Posts Tagged 'Business Partnering Program'

Is it really so strange?

If you’ve seen some of the recent press coverage on the force’s Business Partnering proposals, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they amount to the following – the whole police force is to be ‘privatised’, officers are to be withdrawn from the streets and instead, we’re going to pay G4S to patrol, to detain suspects and to investigate crimes.

Is this really likely to happen and can the reports be true?

The first thing to keep in mind about working with the private sector is that the proposals – and they are only proposals – are at a very early stage. Firm plans are not in place and this is because at the moment we don’t know what the private sector is able to offer.

Late last year the Police Authority gave our force, in partnership with Surrey Police, permission to explore options for working with the private sector. This is to give them an opportunity to review how we currently do things and to see if they can offer suggestions and solutions as to how we can provide a better service.

There is recognition that there is always room to improve the way we operate and that if we fail to take advantage of new technologies, we’d become outdated and inefficient. This is based against the background of a requirement for us to work with less funding and fewer staff. But it’s not purely to do with cost issues though – it is about challenging the way we do things.

On this basis a tendering notice was published with a complete list of our functions so that interested companies could approach us and engage in talks.

This list was kept deliberately broad as to repeat the tendering process again would be costly, pretty much every function that we carry out was listed.

This list had included carrying out patrols and investigations – not because these are areas considered as appropriate for private companies to take over but because by keeping the list as broad as possible, the attention of a wide range of companies would be attracted.

As it stands companies are approaching as to let us know how they can offer their support to allow us to do our job better. It’s an ‘exploratory’ process in that at the moment we don’t necessarily know what businesses can offer, in that we want them to approach us and let us know what’s available.

As an officer working on the much valued ‘front line’, I’m happy to say that there are indeed things we could do differently and that by embracing new technologies and methods of working, we could be far more efficient.

This isn’t a controversial statement – it’s why we’re looking to engage with businesses in the first place.

To give solid examples of the shape that Business Partnering might take is hard because as I have said, at the moment we are in the process of seeing what’s out there.

This said, there are examples of current practice which could no doubt be improved with a little private sector knowledge.

Take statements for example – it’s 2012 and we’re still handwriting victim’s accounts of crimes. Only the other day I was taking a statement and the victim expressed surprise that we didn’t use a tablet or something similar. I had to agree – the technology is there so why aren’t we making the most of it?

Crime scene management is another area highlighted as one that could benefit from private sector support. As a police officer, would you rather I be available to patrol and answer emergency calls or instead that I stand by a cordon for an entire shift? Do we really need a police officer or a PCSO stood by the scene tape or instead, could a company offer staff to do the job and so free up our time?

The arrest process too could potentially be improved by working with a private partner. Say we arrest a shoplifter – we have to transport them back to the police station ourselves and go through the custody procedure to get him ‘booked on’ and into a cell. We then have to go back to the shop to take the details. Could someone else not transport the prisoner on our behalf and allow us to crack on securing evidence at the shop more efficiently and effectively?

This means we would impact less on the shop owner who is already a victim of crime, detain the suspect for less time and better serve the public by allowing us to return to patrol more quickly – what we do best.

In all of these examples, benefit is gained to the police by taking advantage of services and technologies either not available ‘in house’ or that do not require the powers of a constable to perform.

As the Chief has said, the overall objective of Business Partnering is to be more ‘efficient and effective’. It’s about asking as a police officer what do I really need to be doing and as a force, what could we be doing differently?

Spending cuts are the reality and whilst I think the Business Partnering scheme has been somewhat misrepresented as amounting to potential ‘privatisation’, the consequence of not looking at our operation in the face of reduced budgets and staffing levels would likely cause a great deal of damage to the service we aim to offer.

As a police officer on the receiving end of the force’s plans to work with the private sector, I’d be unhappy if they represented a ‘privatisation’ process, if they amounted to me taking a step back from the front line.

The plans interest me because working inside the job, I know full well there are things we could be doing better and if businesses can provide the solutions and we were not to take advantage, it’s the public that’d be the ones to suffer – the same ones I joined to serve.

We have set up a special section on our website answering questions about Business Partnering which includes some further case studies on how the force could benefit and plenty of other information.

Today we’re dedicating tweets about the proposals which you can follow using the hashtag #wmpbpp and the following day there’ll be a live web chat. You can join in with it here between 12:00 and 13:00.

