Deep water and the real signs of change

This week marks two years since I started as the Chief Constable of Cleveland Police and so it feels like an appropriate time to reflect on how far we’ve come. On the 29th April 2019 when I first looked out of the office window in Hemlington, this was the sign I saw:

I can smile now, which is a marker of our extraordinary progress, but it felt like a cruel irony at the time given the problems that Cleveland Police faced. Incidentally, the sign remains in place and acts as a useful reminder of our past. That is exactly what it is though; the past. The present and future of this organisation is bright but that’s not the same as saying we won’t make mistakes; all organisations who deal with emergencies will, from time to time, get things wrong but the work ethic and the dedication of the staff here at Cleveland to serve the public is unmatched.

Over the course of the last two years, progress we’ve made in the operational arena has been remarkable and down to the success of staff, officers and volunteers. Success is not, I hasten to add the success of the Chief Constable but that of the workforce itself – praise belongs to them in its entirety. I’ve done little more than listen, set priorities, lead and appoint great people and got the heck out of their way.

Our successes have been all the more impressive when you consider they’ve been achieved in the face of a pandemic which has severely tested organisations’ ability to function let alone improve but that’s exactly what we’ve achieved. The priorities I set on appointment included our response to Domestic Abuse, drugs proactivity and just as importantly, developing great leaders.

In response the workforce has delivered extraordinary results:

IndicatorCleveland Police – May 2019Cleveland Police Year to March 2021National Average
Domestic Abuse Arrest Rate29.5%50.2% 34%
Domestic Abuse Victim Withdrawal Rate93.9%54.4%54%
Public Protection Notice Forms containing relevant details of children59.9%97.7%
Stop Search NumbersMay 2019 – 127March 2021 – 702

If you read my last blog, I wrote about the depth of the understanding, effort and response of just one case can be lost when having to put numbers into a box. I don’t believe you can put a performance measure on saving lives.

These figures don’t capture the conversations with our communities, the reassuring phone call when we tell a victim we have solved their crime, the relief and sense of achievement of my teams when they hear a Judge sentence a serious offender to lengthy jail sentences. It’s these untold stories that add real colour to the successes that we have seen.

There are areas that we need to improve upon, but we cannot boil the ocean; it has been a systematic and deliberate process of focussing on initial priorities, then moving on. Indeed, to prioritise everything is to prioritise nothing. The metrics above are now amongst the very best in the UK but much remains to be done to ensure the communities of Cleveland are provided with the very best policing service but that’s what we will achieve.

It’s impossible to capture in simple performance measures the last of the priorities I listed above – the development of leaders. Developing people has been neglected at Cleveland for far too long from basic courses through to preparing the next Chief Constable. My intention has been to build not just a policing entity but a cultural one too where the leadership ideology of ‘community first’ runs like a golden thread through the whole force. Great leadership produces great (and sustainable) results; having great leaders is not an end in an of itself it is about ensuring that our community gets the great service that is so richly deserves.

The two years have been a privilege to work here in the north east of England as the proud Chief Constable of Cleveland Police and I’m pleased to say that the water is significantly less deep than it was back in 2019 an that is a credit to our wonderful staff – showing the real signs of change.

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