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New approach needed to find leaders says College of Policing

A new national approach is needed to identify leaders across the ranks according to the College of Policing.

Modernisation to working practice has sped up during the COVID-19 crisis and that must now extend into supporting and finding future leaders.

The College’s head, Mike Cunningham told the Police Superintendents’ Association annual conference this would also be crucial in improving diversity among senior officers.

HM Inspectorate has raised concerns over the way forces recruit and promote officers into senior ranks.

Mr Cunningham accepted that the College had to do more to make this happen, including mentoring schemes. He argued that the problem had been around well before the funding cuts began with the Cameron administration.

“Whilst austerity had many negative impacts, that wasn’t the signal to take the eye off the ball on learning and development,” he said.

“We need to develop a new approach that reaches right down into organisations for officers and staff in a coherent and comprehensive way. That will require a big cultural shift.”

Mr Cunningham, who has announced he is stepping down from his role with the College, admitted there was more work to do to improve attitudes to obtaining skills throughout an officer’s career.

“We are a long way away from where we need to be in terms of CPD,” he said.

Christine Elliott, the College’s Interim Chair, said keeping skills levels up was vital because of the changing nature of crime – including disinformation on social media that put the public at risk.

“Digital is no longer niche,” she said. “Who would have thought you could send a drone through a cat flap to carry out a piece of acquisitive crime? The know-how of criminals is pretty daunting.”

She also warned against forces simply expecting younger officers to be able to tackle issues such as online fraud.

“We cannot assume all millennials are digital natives just because they know how to work a computer and mobile phone,” she said.

The Interim Chair, who was appointed in March, has made improving diversity one of her priorities – including at board level. She revealed the College’s executive board has created a support role of apprentice to help develop diversity on the boards of forces across the country.

She said there was a wider benefit for police forces that got diversity right: “It's very clear from all sorts of research that the bottom line is a better performing workforce that makes better decisions. I see inclusion as part of wellbeing. If you don’t feel included you don’t feel as well as you can.”

She added: “Words are no longer good enough, if ever they were.”

The College has dropped its membership fee in a bid to increase membership and access to its learning. The College also wants to increase online learning, which has increased due to the COVID-19 crisis.

She said: “It’s there for all. Hopefully you’ll be able to pick up your phone and find your College in your pocket. We’re open for business.”

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