Training is a good phrase, works for us as police, and is acceptable for everyone regardless of what your role is. We could all do with being more resilient, regardless of whether you’re a constable in Response, Neighbourhood or other stream of policing, or whether you’re police staff in Investigations, the Coroner’s Office or ICT. Rank or grade is irrelevant.

But it could equally be called mindfulness, for this is the more generic term and the term that’s out there. Google “Resilience Training” and that doesn’t give the essence of what we’re talking about. Google “mindfulness” and you get stacks of results. The word that could really turn you off, yet is found in most of those websites that talk about mindfulness, is meditation. Yes ladies and gents…meditation. For that is how you develop a more mindful approach.

So let’s come up with a three letter acronym for it, because we like those. I’ll refer to this practice as MFP. Mindfulness For Police. I know a lot of police jargon, but can’t ever remember hearing of a unit called MFP, forgive me if you work in one, but work with me on this!

I will try and articulate how MFP can all help us deal with our lives, but also the benefits it has to policing. So regardless of whether you want any signposts, regardless of how your life is at the moment, I’ll try and explain how it works. Read on even if only so that you know what others are talking about.

I have written this in chapters that I hope makes some sense. I’ve taken the liberty of writing a short biography to start with to put some context around the whole piece. I’ve then tried to outline some of the benefits, before looking at what it actually is, and how you do it. I’ve then examined in more detail how the benefits can be seen personally and for those around you, moving on then to the science, before a section dedicated to anyone in a supervisory role, or aspiring to be there one day. There is a section which has a brief look at the current position of mindfulness and who else is using it, before a short conclusion.

Finally I’ll finish this introduction with an apology, in that I probably haven’t done this subject the justice it deserves. I’m no author, I’m no motivational speaker, and I often speak straight from the heart. I do speak about us as a generic group, there will always be exceptions to the rule, and I mean no offence when speaking about generic attitudes or cultures. However I do feel passionately about this, and for that I make no apology.

2. My Story
So how did I get to writing this ebook? I’ve been a police officer for a long time it seems. I joined the police in August 1989, aged 19 years and 3 months. When I joined, I was already in a long term relationship and had been for three years. We were married when I was 21, had our first daughter when I was 22, our second when I was 25. We separated and later divorced in 2006.

Having decided absolutely no other marriage was going to happen, and most certainly no other children, I married again in 2010, with another daughter arriving in early 2009 and a son in 2011. All of this is normal stuff, families always have good times and more difficult times, but families and work cannot be separated, they are inextricably linked through you. I am the connection between my family and my work, pretending I have a work life balance is futile, it’s all just life.

But let’s go back to November 2009, and the start of a period in my life that maybe worthy of another rambling ebook, but is probably the start of events that led me here. Two evenings before my stag day, two weeks before we were to marry, I was taken to hospital with what was diagnosed as severe acute pancreatitis. Prognosis
was not good, my fiancée was called to come to hospital during her final wedding dress fitting as they didn’t think I was going to make it through.
A couple of operations later, a total of 12 weeks in hospital including several in intensive care, six months off work and over 4 stone in lost weight, I returned to policing. My force had been through a major restructure, I was now the Detective Chief Inspector for CID across the force. It was a massive task, but thanks to the people whom I was fortunate to manage, we succeeded in almost every performance measure given to us.

If the truth be told, I had suffered a massive loss in confidence. I wasn’t sure who I was, before pancreatitis I was immortal, indestructible. I had never considered what death meant, or what a life changing experience would mean. I had suddenly become vulnerable, or perhaps fragile. With that comes a loss of confidence that I’ve found in so many other people since, for a whole variety of reasons. It doesn’t need to be that way, hopefully this book explains why.

The next year professionally was harder. I passed a promotion process, but given a temporary role. I won’t comment further as it is unfair on others, but I was bitterly disappointed. The temporary promotion meant that I retained CID ownership but on a more strategic level. This whole episode hurt, and lived with me for a long time. Did anyone care except me? Of course not, yet I let it fester.

