Police slice through red tape to help front line officers serve the public
A new problem-busting culture has been introduced by South Yorkshire Police in a bid to slice through the bureaucracy which has previously held up improvements which allow front line officers to do their job more effectively.
Sometimes relatively simple issues can present obstacles to efficient working by officers on the streets and each of the county’s four policing districts now has a ‘local innovation group’ with a remit to address their own local problems immediately.
That gives officers as low down the rank structure as sergeants to authorise some spending from the local budget, such as buying computer charging cables for police vehicles, rather than going through the red tape of getting a purchase approved and actioned in the conventional way.
The force now encourages more involved issues to be solved by district commanders, rather than being subject to formal requests through the force’s higher management.
Details of the policy have been explained to South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Dr Alan Billings, at a meeting of his Public Accountability Board, where the force is held to account.
Assistant Chief Constable Tim Forber described the situation as ‘hindrance’ blocking, removing the barriers which frustrate officers attempting to work well.
He described the bureaucracy of waiting for decisions as like “being stuck in treacle, where everything is referred up.
“If we want to offer outstanding services, we have to fix this,” he said.
Officers on front line duties are to be issued with new lap top computers next Spring, a decision made by force commanders as a direct result of complaints about the efficiency of the current equipment, with new telephones also going into service.
A new ‘app’ is also being introduced, which will allow officers to report their frustrations in real-time as they work, so they can be examined in an attempt to remove problems.
“Officers will have an app where they can say something is a real frustration,” said ACC Forber.
“We can take take account of this, make sense of things and take action. I think we have a pretty robust approach to making things better,” he said.
A national review among front line police, carried out by the Home Office, confirmed there is a feeling on increasing demands on police against decreasing capacity and that officers on the streets feel an undervalued component in the policing system.
It also showed “a profound scepticism about the ability of the front line to inform change and improvement”, said a report to Dr Billings.
It is that scepticism the South Yorkshire Police approach seeks to address and one current example is setting up an engagement group of officers, to test potential new laptop models before the force makes a decision, to ensure they choose the most appropriate model for the needs of users.
The report to Dr Billings described solvable problems as “hindrance stressors” and said: “They act as barriers to employees doing their job effectively and can quickly result in reduced motivation and disillusionment with the organisation.
“Examples include role ambiguity, perceived red tape, poor systems, workplace politics and being able to access required tools and resources.
“Whereas challenge stressors promote people’s engagement in their role, hindrance stressors reduce it and have a large negative impact on people’s emotional energy.”