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Previous Article Next Article Police reforms are not strong enoughOn 29 Jan 2002 in Police, Personnel Today Comments are closed. Managementwithin the police forces has to improve if the Government’s reforms are todeliver a better serviceThereis a strong theme to the Government’s proposals for police reform – the serviceneeds to be much better managed. Sicknessrates in most forces are high. Average sick days lost per officer per year varyfrom 8.6 to 16.1. The public sector average is 10.2 and the private sector is7.2. If average sickness levels in every force were to be reduced by just twodays a year, that would be equivalent to recruiting an extra 1,200 officers. Nationally,almost a third of officers retire on ill-health grounds and, in one force, itis almost two- thirds. Police officers are more likely to be injured than manyother workers and it is only right that those hurt on duty should be properlyprovided for – but these figures are too high.TheGovernment response is a strategy that includes early health screening,fast-track diagnosis and moving officers to duties they can cope withphysically. Manyforces are already trying to implement what the Government is now proposing butare being constrained by legislation.Policeforces have no clear legal power to fund private medical treatment – as aresult there are officers off sick and on NHS waiting lists for many months. Insome cases, the condition of officers has deteriorated so much while waitingfor treatment, that they have retired onill-health grounds rather than beingtreated. Atpresent, the law says an officer who cannot perform the full duties of aconstable (such as chasing burglars across a roof and dealing with riots) mustbe ill-health retired, even if that officer’s actual job is to watch TVmonitors, or investigate fraud. This rule also applies to senior officers whosephysical duties are very similar to a manager in any other organisation.Furthermore,from day one, all officers are entitled by law to six months full sick pay andsix months half pay. Once on half pay, if an officer comes back to work forjust one day then they automatically become entitled to another six months onhalf pay. There is little a force can do to tackle persistent absentees –officers cannot be disciplined for poor attendance. Thereis nothing in the Government’s current proposals to remove any of these legalimpediments to effective absence management.Thepolice reforms also propose the adoption of more family-friendly policies aswell as greater investment in accommodation for staff to attract a broaderrange of people to the service. There are also suggestions for additionalincentives to reward particular effort. These are sensible proposals and onemay wonder why they are not happening anyway. Insome of the forces there is a positive approach, but not everywhere. The reasonfor this is because too many police managers still see themselves more asindividuals who direct operations rather than managers or leaders of people andresources. The consequence of this is not only an historic lack of investmentin staff development and support, but also a lack of understanding surroundingthe role of performance management.TheGovernment needs to enable managers by removing the legal restrictions, but italso needs a strategy to increase the number of good quality managers in theservice. Thelaws that provide a shield behind which poor managers hide must go and forcesmust bring in more good managers from outside the service. There is no signthat the Government has recognised this need.Therelease of talent and resource that would result from the combined changes ofless regulation and better management would enable the police service toimprove performance considerably. If that was to happen, the Government’scontroversial and expensive plan to use civilian wardens would no longer benecessary.ByMike Campbell, HR consultant and former director of corporate support, City ofLondon Police Related posts:No related photos.