Roll on almost a year, and one August evening I broke down in tears in my back garden. I was hating what I was. I was trying to be what I thought they wanted. I was so full of self-doubt, I was simply not good enough. I had to be more, but I could only keep this up for so long, before it caught up. I learned that the main ingredient of happiness was authenticity. Without being me, I was no one.

Anyhow, this caused me some issues, I suffered with mild depression, and within four months I was told that I was not being supported for the next promotion process. And so the bitterness started again. I was the victim of circumstance, I was the victim of misunderstanding, I was the victim of some cruel joke. I was a victim and deeply unhappy. All my self-doubt had been proven right.

I returned to Major Crime. I decided my career progression had come to an end, so my thoughts went to life after the police, still over six years away. I decided that teaching would be my future, so in October 2013 I started to study a history degree with the Open University. One of the first units was around the Dalai Lama. A fascinating man, so I did a bit of research beyond Buddhism towards meditation and the term mindfulness, realising it was not just a Buddhist thing. It was practiced by so many more, and so it was in November 2013 I started mindfulness practice myself.

I am a million miles away from being good at mindfulness. I get up at 5 o’clock every morning, even weekends and annual leave, so that I can meditate for 20 minutes before my son awakes. But I do it, almost without fail. I put in the effort in my meditation, and I put in effort to stay present throughout the day.

What mindfulness has done for me, or rather what I have learned about myself, is that above all I must be authentic (I’ve said this before, but it’s so important!). That means being true to myself. I have found in myself the need to be compassionately honest with those around me, and I live by this every day. I suffer the stress, anger, jealousy, doubts, worries and all other negative emotions I always have done, but I mainly choose how to respond rather than react. It is by no means easy, nothing worthwhile ever is. But these negative feelings do not last for very long.

I was due to be part of a presentation to the Federation Health and Safety Executive meeting recently, I woke up to my son’s wet bed where he’d leaked from his nappy, my wife really wasn’t very well so I needed to do the school run, neither of my children wanted to dress and had compete strops. I was told off by a police officer for not using my indicator. Even on a good run, I would have made the presentation just in time, but got caught up in 50 minutes of traffic. As it happens I got there just in time for my bit, but I was stress free. I was fully aware of how stressed I was sat in traffic, but I could let it go.

I’m clearly not destined to be a Superintendent! I’ve been overlooked for temporary positions recently, and have flunked this latest round of promotions. My initial anger, frustration and jealousy that arise come with thoughts of “I’m better than they are.” I realised so quickly what I was feeling, the thoughts that followed were more along the lines of “Actually suppose I’m wrong?” Having dipped out so often its pretty much guaranteed! But what does it matter. The decisions have been made, and if I didn’t let the thoughts go, I was going to be the only one affected by it. The negative thoughts went, I’d let them go.

How do I now feel about events that had made me feel like a victim a couple of years ago? Well I can actually laugh at my thoughts now. I can honestly say that I’m grateful for those events. I could have been promoted, and may have carried on struggling through day to day without having had the opportunity to start a degree and become acquainted with meditation. I could have carried on seeking success in the normal way, seeking career progression based on money and status and most other things we consider to be the trappings of success. I could have carried on, maybe being incredibly unhappy, probably working towards my second expensive divorce.

Now I have a life that is full of stresses, just as before. Nothing’s really changed, I’m no richer, in fact with childcare costs and austerity measures reducing my salary I’m actually a good deal worse off. The same stresses are there about my health, not enough hours in the day, too many people who seem willing to suck all the energy from me with moans and groans.

Yet I am happier now than I can ever remember being…ever!

3. Benefits
Before we dive in and discuss what it is and how it works, let’s have a look at some of the benefits. There is an enormous amount of research and literature which have proven the benefits scientifically. There is just as much which shows anecdotal evidence to support the benefits. You will be very hard pressed to find any disadvantages though.

For ease then, as it’s quicker, let’s consider the downside. There isn’t one. Oh wait, maybe having to invest between 10 and 20 minutes a day could be considered a downside, but that’s it.

