Arresting ideas

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Arresting ideasOn 1 Sep 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Superintendent Paul Ackerley, head of staff development services at NorthYorkshire Police is hoping to create the leading rural force in the country.Stephanie Sparrow reportsCovering the patch seen on television’s Heartbeat series, North YorkshirePolice is the second largest police force in England and Wales. The location is as idyllic as that seen on Sunday night TV, as its 3,209square miles encompass the City of York, the resorts of Scarborough and Filey,and picturesque towns such as Skipton, Settle and Harrogate. Yet, in terms of skills and training this is no rural backwater.Superintendent Paul Ackerley – who heads the force’s staff development servicesand reports to the director of HR Jon Porter – is determined to establish bestpractice in measuring and improving the performance of its people, as part ofthe force’s ambition to be “known as the leading rural police service in Englandand Wales”. He employs a wide range of training strategies to achieve his aims andbelieves he can issue more NVQs than any other police force in the country.”We can deliver them right the way across the criminal justicesector,” he says, “and management to level five.” Ackerley functions as a head of training with a difference. He wears auniform and as a silver commander and police superintendent, can be called uponto make policing decisions outside his training remit at a moment’s notice.These can range from authorising the search for a mobile phone user’s signal ina potentially life-threatening situation, to monitoring anti-US demonstrationsdemonstrations at the early warning station at Menwith Hill. Yet, despite these demands, his motivation could be understood by someone ina similar role on Civvy Street. “Training is my passion because it isabout enabling people to develop, and then watching those lights turn on,”he says. He is responsible for 60 staff who implement and manage the training of1,400 officers and up to 700 civilian support staff. This may sound top-heavy in terms of staffing, but not when the complexityof the training is taken into consideration, as police officers potentiallyconsume weeks of training every year – particularly in the intense area offirearms courses. “If someone applies to become a firearms officer they initially attenda six-week course on how to use their weapon. This involves two weeks ofshooting and four weeks of tactics,” he explains. And this is only the beginning, as firearms officers must take five one-weekrefresher courses during the year and a four-week advanced driver trainingcourse. If they want to become a VIP officer – which means looking afterroyalty – they need a further five sets of one-week blocks. “They also need to be trained in method-of-entry equipment,” addsAckerley. “A three-day course which they have to take every three years,and a four-day first-aid course, which they also need to renew. They need to betrained in use of force, because every officer needs two days’ training in thata year – and that’s before we start talking about training in relation to newlaw and procedures.” Yet after all this skills development, a firearms officer may never evenneed to draw their gun. “We have never shot anyone in 20 years,” says Ackerley.”Having said that, it might be because we have trained people in theseskills so effectively. But there is lots of build-up at various stages so youdo need that intensity of training.” The police has an “insatiable appetite for training which will never bemet”, he continues. “Every time a new piece of equipment comes in, orcriminals start using a new type of technology, we start training our people todeal with it.” The national ethos of local policing exacerbates the need for training. Soif a firearms officer, for example, moves to North Yorkshire from the WestYorkshire boundary he would have to go through Ackerley’s induction course. “Different forces use different guns, and we have different policiessupporting the way we deal with firearms incidents. If an employee moves withinbranches of a retail giant they would find everything is virtually the same,but that doesn’t apply across the police service in England and Wales,” heexplains. And as Ackerley points out, police officers can follow many career pathswhich, in turn, accelerate the need for training. “We don’t have the situation as in the US, where you join theCalifornia Highway Patrol or the FBI and follow that line. Here, after two orthree years [in the police] an officer can apply to be a CID officer and willthen have to be trained as a full crime investigator – a 15-month course. This is not to say that training is not closely monitored or tied to thebusiness case. “When anyone wants a course, they have to put in a minibusiness case and this states what alternative solutions have been considered,and what objectives it will meet for North Yorkshire Police. After training,their supervisor signs off to verify what they can do. This [method] isinternal to us and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary has commented onit.” To an outsider it must seem Ackerley has the budget to suit such detailedwork. He has secured a £1m increase for 2003-2004 to bring the annual trainingbudget to £2.8m. Out of the 29 areas of training covered by this sum, there are six that takeup the lion’s share: