Posts Tagged 'Chris Sims'

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for thinking that they amount to the following – the whole police force is to be ‘privatised’, officers are to be withdrawn from the streets and instead, we’re going to pay G4S to patrol, to detain suspects and to investigate crimes.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is always room to improve the way we operate and that if we fail to take advantage of new technologies, we’d become outdated and inefficient.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

I’m thinkin’ about my doorbell, when ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it?

The above is a short video with some words from our head honcho, Chris Sims, about the ongoing efforts that we’re making to sweep up outstanding offenders from the August riots.

We’ve already made a large number of arrests and put many guilty persons before the courts and then behind bars. Images of those persons involved but not yet located are sitting on the Operation View website and you’re able to take a gander at them and then give us a call if you recognise anyone.

As the Chief said, much of the success we’ve experienced so far has come about through help from the public and your input is vital to catching the few not yet collared by our long, long arms.

Anyone with any information about those involved in the disorder should call West Midlands Police on 0345 113 5000 or the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

It’s all over now, Baby Blue…

My 'Dedication' pic - 39,000 something views, over 2000 retweets, picked up by Sky News, ITV, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Express & Star to name a few...

Whilst I’m writing this, many officers across the West Midlands and further afield are slowly returning to normality after the tumultuous days of the previous week.

As the pic above shows, the shifts we’ve worked have been long, they’ve been tiring and demanding but at the same time have been necessary. Our job is to serve the public and when such an extraordinary set of circumstances arises, we are compelled to do all we can to return a sense of order to the streets.

When I talk about ‘normality’ of course, I guess it’s important to recognise that when it comes to the job of a police officer, there’s really no such thing.

‘Normality’ for officers in Walsall yesterday meant dealing with a major factory fire in the centre of the town. Normality meant the helicopter hovering overhead as units rushed around sealing off roads, evacuating houses and us looking like fluorescent windmills as we directed traffic around the scene of the incident.

I’d said earlier in the week how important the support of the public has been in helping officers through the longer shifts and giving us that extra boost when we reached four in the morning having worked however many hours and upon trying to write a statement, felt so tired that the words on the paper appeared to jump out of order and dance around the room.

The level of support that we’ve received, particularly through the social media sites, has in my experience been quite unprecedented and through my Twitter account alone I’ve read hundreds upon hundreds of messages wishing us well and congratulating us for our work.

I’ve been making sure that these messages find their way to the officers who are not quite as technically minded as myself and am really struggling to put into writing how much they’ve meant to us or what a difference it makes to know that whilst a small band of hoodlums have been out causing trouble, the vast majority of the public have been as shocked as we were at the scale of the disorder.

From talking to people whilst we’ve been out on foot patrols it is clear that this support is evenly distributed and there have been some superb acts of kindness shown by the public, locally with biscuits being dropped in at Willenhall Police Station and some rather delicious cakes finding their way to the nick at Walsall.

Of course from one point of view, the title of this blog is a little misleading (sorry Bob) as yes, whilst police officers are slowly resuming their normal duties, a wider discussion is now taking place on the cause of the riots and how to prevent their re-occurrence. We’re looking at ‘Broken Britain’, enhanced policing powers and importing super cops. Whilst the disorders have subsided, they were symptoms of a wider disease and it is the disease itself that needs a cure.

In addition to this discussion, efforts to identify and prosecute those sophisticated criminals who took part in the looting are ongoing with Operation View in the West Midlands now well established and yielding successes on a daily basis.

Eight days ago I don’t imagine anyone could have predicted how the rest of the week would have panned out. This is the nature of policing though, the unpredictability is something we’re used to but this isn’t to say that makes it any easier to deal with. What has helped though is your support, support that’ll not be readily forgotten.

There was nothing to fear and nothing to doubt…

The above is another shortish (well, seven minute long) video from our head honcho, West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims. I think the key quote to have come from our Chief over the past couple of days has been that those involved in the riots have been ‘not an angry crowd, but a greedy crowd’.

This pretty much says it all – there’s no political reason for burning down somebody’s home, smashing up somebody’s livelihood or robbing an injured person in broad daylight.

For many reasons it has been – and continues to be – an absolutely fascinating time to be a bobby and yesterday’s shift was no exception. I’d spent twelve hours on foot, walking around the centre of Walsall and chatting to anyone and everyone who fancied a chin wag.

There were no problems at all and as photos I uploaded showed, if anything it was actually quieter than usual. I understand this was the case across the rest of the West Midlands too.

Not having to chase masked hoodlums around whilst blowing my police whistle and yelling “Stop in the name of the law!”, I had the time to engage with people both face to face and through the social media, particularly my Twitter feed.

In both respects the support shown by the general public has been absolutely incredible and will be the subject of its own blog as and when I get the chance to sit and write something that sums up how much it meant to us all – not something that I feel will be easy to do.

I’d spent a lot of the afternoon popping into shops to speak to staff and also talking to shoppers making their way around the town. Positive feedback for what we were doing was unanimous and nothing short of inspiring. ‘There’s been no trouble in Walsall and that’s because the police have acted so quickly, thank you’.

This message was repeated over and over and means a great deal to us, it really does.

To top it all off, I received an invite through Twitter to drop into the Mayor’s Parlour at the town hall and on doing so, was not only thanked by the Mayor but also by the over fifties group visiting him at the time who all applauded us.

For the social media side, I’ve not been able to keep up with the hundreds and hundreds of messages of support that I’ve been sent through Twitter to pass on to colleagues. You can see the sort of response I’ve got here and I’ve been passing the messages on to my colleagues.

You’d think we’d struggle to work the extended shifts we’re now working but to be honest, such a level of positive feedback makes coping with the situation so much easier.

Just before I finished in the early hours I’d taken a photo in the canteen of some of the officers who were taking a break having manned one of the riot vans for however many hours previously. I’d accompanied the photo with the title ‘Dedication. Can’t say more than that’ as genuinely there was nothing more I could add.

The support we’ve had from the public I think is summed up in the response that this photo has had. I asked that it be forwarded, thinking that being the early hours a handful of people might see it. At time of writing, twenty five thousand people have viewed it.

Dedication. It goes both ways.

I have it all here in red, blue, green…

The above is a shortish video from West Midlands Police Chief Constable Chris Sims on the subject of the rioting seen in the region over the past few days.

We’re currently appealing for information on the disorders and would encourage you to get in touch with us if you think you can help identify those responsible. Take a look at the Operation View page for more on how you can help.

You can keep up to date with all the latest information through our website and by keeping your eye on the @wmpolice Twitter feed.

P.S. First person to guess which song I’ve taken the title of this post from wins an approving nod from myself. Just reply by clicking the ‘leave a comment’ link at the top. Go go go!


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