Personal Benefits

  • Less stress
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better memory
  • Improved relationships
  • Greater focus

Job Benefits

  • All of the above leading to a generally improved performance.
  • Greater compassion, for those we work with and the public.
  • Better communication skills
  • Less mistakes
  • Potential to reduce crime, increase detections, awareness of our own bias, generally
  • Happier in our role, greater confidence and satisfaction
  • Reduces costs and reduces sickness

Meditation was westernised by Prof. John Kabat-Zinn in the U.S. He used it to really good effect in treating patients for pain relief, particularly those whom traditional medicine had given up on.

But it has found strength in terms of helping those of us with any mind health problems we suffer. To put into context the power of this stuff, I’m going to cite a bit of work done by Transport for London. They introduced mindfulness for their staff a few years ago, together with an overall Wellbeing package which I guess is similar to those found in many of our forces today. They reduced sickness for people suffering with stress, anxiety and depression by 71%, and overall sickness by half. It’s difficult to measure this accurately in policing. Most forces I understand allow us to record “other” as a sickness reason. So just based on the sickness we do know about in my force alone, that 71% equates to 11,000 days over the next three years that are not taken as sickness. 11,000 days saved for ranks and pay grades of all levels.

We don’t go sick with depression or stress on day 1, it’s a long road of decline, during which our performance drops, our relationships suffer, and we really don’t enjoy ourselves. So as well as saving these actual days off sick, which result in us having action plans imposed and risk of UPP or dismissal, think of all of the frustration because we know we aren’t doing very well either at work or at home. We want to do a good job, but the cycle in our head stops it happening, and trust me it is a vicious cycle. Think about how much more happy we could be with our life in the police and at home. Think of the effect it has on our partners, family, children, and yes, probably even our pets!

But a massive win all round is the increased awareness of not only ourselves but those around us. This means more compassion, leading to better quality communication. An example of a benefit within the organisation that affect us individually, is that next time you ring another department for a favour, the chances increase of getting someone on the phone with an understanding, can-do attitude rather than “not my remit.” Now how refreshing would that be! We must all have examples of our frustrations within our policing family, either within or between forces.

Move this compassion and communication outside, suddenly our victims feel as though they are the most important people in the world, so even if we can’t solve their crime, they feel important and listened to. We’ve all experienced officials who are absolute jobs-worths, and it gets so under your skin! I was told off recently by a uniform officer (not my home force I hasten to add). He was directing traffic at a Road Traffic Collision (still don’t understand why we can’t call them accidents anymore!). I was stopped at a junction, only one way I was pointing, and he told me off for not indicating as he didn’t know which way I was going to go. Maybe he had a point, maybe he was being a jobsworth, but ultimately it was the way he said it that really did get under my skin. Yes directing traffic is a pain sometimes, particularly with drivers complaining as if it’s the officers fault. I get it! But really, treat me like a human being…please!

And I’ll give another personal example if I may around a physical confrontation where mindfulness played a massive part. I was in my home town just after 9pm on a Sunday evening, Mrs P. wanted a KFC. There were four men in there who were around my age, throwing food around, being rude to staff and customers in the extreme. I was off duty, without my warrant card, but couldn’t let it go. I asked them to leave, but to cut a long story short, they didn’t want to and we got to a bit of a stand off. During this I had such clarity, using the window reflection to watch my back, watching all four despite one being literally right in my face. It did end up in a bit of fisticuffs, but police did arrive and made the necessary arrests. One conviction followed. The point is that when I was in conflict situations earlier in my career, my hands would shake because of the adrenaline pumping. This time, retaining focus, watching it all, listening to my breathing at a couple of points during the ten minute episode, there was no shaking. There was no release of adrenalin that I couldn’t control. I was in charge of my body and emotions, not the other way around. Although I haven’t policed the streets for quite a while, this is how I know the power it would have for my front line colleagues. Incidentally, KFC kept my food warm for me, but no I didn’t get a freebie!

4. So What Is It, And What Do I Have To Do?
Let’s get one thing straight. I am not a mindfulness teacher, nor can I train you in meditation. There is a plethora of stuff out there that can guide you though.

Neither MFP, nor mindfulness, nor meditation, is religious mumbo jumbo. It has connections with religion, but in the same way as candles. They are used in religious respects, but you don’t have to be religious in any sense of the term to use a candle. The same with meditation.

