Don't go changing

John Sutherland
April 11, 2017
By John Sutherland
So much of the current talk in policing is of change. Of the pressing need for reform. And, truth be told, there is a great deal in this job that needs sorting out.


 
But, among all the conversations about things like modernization and transformation, it seems to me that we’re in danger of missing something of fundamental importance.

Where is the talk, about all that is precious in policing?
 
About the things that must never change? About the things you cannot put a price on, but that we cannot afford to be without?

Things like…

The simple desire to make a difference

Ask most good Coppers why they joined and the answer will be a simple one. They just wanted to make a difference. They still do.

It was never about money or status, recognition or reward. It was just about changing the world, one life at a time. It still is.

The privilege of public service

As the old wisdom suggests, ‘whoever wants to become great among you, must be your servant…

That precious and old fashioned thing called duty. That willingness to spend yourself on behalf of a cause that truly matters.

Discretionary Effort

Policing is built and sustained on the willingness of our best people – officers and staff – to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Endless unpaid hours, countless sleepless nights, unnumbered dawn starts and late, late finishes.

That willingness to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and go again. Even if you’ve only had a couple of hours’ sleep.

Police Culture

I can’t remember the last public conversation about police culture that didn’t begin with a presumption of the negative – that it’s a bad thing, something to be done away with at all costs.

But here’s the thing … In my experience, 80-90% of what makes up police culture is deeply good.

It’s what persuades remarkable women and men to do extraordinary things.

Police culture is brave. Endlessly brave. It is patient and kind. It is compassionate. It pursues justice. It stands in harm’s way. It runs towards. It is an admirable thing.

The willingness to take on more

As if the day job weren’t challenging enough, there are so many in policing who offer themselves up for more.

Public Order officers are volunteers. Hostage & Crisis Negotiators are volunteers. Armed officers are volunteers.

They take on even greater risk and even greater responsibility – and all for no additional reward, save the satisfaction of knowing that they have given their all.

We would be in a whole world of trouble without them.

When to act/When not to

Perhaps the most significant power given to any police officer is the power of discretion: the choice of when and how to act – without fear or favour. Used wisely and well, it changes lives. It’s a simple as that.

Good Sense of Humour

So much of policing is laugh or cry stuff.

And I have laughed longer and harder in the company of Coppers than perhaps anyone else.
God forbid they ever lose the smiles on their faces at the end of another long shift.

In all this inevitable talk of change, it seems to me that there are some things that we must never lose. Things that matter more than I can say.

 
John Sutherland is a Chief Superintendent at the Metropolitan Police and is based in a Headquarters Role at Scotland Yard. He joined the Metropolitan Police Service in 1992 and has served in a variety of assignments including as the Borough Commander at Camden and at Southwark. He is a member of the National & International Hostage Negotiator Cadre. Follow John on Twitter: @policecommander

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