Earlier this year we saw the latest in a string of new and exciting initiatives kick into action. In a move to try to deliver more effective training we received the good news that three shifts in our usual ten-day rota were to be an hour shorter than usual. This news was both a blessing and a curse to the teams on my division.
On the negative side, we have lost that useful hour or two long buffer at the end of the shift which allowed a little time away from deployments to get some form filling done. This is especially useful at the moment as we have to fill in a number of SMT initiative documents which are used to monitor our pro-active work – a process which, ironically, takes up much of the time when we were previously free to go out and be pro-active!
On the positive side it meant that we would now finish mid shifts in time to make last orders in the bar a couple of times a month.
The bitter pill of the deal, however, was harder to swallow than the warm lager served upstairs. Every few rotations we would be asked to do a day of training on one of our days off. The theory behind this is simple and was pitched with a positive spin, but appears to have been created to conceal a more sinister back-story.
To those that came up with the idea, it was brilliant. We wouldn’t have to work any extra hours, but could also have the time to receive 40 or 50 hours a year of dedicated training time per year. This would avoid leaving shifts short to train us in duty time and mean that there was little chance of people getting caught up at an RTC or with a prisoner and be late for or miss the training altogether.
On the surface this was a good thing…
What wasn’t so widely publicised though was that for us – the officers involved – this meant we had to give up a valued rest day every few weeks and lose out, since April, on the unsociable hours payment that was applicable to almost all the hours that had been sliced off the back-end of shifts. This was something of no consequence to those who organised the rotas. They were, of course, just doing as they were told and filling in gaps on spreadsheets, but the inevitable complaints over being told to work on days when many already had plans with their families fell on unnecessarily unsympathetic ears…
Still, we did as we were told and when the time came and the various teams duly turned up on their designated training days. There have been four to date, but unfortunately two of these have already succumbed to either the lack of training staff or the lack of venue availability. They have therefore been left vulnerable to the involvement of local senior management who simply decreed that the officers were to be put back on normal duties with a view to them making uninterrupted progress with their current investigations. Unfortunately, not only does this mean that we weren’t getting the valuable training that we had been promised, but also meant that if we wanted to go and do any enquiries or arrest outstanding suspects, we would have to take some of the few remaining cars from the team that were on duty, immediately reducing their effectiveness and ability to complete their own enquiries by 50%.
This is not robbing Peter to pay Paul, this is robbing Peter and Paul at the same time when Paul shouldn’t have even been there in the first place!
I do understand the need for ongoing training, especially in such things as first aid and public order, but it is a shame that these decisions aren’t backed up by effective planning. What we now have is a schedule of training that is more than two months behind for two teams before some have even had their first session, and a need to play catch-up for many who will have to have their courses squeezed in later in the year. The whole process appears to be broken before it has begun.
I would be interested to hear how other forces cater for ongoing training. Perhaps those from forces who are getting this right, if any are, could share their experiences. We might all learn something from them….