You don’t have to sit with incense burning whilst humming “Om”, but you can if you want. You don’t have to sit on the floor in a full lotus cross-legged position, but you can if you want. You don’t have to have your eyes open staring at a blank wall…but guess what…you can if you want. Anything is ok, as long as it works for you.

MFP is a way of being present in what you do. It means going through your day spending far less time reflecting on the past, that’s gone and this may come as a shock to some, but you can’t change it.

It means going through your day spending less time worried about the future. As Mark Twain apparently referred to, most of the bad things in his life never actually happened. It seems he was talking about that Dr Pepper moment, “What’s the worst that can happen?” In our mind the worst always seems to happen, but in reality it very rarely does. This allows you to focus on the here and now. It allows us to focus on the person we have in front of us, focusing on the meeting we’re at, the person who is speaking with us, focusing on radio or SatNav accordingly, focusing on not getting hit by a violent offender, getting our dog to track properly or focusing on making the next shot (hopefully only on the range). It helps us switch our focus as we need to, and with the compassion comes the awareness of speaking to someone appropriately when telling someone off for not using their indicators.

How I do it is simple. It suits me to get up at 5 every morning. Don’t let this put you off, it’s my choice as I like being up early. I grab myself a cup of tea, then sit with earphones in my smartphone and listen to my app. It guides me through 20 minutes of meditating, and also gives me some guidance for how to stay focused and calm during the day. The app I use is Headspace, but please don’t read this as an endorsement, it is just one I’ve chosen to use.

I concentrate for that 20 minutes on what my body feels like, physical stresses, aches and pains, and to pay attention through all of my senses. I notice my mood and reflect on why I’m doing this, the good stuff it can bring to those I care for, and then simply concentrate on my breathing. It’s really quite interesting in a way, because no two breaths actually seem the same.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. Yes of course I get bombarded with thoughts when I’m doing it, but realising you’re thinking actually makes the thoughts go away. You won’t stop those thoughts, we’ve had so many years of living in ways that encourage us to think, you won’t suddenly be able to stop this habit. When thoughts do arise, you’ll actually be more aware of them so you may actually believe you are thinking even more, but this isn’t true. Nor is it true to think you must be doing it wrong. Just do it. That’s the right way. It does take some effort, but not too much and not too little. As the saying goes, “A minute to learn, a lifetime to master.”

I would recommend using a smartphone app if you can, or a book with a disc included, something where someone can help guide you through the process. They can talk to you during your practice so you get to know what you’re doing. Someone to tell you that just doing it is important, that’s the success, rather than doubting that you’re doing it right. Someone to tell you that they understand that sometimes it’s the most boring thing in the world, but tomorrow it maybe just what you need!

I use my app pretty much every day, I regard it as my teacher. The nice thing is I can put on my headphones and sit on the park bench during a warm summers day (meal break of course) and meditate. No one knows! I meditated today on the train on the way to London for a meeting, and no one knew. It’s great stuff.

My heartfelt plea to you though is please don’t dismiss this stuff. Being candid, I can’t worry whether you think I’m raving mad and swear never to try this crap. That’s your shout, and I know that we as police officers and staff do that all too often. All I ask is that you consider doing something a little different and have an open mind about this. Let’s not start with a reaction of “The problem is…”. Instead let those who want to try it and discuss it do just that. If you’d have told me even a couple of years ago that I, as a long service officer investigating murders, would be meditating and writing this down, I would have laughed.

For Me…
So I still feel the negative emotions including anger and jealousy, they are human emotions and wouldn’t life be boring without them. However I have learnt to respond to them objectively, watch them if you like, so that they pass far more quickly and don’t ultimately start causing me stress, either physically or mentally.

So now, when something happens at work or at home, which is outside of my control, I generally respond in a much more positive way. I have learned to take responsibility, even though I don’t actually control much in my life at all. I certainly can’t control when a murder happens, when a staffing issue arises, when a relative is ill or when my car breaks down. So why not respond in a better way instead of living with stress, anger and all that negative stuff.

I can only speak personally, but this stuff works. Ask Mrs P., she will tell you it has also worked for me. I have another relative who now practices. It’s really helped with her insomnia too.

