Workforce optimisation for Police

February 2024
Written by
Greg Cattaneo-Richards
minute read
Police car

Tackling tomorrow’s workforce productivity challenges through innovation, collaboration, and adaptability in Policing

I was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the CityForum Digital Policing Summit on the 24th & 25th of January. Having worked with Blue Light agencies over my consultancy career within EPM & Planning, it was empowering to see leadership coming together in light of the Police Productivity Review to discuss ways to harness data and technology to better plan for their workforce productivity challenges across the years to come.

 From listening to the experts in the room, some core principles persisted throughout, and unsurprisingly, many of these challenges are not unique to policing, or even other Blue Light agencies such as Ambulance Trusts or Fire Brigades, but are common throughout the Private Sector too. I hope to capture the essence of these principles below.

Data-driven leadership

 Firstly, truly harnessing of data will be the main catalyst for change. Ownership and quality of data are foundational pillars upon which effective decision-making rests, which relies on a strong reliance and trust in Data & Technology leaders within the forces. Through predictive analytics and real-time departmental data sharing, forces can then optimise resource allocation and enhance community confidence through having a more effective & efficient workforce. To best implement these strategic changes necessitates seamless collaboration across departments, from Operations to HR to finance with strong leadership from Technology. In the past the focus has possibly been on purely Operational-led decisions without factoring in the need to move towards the expertise in data-driven technology.

Build trust in collaborative partners

Secondly, successful implementation of technology hinges on adopting an iterative approach with invested partnerships. Gone are the days of rigid, waterfall methodologies in the most part, where large behemoth programmes by the traditional big consulting firms have failed to bring results. These juggernauts of implementations have had too much rigidity without the ability to course correct, and by the time it's understood that the programme is failing, it's too late. Instead, Forces must forge alliances with trusted agile Partners that bring flexibility, a true passion for the line of duty, and are invested in supporting the change process the Force will inevitably go through. Collaboration between Forces and these expert consultancies will inherently foster innovation and enable access to specialised expertise that the Force may not have access to and that aren't front and centre of these larger programmes or firms. By leveraging these partnerships, Forces can address immediate tactical challenges with a real air of innovation, whilst also working with them to simultaneously strategise technological innovations to better deal with upcoming recruitment challenges or classic succession planning scenarios as the workforce changes guard.  

In collaboration, these partnerships can identify areas for change that are high impact, low cost, and progress to building Proof of Concepts; releasing real change with quicker time to value across the wider organisation iteratively. This agile approach allows for gradual expansion and adoption as the organisation grows with the change, where older waterfall-style implementations can be too complex and suffer from "too much, too early" whilst not focusing on the inherent problem. By iteratively refining solutions, Forces can mitigate the burden of these approaches whilst tackling legacy tech debt and helping pave the way for sustainable long-term successes, one step at a time.

Opportunity for innovation

 On reflection, the decentralised nature of the police force presents a unique opportunity for innovation. There are 45 territorial police forces across the United Kingdom, who all have similar challenges across technology & strategic operational planning for success. Encouraging constabularies to pioneer ideas and proof of concepts can yield valuable insights that can then be shared and iterated upon across the broader law enforcement community. Incentivising and rewarding forces that take the initiative to innovate can foster a culture of agility and forward-thinking within the decentralised structure, and this can be mandated centrally as an when the innovation becomes proven practice.

People at the core

 Furthermore, embracing a people-centric approach to change is a non-negotiable. The Police Force is world-renowned for its approach to upholding the law whilst working within communities and building long standing bonds and pride in its employees; people are at its foundational core. To best set up for success, it is vital that users are part of the change journey, from the moment of foundational conception through to finally implementation & delivery. Acknowledging the emotional journey of transformation and celebrating incremental successes along the way are vital in implementing change in both in technology and operations. As is entirely reasonable due to the public nature of policing and the scrutiny that comes with it, there is an aversion to failure, but failure is also inevitable. Rightfully, failures should be managed to avoid where possible through failure criteria and continuous improvement initiatives, but these moments also serve as valuable learning opportunities when they do occur. By failing fast and iteratively feeding back in consolidated progress, Forces can refine their technology implementation, better serving their long term strategies for success.

To close out, successful digital transformation in policing requires visionary leadership grounded in these principles. It's about more than just implementing new technologies, but about cultivating a culture of innovation, collaboration, and adaptability. By championing these principles and leveraging the inherent decentralised structure to encourage experimentation and innovation, thought leaders in the field can drive meaningful change and better serve their communities in an ever-evolving workforce landscape.

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