This week, we were invited along to attend Edinburgh Police Research and Practice Group at Lothian and Borders Police Head Quarters.
The event was focused on Community Policing in Edinburgh and the research being carried out by academics at the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice : Dr Simon Mackenzie and Dr Alistair Henry.
Assistant Chief Constable Mike McCormick opened the event by reminding the audience ”We need technical solutions!” Community Police are under pressure from every side. From the side we have “privitisation” ; private police out number public police in the USA and in the UK the number of private police is growing rapidly. From above we have “international government” very focused and immersed in issues such as illegal immigration and trafficking, as a result they have less time to focus on local. From the bottom up ( our personal favourite) we have the co-production of safety and order happening involving citizens every step of the way.
The symbolic dimension of community policing was raised ; citizenship and sense of belonging. Although, I couldn’t help but notice there were no citizens in the room! I think it’s important to realise that the Police have to protect community policing and the philosophical ideas behind it. The local officers taking part in our pilot were reminded by Chief Superintendent Craig Suttie that MyPolice is their chance to truly show the value of what they do.
It was suggested by Alistair that Community Police should really be called Communications Police. The role of a community Officer was compared to the following:
- customer complaints
- surveillance officer
- symbol / statue
- law enforcer
- gatekeeper of other services
It pretty clear from that list that the skill sets and personality attributes of community officers are remarkable. More than ever before the public are not focused on outcomes – they are focused on process. We are less bothered about the police catching the bad guy and more about how they listen to us. Often, attitudes to police can be shaped by their bedside manner.
The presenters highlighted that information about local policing positively affects public confidence. So the fact that MyPolice is a channel to portray professional values and ethics ( and communicate them ) can have a real effect !
The audience debated around the reality that Community Policing is undervalued internally – hopefully MyPolice can be one way of changing this because we believe Community Police connect, network and empower. The officers we have met are willing to listen to stories and they can often act as ‘glue’ in diverse communities.
A member of the audience asked a really valid question around how community police can identify movers and shakers in their communities to help spread their message and to help police understand the nature of their network. I think this is a crucial question and one that may people in the public sector are asking themselves in light of the Big Society debate.
I was delighted to meet Superintendent Tony Beveridge from Tayside Police who reminded the audience of the power of social media ( thanks Tony! ) and we had a good conversation around the reality that this stuff is not about tools, it’s about mindset.
As a result of this event and conversations with the officers afterwards our team have designed a new function for our software that is around introducing new officers to their communities… more on this later.
The complexity arises because measuring intangible soft skills is challenging, afterall you can’t measure listening, but now that Commnity Police are on MyPolice hopefully their communities will see that they are there and they are listening…
Learn more about SCCJR Community Policing Project.
What do you think? Do you see the value in Community Policing?