5. The scientific stuff…if you’re interested
A bit of narrative about MFP, and a little bit of the science. Our brain is split into different parts. We probably all know about the left and right part, but it’s also split into top and bottom. The bottom is our habit part, our flight and fight stuff. It makes up stories and sees patterns even if they aren’t really there. It’s quick too, doing stuff before our more conscious part at the top of the brain is even aware. It’s the bit that pulls our hand from something hot. It is the bit that reacted to the danger when humanity was young, such as the sabre-toothed tiger bearing down on us. But because we don’t have many sabre-toothed tigers left, it’s adapted to more modern “dangers”, such as someone saying something horrible to us, or winding us up. It still reacts in the same way, by habit, so our physical feelings and stress can still react in that same way when the bottom of our brain kicks in.

Well the good news is that the more conscious top part of the brain can become more aware. The bit behind the forehead is called the prefrontal cortex (PFC). It’s this that, if I can term it this way, is the thinking, conscious part of our brain. It’s the logical part. Well science has proven that meditation actually increases the density of the PFC, but you don’t have to meditate like a Buddhist monk to do this. In just a few short weeks, that density increase can already be seen. I suppose it’s like a physical muscle, it develops with practice. Although Buddhist monks could be the bodybuilders of the PFC, just achieving a reasonable level for most of us is more than sufficient.

But the PFC is a really important area. As our conscious part, it can realise what the bottom part is up to, with practice. It can realise that our bottom part has kicked into a habitual response, that it has created something that isn’t really there; that it is reacting. Our PFC can distance us from that reaction, and can choose a more appropriate response.
6. Leadership
This section is aimed at leaders and managers in the organisation, or those who aspire to these positions. Forgive me, but I have taken the liberty of pointing out not only some business benefit, but some of our responsibilities to ourselves, our teams and the public.

I have articulated some of the potential gains through saving on sickness and performance. But evidence also suggests that we begin to realise the bias we have, which can take affect in so many ways. Really relevant examples in today’s policing are missing teenagers for whom we fail to identify their role as a victim of Child Sex Exploitation, failing to serve repeat vulnerable ASB victims, or perhaps even rape victims.

Research from Scandinavia refers to a natural phenomena called victim worthiness. This means that if we think a victim is worth our effort, we try harder for them. The research looked at rape victims, so we are more likely to try harder for a 30 something housewife pulled into hedges whilst walking the dog, than a twenty something victim who has made an allegation previously and has worked as a prostitute. We see one victim more worthy of our efforts. Natural though it may be, the phenomena is not something we want to encourage. Yet we do. We allow our bias to interfere with our judgement. Try it for yourself. Next time an officer briefs you on a job, listen to their bias, and realise how much you accept it. Much of it is hidden, but if they are speaking about a victim of rape, see how early in the briefing they raise whether they have made a previous allegation or have mental health vulnerabilities. Even if they don’t say it outright, what they say and how they say it is very likely to affect your thoughts. Don’t take my word for it, experience it yourself. We all do it, because you will add your own beliefs and values when you brief about the same job upwards.

The other significant area of efficiency and cost reduction is that with more satisfied staff, self-initiated moves are likely to be less. This builds experience, a desire to improve, but also must reduce training costs. I don’t think this work or evaluation has yet been done, but to me it is a natural consequence of MFP.

Over the coming months and years, we will continue to ask for more from less, not only of our staff but ourselves. We owe it to ourselves, those we manage and lead, and indeed the public, to stay healthy in every way, and to encourage the same of our teams. If you don’t care about this in your teams, then frankly you don’t deserve the honour of being in a supervisory role.

I’ve referred above to our own bias awareness. However self-awareness and compassion, in my humble view, has a particularly high potential within our decision making. Yes we have the National Decision Model, but this gives us that little extra that the NDM doesn’t. It gives us an awareness of why we’re making that decision. Am I biased? Am I recommending that person for promotion because I like them and they’re just like me, or can they really lead as opposed to just managing? Is what I’m doing right! It is a bridge between the NDM and Code of Ethics. It allows us to realise our emotions rather than just the facts of the NDM.

