Posted: Friday 2nd February 2018
The need for us as an organisation to have a representative workforce, that truly reflects the communities of Avon and Somerset, is absolutely paramount, if we are going to understand our communities and be able to effectively provide them with a policing service, that meets their needs.
By building trust and confidence in our diverse communities, we can gain an understanding of wider policing issues such as terrorism, honour based abuse, forced marriage, human trafficking, modern slavery and female genital mutilation. Some would argue that the lack of diversity within Police Services workforce demographic, should be considered as a critical incident. What can be argued is that nationally, increasing the diversity of our workforce demographic, means that we are one step closer to increasing our legitimacy and truly reflecting the Peelian Principle that the police are the public and the public really are the police.
So what are our challenges around increasing our workforce demographic. In my view, as an organisation, we have three significant challenges. I use the fish tank analogy (see below) to present my argument.
If we imagine the landscape of Avon and Somerset Constabulary as a fish tank, we can see the current landscape within our tank looks both colourful and vibrant, and there are a number of different types of fish within the tank.
However, like with any organisation, we have to carefully manage our tank, in order for it to flourish. As an organisation our first challenge is how do we keep (retention) our fish (people) in our fish tank? This is where our policies and procedures need to be inclusive, free from bias and where we value difference amongst out workforce. Our second challenge is how do we get the fish at the bottom of the tank to the middle and then to the top (progression)? This is where we need to support the Continuous Professional Development of all our staff, so that they can achieve their full potential. We do this by offering courses to our staff, varied opportunities, coaching and mentoring (aspire and diversity champions), and via the NPPF and internal fast track promotion processes. Finally our third challenge is how do we get new fish (attraction) into our fish tank?
Like all fish tanks, our fish tank has a filter. Our filter represents all of the available support that the organisation provides its staff. For example, our Staff Support Groups, Representative Workforce Team, Occupational Health Unit, Trauma Risk Management Practitioners (TRiM) and Blue Light Champions. All of whom work towards supporting the health and wellbeing of our workforce.
In a local context, the challenges for me, mean working closely with all our communities (non-visible and visible characteristics) and continuing the outreach work we do on a day-to-day basis, in order to build trust and confidence.
A colleague and I were recently fortunate enough to be invited to attend at the City of Bristol College, to speak to a group of 60+ students. These weren’t your usual college students, they were students who were studying on an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course. All of them were unique and all of them came from different countries throughout the world: Democratic Republic of Congo; Afghanistan; Iran; Iraq; Egypt; Nigeria; Vietnam; Czech Republic; Netherlands; to name but a few.
The topic of discussion was about local policing and reassurance. Prior to our visit, most of these students had little or no contact with Police Officers in the UK, let alone within ASC. Our initial approach was to gain some understanding of the style of policing, these students had been exposed to in their home countries. Having listened to their stories, I was amazed at the level of police violence that most of them had not only seen, but also been subjected to. For me, this was an opportunity to not only show them the ‘friendly UK bobby’ approach, but to also help them with their integration into British Society. As you can see from the embedded pictures, this was also an opportunity to have photographs and #selfiewithacop. Many of the students posted these pictures onto their social media accounts. This enabled them to share this experience with their wider family and friends and gave us an opportunity to create more influence.
So what does success look like? Well 12 of these students enjoyed the session that much, they have asked to attend HQ for a visit to our Communications/Firearms Departments, to learn more about us. Whilst some of the other students expressed an interest in gaining UK citizenship, and coming to work for our organisation, in the near future. You often refer to the ‘Power of influence’ in your speeches and blogs. For me these opportunities, provide me with the ability to be a positive role model and an ambassador for the Police Service.
We have now been invited to the ESOL Student Charity Party at the College. This is an annual event hosted by and for the students. Each student brings in a food dish from their own country. I will be bringing in the Welsh Cakes and the Jamaican Patties J
In pursuit of our community engagement and outreach work, Courtesy of PCSO Dawn Pearse, we were fortunate enough to be invited to the Easton Jamia Mosque (see below), where we discussed the various employment opportunities, available within the Constabulary. As a result of attending at the Easton Jami Mosque, and a number of other local mosques, a number of worshippers attended at our recent Recruitment Discovery Workshops, with several now in the application stages.
In my opinion, as police officers, we are uniquely privileged to hold the ‘Office of Constable’, and with this role comes a great responsibility to the public and our family and friends. My shared vision, is to see ASC and the wider Police Service, have a more representative workforce. However, this is not the panacea, as ultimately we need to make every contact count, increase our legitimacy, and build greater trust and confidence, so that we are able to fully understand all of our communities needs and vulnerabilities.
PC Kristian Harris
Representative Workforce Team
Avon and Somerset Police