A cautionary note

I suppose we can all be forgiven for being human. It is less easy to be so forgiving of those who seem less.

Who can honestly say they wish a police officer well as he finds himself sentenced to life for having used his position of authority to commit crimes against the people he is trained to protect. Women living a little more in fear, men living a little more in shame.

Right now however I sit here appalled by the same shifting of blame we see every time the latest example makes for a momentary headline in the news. I will start with my own. Not an admission of a crime but certainly a contribution to the status quo. I am a part of the society that is emerging too slowly from the misogyny of our past. We are better than that now, apparently. I certainly like to think so. I am not sure the average WhatsApp account would concur.

My own blame probably sits here alive and well somewhere. But it is my shifting of blame that I found myself doing this evening. The very thing I am blogging about and observing in others. Demanding more action orientated being mode, less blame. I bit down hard on a senior representative of an institution I deem worthy of blame tonight. His venting of anger becoming my venting back. His post, ill-advised perhaps or even a little in poor taste, but I think there are plenty in senior places who wear these same shoes. I do not think this one man deserved quite the barricade of abuse I gladly became a part.

Here’s the post, and my reply:

“I have not commented during the judicial process but now Couzens has been sentenced I can. This predator is an absolute disgrace to the police service, and I am totally ashamed that he was ever a police officer.
I am proud to carry a warrant card, but this vile individual’s abuse of that authority has cast a shadow on all those who work within policing. He has brought disgrace to our uniform.
The way he took advantage of Sarah’s trust makes me feel sick to the stomach.
No sentence will ever ease the pain for the family and friends of Sarah or undo the terrible damage this disgusting man has done. He doesn’t deserve to have another single day of freedom and I hope every day he spends in prison is a long one.
My thoughts, and those of all my colleagues, remain entirely with Sarah’s family and friends.

John Apter, National Chairman of the Police Federation, LinkedIn 30th September 2021

I must admit even a few hours later I read John Apter’s words here and cringe. Each paragraph another example of having authority not being it. Having delegated someone a position of authority that was betrayed. Having a warrant card. Having disgust, anger, pain of breached trust. All seems a little too self-orientated by half. Lacking the action orientated, calm, vision of a plan, sentiments that would give confidence that things will now get better. However, this is not his burden alone, and I am not sure my reply will motivate the actions I think necessary beyond this single leader’s brief. Not that it is even his brief.

My reply

I think the family deserve more than your anger, or the wish to be distanced from the stain on a badge.
Like any workforce, it is to be assumed all psychological conditions in the community will to some extent sit within, or develop whilst within, any institutional subset of it. As the National Chairman of the Police Federation I’d be more interested in how closely you have revisited the manner of critical controls, both local and National, and by what metrics give you a confidence or trust to think it unlikely to happen on your watch again.
Is the right framework of control able to identify “predators” within the service. Curb such behaviour by the systems, skills, training, and independent assurance across line-management, inter-company overviews, performance metrics, incident management, early warning, and lessons learned across an adapting set of processes. Processes you are at the forefront of necessary interest and leadership in its updates, efficacy, and change.
Where’s the accountability here that compels you to post what is changing? What lessons are being actively engaged. Not the scale of shame, and the offload of the blame.

My response. Hardly the diplomat I normally try to be

Did one senior representative deserve all of this? I think probably not. Worse, it does nothing positive to encourage more senior people to step up. In any walk of life how many boardroom executives do we see posting content and thought leadership. Clarity of their vision. Being visible. Showing themselves capable to lead, and behave in ways that demonstrate the positive actions of change. Restoring a little of the trust. Why should I single out one of the few who at least volunteers to step up and speak out.

What then of the institution a little closer to these action orientated responses? What of the Metropolitan Police? What was their more stage-managed press-office prepared to say today? The most action orientated statement they made is here.

Here are the actions they listed as most pressing:

publish a new strategy for tackling violence against women and girls. This will outline how we will prioritise action against sexual and violent predatory offenders.   

A new established specialist Predatory Offender Units and since last November they have arrested more than 2,000 suspects for domestic abuse, sex offences and for child abuse.   

deploying 650 new officers into busy public places, including those where women and girls often lack confidence that they are safe.   

stepping up reassurance patrols and providing an increased police presence where it is most needed by identifying key “hotspot” locations for offences of violence and harassment. We are allocating officers solely for patrol in those areas.   

Understanding the concerns of women in London is really important to us and we are undertaking a range of activity so we can better listen and respond.

Metropolitan Police: our response to issues raised…(access here).

This is followed by an observation:

We expect the best of our officers and when they fall below our standards they undermine the public’s trust in us

ibid (access here).

Nothing in these actions is directed toward the revisiting of the internal control environment that intervenes when the individual fails. Am I alone in wondering what permits this simply to be a question of rebuilding trust at the front line? When clearly the trust in need of restoration is in the management and the how – not the who.

No, I think John Apter was deserving a little more latitude than I offered. The tragedy and grieving family left to be. But perhaps the visibility | behaviour | trust issues I found myself raising, and the charges I presented of lacking accountability in leadership, are probable cause for more direct questions to the wider institutions of law and order, still very much at large.

About Me

In psychology we are required to look beneath the mask. This blog series is attempting to unmask some hidden parts of projects to engender a more collaborative way.

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