7. Current work
I cannot list all of the work that’s already bubbling around the country, but there are plenty of those little MFP bubbles appearing. Don’t quote me as I may have some stuff wrong, but clearly this list is not exhaustive.

The Senior Police Leadership Review has Mindfulness included, as does the Met Police Leadership Review.

Individual forces are beginning to at least discuss the benefits. Lancashire for example have produced a whole pack around Wellbeing, their DCC Andy Rhodes is leading the work nationally, ably assisted by Ian Hesketh.

Lt. Richard Goerling has introduced this type of resilience training to his force, Hillsboro P.D., Oregon. I am honoured he has taken his time to help me along the way, and has given me great support.

One force, at least, has a Force Medical Officer who will ask anyone presenting whether they have undertaken any mindfulness training.

The military in the States and UK use mindfulness for their troops, given the benefits not only before entering the theatre of war, but afterwards in assisting with PTSD. American troops deployed were given the training, some took it and some didn’t, but many of those who didn’t then asked for the training when they returned.

I have a friend who is working as part of the All Party Parliamentary Group, who is working with the ACPO leads, College of Policing and others to try and establish a national trial across many forces to evaluate its worth. This sits alongside his work with the government looking at mindfulness in Health, Education, Criminal Justice and the Workplace. Mindfulness in education was featured on the One Show recently.

It is used by elite athletes preparing for the 2016 Olympics, I was honoured to be asked to provide an input to a team of sports psychologists recently.

Outside of policing, it’s really being grasped. It’s used by the NHS for staff and patients. It has recognised benefits in helping us mentally, and in other areas such as pain relief.

Have a look at a list you can find on the Internet of famous people who focus on their breath for a few minutes a day. People like Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow (two of my personal favourites), Arnold Schwarzenegger or Steven Seagal (bet they wish they had a body like mine), or Hugh Jackman (for the sake of equality, my wife’s favourite). They include sports stars and athletes like Michael Jordan or Kobe??, business leaders like ?? (Nope, I’d not heard of them either) or ordinary people like me, that woman I know in forensics or that man I know in ICT – although you probably won’t find them on Google.

8. Conclusion
I’m going to borrow something I’ve learnt from Headspace to describe the overall effect of MFP. Above our head is blue sky, it is always there, beautiful and clear. Some days there will be bright white fluffy clouds, sometimes there will be heavy grey storm clouds. Above them though, the sky is always blue. Well the blue sky is our mind, but our thoughts are the clouds. All we need to do is realise the blue sky is always there, and don’t worry about the clouds.

This stuff is coming. All I’m suggesting we try and take care of our physical health, but give no regard to the wellbeing of our brains, our minds. This stuff may just help you personally and professionally.

I started to write this with a view of writing some kind of formal police guidance, you know the sort we used to get in purple or brown books, that is now only available on APP. You can see this book is most certainly not that. Whilst I haven’t endorsed websites, books or apps and risking gratuities being sent, PSD getting hold of me, suspension and ultimate sacking (thanks Dr Pepper), I have listed my professional contact details should you wish to discuss further, leave feedback, criticise my use of language, poor grammar, or just occasionally tell me I’ve tried hard and maybe even done a good job. I can then put it in my PDR, or maybe my CPD log.

DCI Mark Preston

Leading Teams – My Top 10 thoughts on what works

We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to blogs and books about leadership and the latest insights into what makes people tick or achieve extraordinary things. Some think that leadership can’t be taught; or anyone can lead with the right training – I believe that as with any ability, some have a natural aptitude and some need to work hard to develop effectively. In either case it’s requires constant practice and improvement.

I don’t pretend to have any wand-waving solutions and I’m still learning, but after 30 years of working as a leader in different environments I can at least share some brief thoughts on what appears to work well.

