NPIA HR chief warns police must improve people management skills

A senior police HR figure has voiced concerns about the level of people management skills among senior officers.

Angela O’Connor, chief people officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA), warned that while chief officers were excellent at controlling incidents, they needed to develop skills in making resourcing and deployment decisions.

Speaking exclusively to Personnel Today, O’Connor said people leadership skills were the “biggest concern” for the agency as it embarked on a new leadership strategy for all 43 forces in England and Wales.

“Our biggest concern is business policing skills – that’s people management,” she said. “Officers need to understand issues of resources and deployment. And my view is, don’t put a cop in charge of that – put an HR professional there.”

O’Connor cited the case of the Suffolk strangler murders, where Steve Wright killed five prostitutes in a six-week killing spree in 2006, as a time when HR should have been called in for help. The police investigation into the death of the first woman involved 600 officers from nearly every force in the country.

“If you’re a little force like Suffolk, you wouldn’t have the resources to deal with that they had to bring in resources from elsewhere,” she said. “We need to develop our most senior people to create that leverage through the HR professional.”

The NPIA leadership strategy, agreed by the Home Office in March, will introduce particular business skills to the police curriculum, encourage better career management, and provide graduate and promotion opportunities.

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Front-line police officers were told not to work overtime this week, after talks broke down once again over pay. The Police Federation, which represents 140,000 rank-and-file officers, warned its members to ‘work to rule’ by operating strictly within the times of their shifts, and not putting in any extra hours. The federation is angry at this year’s latest pay offer of 2.325%, after demanding a 3.5% increase.

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