Police HR told to prepare for modernisation backlash from officers

Police HR professionals should brace themselves for an officer backlash against workforce modernisation plans which will hamper the Service’s ability to respond to major incidents, according to the Police Federation.

Paul McKeever, chair of federation, accused HR directors of pressing ahead “willy-nilly” with plans to modernise staffing, pay, development and leadership, without listening to officers’ concerns that the proposals will have a detrimental affect on their ability to police.

More than a quarter of police forces have begun changing their working processes and workforces since 2007, as part of a national change programme to provide better value for money.

McKeever told Personnel Today: “It’s the HR department, in particular, where the greatest pressure is coming from for change and they are going to feel resistance from officers on the ground who don’t like the look of that, and quite rightly too, as it means police officers will lose their resilience.”

He added: “[HR managers] have not performed police duty and do not understand what the fundamentals of policing are and they’re willy-nilly going ahead and changing the fundamentals of the police service. When a big crisis comes along we’re not going to have the resilience to deal with it.”

“HR will continue to bear the brunt of officers’ attitudes who don’t like the changes,” he warned.

Workforce modernisation has increasingly come under fire for enabling civilian staff to carry out what were traditionally police officer roles, such as helping with frontline investigation and neighbourhood patrols.

But Peter Fahy, a chief constable and lead on workforce modernisation at the National Policing Improvement Agency, defended the transformation programme, saying it would help officers to train and prepare for policing an increasingly complex world without being preoccupied with “ancillary tasks”.

He told Personnel Today: “A lot of complaints from officers are about too much bureaucracy in parish and county policing, so we need to be focused on cutting waste. Workforce modernisation is about taking out ancillary tasks – we don’t want officers doing things that don’t require that level of expertise.”

In her keynote speech at the federation’s conference yesterday, home secretary Jacqui Smith insisted workforce modernisation was not about cutting police numbers.

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