Others will have their own, but these are my Top 10 thoughts, many of which don’t tend to feature within the popular blogs published on the international business websites:

  1. It pays to be authentic…
    Adopting a facade or attempting to imitate someone you admire/have admired consumes a great deal of energy, doesn’t allow others to see your positive qualities, and is likely to slip and affect confidence at some point. When colleagues seek my advice I suggest they observe others and consider a variety of approaches and ideas whilst maintaining an individuality on which others can count. This also applies to social media accounts – people are reassured by honesty and consistency. We often hear the terms ‘style over substance’ and ‘don’t just talk the talk…’ – the fact is that credibility earns trust and loyalty.
  2. Be visible, be there for them…
    ‘Leading from the front’ often refers in positive terms to someone who’s seen to roll their sleeves up, but it’s so important to have enough distance to get the big picture while being close enough to demonstrably understand the challenges. Active interest and support without overly interfering makes a real difference. I’ve learnt that you get the most benefit sitting down with a member of the team and having a casual conversation which includes what’s currently important to them – going out in the back of a patrol car once a month is useful but doesn’t necessarily mean that you are engaged with your team.
  3. Recognise success and deal with poor behaviour…
    Never underestimate the values of different forms of thanks and although a brief email is better than nothing, it doesn’t offer nearly the same impact as a personal visit. Different forms of recognition, including unexpected acts of kindness, have a far greater impact that you might realise. In contrast to this, many staff over the years have often told me of the extent to which poor performers demotivate them – it has to be addressed as soon as possible and fairly, before taking the team forwards. In my experience a team working to high ethical standards is far less likely to present significant misconduct issues.
  4. Value difference…
    Good teams are diverse in terms of the people, their qualities and their professional skills. If you don’t take time to understand their particular needs and what unfairly curtails them, you will never experience what they are truly capable of. Those who are different to us often bring out the best in us and strengthen a team.
  5. Learn, practice, experiment…
    Understand that you will never have ‘cracked it’. I’m a big supporter of reflective practice – I constantly learn, practice, reflect, adapt, and seek to improve. I know when I start to lapse into a comfort zone it’s then time to seek a new challenge and stretch myself again, tapping into the knowledge of those who know more about the new subject than I do. Encourage others to develop and commit to change which also incorporates the lessons from the past.
  6. You waive the right to moan and mope in front of others…
    Leadership is sometimes a lonely place and it’s down to you to dig deep, brush yourself off, and if there is something you are unhappy with, seek to change it . Napoleon said that ‘A leader is a dealer in hope’ and there is a responsibility to always find a way forward, bringing others with you. This doesn’t necessarily include denial – teams need acknowledgement of the difficulties they face and deserve empathy before the focus turns to collectively meeting the challenge head-on. The leadership deal often includes ensuring your team receive higher recognition for success, while solely accepting responsibility for the things that could have gone better.
  7. Leadership is a service…
    Hierarchy sometimes has some value in terms of instilling positive pride and a clear reporting structure, but at each level each has a role to play and a responsibility to one another. Effective leadership is a service to those led, ensuring that their direction is clear whilst also ensuring they have the skills, tools and opportunity to achieve what they need to. Be aware of your own ego and manage it.
  8. Loyal people are honest and constructive…
    The Emperor’s New Clothes serves as a useful warning. Some of the best people who have worked for me have placed their trust in me and offered their support whilst also challenging me and contributing their ideas. If those around me were always telling me that ‘all is good’ and ‘all will be fine’ and ‘you’re doing great’ I know that nothing would ever improve or evolve. They also have a responsibility to challenge at the right time and in the right place, ideally offering alternative options rather than constant objections.
  9. Invest in the skills and talents of others…
    It’s likely that you are aware of and understand a fraction of the underlying talent that works with you every day. These are only revealed through conversations and offering opportunities to realise the potential that’s there – I’ve been regularly and pleasantly surprised by how others can grow in confidence, given the supported freedom to do more. This often means that members of the team ‘grow’ and move on but in my experience they’re keen to work with you again and offer their new skills.
  10. Share with and support others…
    Irrespective of their role or position, everyone has their own pressures and concerns. Loyalty needs to be in every direction, understanding that every role carries its own pressures and little is to be gained by routinely voicing negative judgements about other persons or teams. It’s also useful to understand that knowledge brings with it power and it has to be shared responsibly. Sharing anything that assists is usually appreciated, especially if there is little advantage to yourself other than the satisfaction of giving, which brings us back to point 1.

Thanks as always for your interest and for what I often learn from you.