In addition you can check out the ‘Meet The Beat‘ interview I did with Chief Supt. Phil Kay, head of the BPP for West Midlands Police, in which he addresses some of the issues raised around working with the private sector.

Keep good company…

What exactly is the Business Partnering Program and how might it affect you? Our Chief, Chris Sims, explains.

The below article was written by West Midlands Police Chief Constable, Chris Sims, in response to a story that ran in the Birmingham Post concerning the Business Partnering Program. If you’re interested to know more about the BPP initiative, check out this interview with Chief Superintendent Kay, head of the program itself, in which he answers questions on how the program will operate and addresses some of the concerns raised.

I WANTED to take this opportunity to respond to last week’s front page article which talked about ‘controversial plans’ to bring in the private sector to work with West Midlands Police and the ‘process of discovery’ that we have embarked upon.

Far from being a ‘process of discovery’ we are very clear about the reasons why we are considering working with a business partner. The proposal sits within a broader change agenda that aims to achieve our vision of serving our communities and protecting them from harm as well as reducing crime, improving satisfaction with our service and increasing trust and confidence in policing. All of these to be achieved against a hugely challenging financial backdrop.

Despite these funding challenges, overall crime levels across the West Midlands are now lower than at any time since 2002 and confidence in the force is high, with 85 per cent people saying we are doing a good job.

The dilemma we face is, how can we continue to improve high levels of performance across all levels of activity while under renewed future financial pressures? The last Comprehensive Spending Review resulted in a four year gap of £126m. Reductions in the next CSR could leave us exposed and vulnerable, with no scope to find future savings without resorting to potentially dangerous cuts in service. The concept of business partnering offers an exciting opportunity to make a quantum leap in how we conduct our business.

Given the potential future backdrop, how do we continue to improve the service that we provide, give people more rather than less choice and make the best use of our resources? Business transformation may provide the answer.

Transformation is much more than a fancy word for change. It is saying that to break out of this pattern and make both a step change in delivery and provide value for money there has to be sustained and integrated change activity.

So specifically what value will transformational change add to the organisation? We believe it will: create a radical new relationship with information, transforming how we access, collect, manage and use information; drive improved productivity from resources, build stronger connectivity between customers, citizens and partners; grow the capability of staff and improve the flexibility and cost effectiveness of providing logistical support.

Change has been policing’s constant companion for many years, driven by a variety of issues such as public expectations, legislation, new technology and professional curiosity. However, despite that the core operating principles of policing have hardly altered. We are still an organisation that relies on weight of numbers, remains essentially reactive in outlook, is overly geographic in the way we are organised and monolithic in the way we present ourselves to customers. Despite all the change and introduction of new technology, our control centres, parade rooms and CID offices have largely retained their same outlook, behaviour and operating style.

To achieve transformational change we need to break through this ‘glass ceiling’, which is a dense configuration of process, culture and technology. After all, the service has spent heavily on new technology, it has used consultants to bring in new ideas, it has a considerable reservoir of talent and knowledge yet none of these agents of change, on their own, has been sufficiently powerful to transform the way policing works.

Partnership with the private sector, properly incentivised to produce long term outcomes and embedded within the organisation, is the best route towards the transformation that policing needs.

So how would a partnership work? It would operate against three key principles: Firstly, expertise in policing rests with the police. British policing is revered around the world and its strength comes from putting skills and knowledge to use in a balanced and impartial manner that is subject to the highest levels of scrutiny. There is no appetite to change this. Secondly, the public entrust police officers with extraordinary powers to protect communities from harm. These powers should be operated in a way that is transparent and highly accountable. Thirdly, the partnership must operate within the values espoused by West Midlands Police to put the public first in first in everything we do, and to listen, learn and strive to improve.

Only by following these principles can the partnership protect the reputation of the force and continue to inspire people’s trust and confidence. Within these principles it is possible to envisage a partnership that can bring improved policing to the people of the West Midlands and a proper return to stakeholders of the commercial partner.

The concept of business partnering offers an exciting opportunity to make a quantum leap in how we conduct our business and how we continue to serve our communities and protect them from harm.

Of course, radical change carries some risk but the attitude of critics which amount to sitting back and doing nothing puts the future of West Midlands Police at even greater risk.

Chris Sims, West Midlands Police Chief Constable, May 2012

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