25 March 2015

College of Policing publishes research papers on leadership and integrity

The College of Policing has today published a series of reports looking at leadership and integrity as part of its ongoing work to build the evidence base around what works in policing.

The reports, commissioned in 2013 by the national policing leads for professional standards and police ethics, followed a series of high profile cases and national reports which raised questions about the integrity of the police and the role of senior police leaders.

The purpose of the programme was to enable the profession to take ownership of these issues. Chief Officers wanted to understand better what factors might lead to problems emerging, highlight ways of promoting ethical police behaviour and stop similar problems recurring in the future.

The programme was carried out in partnership with several independent academic institutions from the UK and Australia.
The papers have been used to help inform the development of the Code of Ethics and the interim leadership review published last week. A final report on police leadership will be published in June 2015.

Director of Knowledge Research and Education Rachel Tuffin said:

“Across the research programme, the evidence was consistent that senior police leaders play a crucial role in fostering an ethical working environment – they have a direct effect on the attitudes and behaviours of officers and staff.

“With that in mind, there are encouraging signs that leaders have been moving to more inclusive and open leadership styles in recent years, as these seem more likely to promote ethical behaviour.

“Overall, the research highlights that senior leaders need to be highly aware of the risks they face to their own integrity in leadership positions, make sure they ask staff for constructive challenge when making decisions, and be reflective about their leadership style and its effect on behaviour.”

Key findings from the studies include:

  • The evidence suggests that officers and staff who feel they have been unfairly treated are likely to disengage, see less value in delivering a quality service to the public, become more cynical in their views, and be less committed to ethical policing.
  • Therefore, in addition to ensuring that management practices are fair, inclusive and open, there may be value in forces trying to identify where their greatest vulnerabilities are in respect of employees feeling unfairly treated by supervisors and senior leaders. Poorly handled organisational change programmes, promotion opportunities, not dealing with under-performance, and access to leave and flexible working are issues which might be raised in some forces.
  • Chief officers need to ensure they have access both to support in their decision-making and to constructive challenge, and the barriers to challenge need to be addressed (for example, through whistle-blowing provisions).
  • Ethical standards will improve with greater openness of debate on police ethics. The publication of the Code of Ethics (College of Policing 2014) may help in this respect.
  • The need for strong and effective leadership – such as leaders being open, acting as role models, and also being ‘firm’ in terms of setting and enforcing standards – was highlighted as encouraging ethical behaviour and as an essential for the successful implementation of interventions.

Note to editors:

The full research reports are published today on the College of Policing website.
Overarching briefing document – Police leadership and integrity: implications from a research programme
Paul Quinton – College of Policing

Chief officer misconduct in policing: An exploratory study
Gavin Hales – Institute of Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London; Tiggey May – Institute of Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London; Jyoti Belur – Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science, University of London; Mike Hough – Institute of Criminal Policy Research, Birkbeck, University of London

Professor of Criminal Policy at Birkbeck, University of London, Mike Hough said:

"This study is a first step towards understanding how police leaders can get drawn into misconduct. It identifies both organisation pressures and individual vulnerabilities that can result in misconduct amongst people doing very demanding jobs. Understanding these factors is central in mitigating the risks."

The role of leadership in promoting ethical police behaviour: The findings of qualitative case study research
Louise Porter – Griffith University; Sarah Webb – Perpetuity Research; Tim Prenzler – Griffith University; Martin Gill – Perpetuity Research

Perpetuity Research principal researcher Sarah Webb said:

“The encouraging news from this research is that there was support for the view that police leadership styles have moved away from the often autocratic approach of yesteryear to the more democratic and participative style that characterised many police leaders today, and most senior and front line officers interviewed believed this was consistent with a heightened commitment to ethical behaviour. Most importantly, when it comes to ensuring the police behave with integrity, the approach and examples set by front line managers were seen to be more influential than senior officers. In policing then, ethical behaviour is driven from low down the organisation and senior officers have a major role in recognising this and adequately preparing and supporting those on the front line.”

Fair cop 2: Organisational justice, behaviour and ethical policing - An interpretative evidence commentary
Paul Quinton – College of Policing; Andy Myhill – College of Policing; Ben Bradford – University of Oxford; Alistair Fildes – College of Policing; Gillian Porter – Durham Constabulary

Durham Constabulary ACC Dave Orford said:

“As the police service develops our professional research base, the autocratic approach of expecting a yes/no response when talking to staff just doesn't cut it in the modern world. It’s equally important for senior officers to ensure that they don’t base their decision-making on anecdotes alone, or those who shout loudest, because as leaders we must ensure everyone has a voice.

“Durham Constabulary has taken the lead in embracing new leadership approaches which have resulted in senior officers being more open to feedback and reflective in their leadership styles.
“We believe our learning from the partnership between Durham Constabulary, academia and the College of Policing has played a significant factor in the recent outstanding ratings received by Her Majesty’s inspectorate of Constabulary assessment of how we deliver policing to the public.”

Promoting ethical behaviour and preventing wrongdoing in organisations: A rapid evidence assessment
Almuth McDowall – University of Surrey; Paul Quinton – College of Policing; David Brown – College of Policing; Indira Carr – University of Surrey; Emily Glorney – University of Surrey; Sophie Russell – University of Surrey; Natasha Bharj – University of Surrey; Robert Nash – University of Surrey; Adrian Coyle – University of Surrey

Surrey University academic Dr Almuth McDowall said:

"Our comprehensive literature review shows that it is important for the police to focus on how to promote ethical, just and fair behaviours as much as preventing wrongdoing. There is no single approach which works as a miracle cure; having clear codes of conduct with regular feedback on how these are enforced, enhancing our understanding of who might be most at risk, and implementing learning activities are all important steps which organisations can take. Doing the right thing needs to be role modelled right from the top through to all ranks and posts."

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