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By Andy Rhodes, Chief Constable, Lancashire Constabulary and the link between health and the local policing community in National Police Chiefs Council for the police and health consensus

Let me start out on this blog by acknowledging how I feel about prevention and partnership working most days. It’s complicated and challenging both professionally and personally. It’s helpful to know how people like me feel, and it’s even more important for me to understand how my people are feeling and how other organisations are feeling. I think we (the police) drive other organisations nuts sometimes, and I can reassure you the feeling is mutual!

But here’s the important thing. It’s because it’s complicated and difficult that it’s worthwhile… if it was easy everyone would already be doing it, so I thought I’d set out three reasons why a police and health consensus is worthwhile investing your time and energy into.

Number 1 – Listen to your heart
As a police officer I have seen first-hand the harm late intervention can cause. We are rarely surprised when we see young people who have grown up in an environment where trauma is their constant normality emerge as vulnerable victims and offenders, often with tragic consequences. Our hearts tell us this is wrong, yet our involvement can all too often be at the crisis end. It’s like watching a train hurtling towards a fallen bridge without any sense of hope that you can stop it. But we know we can. Throughout my career I’ve met countless professionals who share this burning desire to prevent escalation, and the evidence and research that sits behind the consensus shows us how much amazing work is going on, despite austerity. What those people deserve is leadership, evaluation support and total clarity from the very top that prevention is everyone’s job. Great leaders roll their sleeves up and do the hard work for the future. They don’t sit around commentating on the situation like a passive bystander. Our values are present throughout the consensus.

Number 2 – Listen to your head
If number 1 doesn’t work for you I won’t judge you because I think I may know why. If you’re in the police you’ll be seeing 80% of frontline work now supporting very complex client groups with mental health issues, exploitation and domestic abuse. You are being asked by those good folk whose job it is to ask hard questions, things like: “Do you understand your current and future demand and have you got the capacity and capability to deal with it?” And it feels overwhelming. Am I right?

Guess what? Police data isn’t as good as health data in terms of predicting harm. Guess what? The interventions that work best are the cheapest and earliest. Guess what? You don’t know it all. None of us know it all. The difference with the consensus is the reliance on evidence and data as well as a landscape review providing insights into how the system is adapting despite our best efforts to maintain a status quo that has never actually worked. Take this as your starting point to help influence, negotiate and shape our system.

Number 3 – Influence, accept and control
System change only happens when we place the end-user at the centre of our decision-making and to do that we need to see the system from their perspective. Standardised responses to variable need don’t work. So the consensus sets us the challenge of working across systems that are already under huge pressure… we are trying to fix the plane whilst it’s flying, so to speak. I don’t expend too much energy on things I have to accept (there is a fair bit on that list). As a leader I look at what I can control and where I can influence. But before we rush off in true completer-finisher style, take my advice: “Don’t just do something… stand there.” Use the consensus to stimulate enquiry, to challenge some of your assumptions, and hopefully this may lead you to a shift in thinking which basically looks like this.

Please use the consensus to add weight to your negotiations locally through the established partnerships at a strategic and local level.

If we don’t invest in working together to prevent escalation today the consequences for tomorrow will be devastating. Not just for your organisation but for society as a whole. End of.

I’ll end with a Gandhi quote which is on our meeting room wall. It’s there because we mean it, and our consensus gives us confidence that we are on solid ground with the evidence base and points us to innovation across the country deserving of our attention. Time to turn a piece of paper into action or go and get an easier job.

“The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”






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