probationer training, leadership and managementdevelopment, senior management training, IT training, firearms training anddevelopment, and driver training and development. The impetus for training needs comes from government principles and theforce’s strategy. For example, training 120 newly appointed probationaryconstables during 2003-2004 supports the Government’s aim to increase thenumbers of police officers, offering visible reassurance to the public. “The Home Office sees that police leadership and probationary trainingare two of the key issues facing the police service at the moment. Centrex [theHome Office body which produces training packages] is currently devising a newleadership programme which will cover all ranks and grades, and has justrevamped its senior leadership programme at the police staff college atBramshill,” says Ackerley. Sector skills body the Police Skills and Standards Organisation (PSSO),estimates that by 2007, the high levels of recruitment will mean some 51,000police officers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have less than fiveyears’ experience. It has urged all forces to identify leadership andmanagement skills needs and shortages as soon as possible “to ensure aneffective service to the public”. Ackerley is already on the case with North Yorkshire’s own leadership anddevelopment training strategy. Its aims include empowerment, engendering aculture of continuous development and developing innovative thinking. Coursesare available to all current and newly appointed police officers and supportstaff managers at any stage in their career. To this end, Ackerley runs a leadership forum to promote the strategy,”set up to help develop the leadership skills of our senior managers andthe leadership style of North Yorkshire Police as a service”, he explains.In addition, he is working with The Work Foundation’s Campaign for Leadershipand offers staff the opportunity to take part in a Work Foundation liberatingleadership profiling activity, which involves participating in self-assessmentand peer feedback in 38 key areas. He also runs his own leadership summerschool. He is candid about challenges ahead. “Some of our officers have beenvery task focused. We are trying to broaden their horizons,” he says. Ackerley believes discretionary behaviour is the key. “If you look atthe liberating leadership behaviours, the 38 areas involved have nothing to dowith carrying out tasks, it’s about the way we do them that has theimpact.” His work is having an effect as demonstrated by this July’s summer school –to which chief officers, chief superintendents, inspectors and principalofficers from the civilian staff were invited. “Two of the mostsought-after subjects [on the programme] were ’emotional intelligence’ and ‘thepersonal aspect of change’,” he says. Ackerley’s work on helping others to find their definitions of leadership,based on self-awareness, starts at probationer level. He gives the newrecruits, aged from 19-40 years and drawn from all walks of life, quite amoving definition of what it means to take command of a situation, and to leadothers, perhaps complete strangers, out of a potentially distressing situation.”Probationers come here for an induction programme on what I call thelearning journey,” he says. “I ask them which skills they think theyare going to need and they’ll probably say ‘decision-making’ or ‘communication’skills and miss out leadership.” “I tell them: ‘in 12 months’ time you could be in a police car withblue lights flashing and [sirens wailing], and be the first person to arrive atan accident. “Everyone is going to look to you to take control of the situation.They won’t care how many months or years of experience you’ve got, because apolice officer has arrived – and you’ve got to be thinking about casualties,obstruction to roads, the health and safety of people and yourself. That’s abig responsibility,” he adds, “but that’s leadership.” Competency frameworksOver the past two years the Police Skills and StandardsOrganisation (PSSO) has linked and mapped a National Competency Framework andNational Occupational Standards.The suite of standards has now been approved and the PSSO hasintegrated the units to create the new Integrated Competency Framework. North Yorkshire Police used the relevant National OccupationalStandards as a point of reference. For example, it has attracted the attentionof the Home Office for its work on mapping a probationer’s developmentportfolio across to a customer service NVQ, which should give them anencouraging start to their careers.”Its about accrediting prior competence really and now probationerscan get an NVQ out of it,” says Ackerley. It is also believed to be the first force in the country to askfirearms incident commanders to not only go on a firearms incident commanders’training course, but to then complete a portfolio of evidence to be matchedagainst the relevant national occupational standards.”It’s done the same way as an NVQ and will put us in a farmore robust environment to show that people are more occupationally competentand have been deemed to be so,” says Ackerley, referring to a processwhich has internal and external verification.He believes this will be invaluable if the PSSO sets up aprofessional register for firearm incident commanders, as those commanders withthe portfolio will be eligible for registration. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img read more