Written evidence submitted by Police Now (POP0087)

Written evidence: Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry on policing priorities

Introduction to Police Now

1. Police Now is an independent charitable social enterprise with a mission to transform communities, reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, and increase the public’s confidence in the police service by recruiting, developing and inspiring outstanding and diverse individuals to be leaders in society and on the policing frontline. 


2. Police Now was created in 2014 by a small group of frontline police officers who wanted to serve communities better; by building on policing’s strengths and challenging its weaknesses. Police Now has since partnered with 35 police forces in England and Wales, selecting, recruiting, and developing over 2,750 police officers through the National Graduate Leadership programme and the National Detective Programme. Our participants work as neighbourhood police officers in the most deprived communities in England and Wales or as trainee detective constables supporting victims of crime and bringing offenders to justice.  Police Now’s new Frontline Leadership Programme, a one-year leadership development programme, prepares police constables with high leadership potential for promotion to sergeant rank, with a particular focus on the progression of women and individuals from an ethnic minority background.


Summary of this submission

3. Whilst cutting across the key topics set out in the inquiry’s call for evidence, this submission speaks directly to two primary themes: (1) what a modern police service, fit for the 2020’s and beyond, looks like and (2) what can be done to improve community policing and increase trust in police officers and forces. It sets out three recommendations for the police service based on Police Now’s learning, insight and experience to date. These can be summarised as follows:

  1. Police Now recommends police forces increase attention on creating cultures of inclusion where all individuals and perspectives are valued, welcomed, and supported.
  2. Police Now recommends that the topic of organisational justice features more heavily in police officer training and leadership development programmes.
  3. Police Now recommends that forces urgently address the lack of formalised leadership development opportunities for frontline officers, with a focus on the progression of women and ethnic minority officers at Sergeant rank.

Each of these three recommendations warrant urgent and focused attention. They are critical to building a modern, adaptive and representative workforce that can deliver better outcomes for communities and rebuild public trust and confidence in the police service.



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Police Now’s learning and recommendations

A missed opportunity amidst a crisis of legitimacy

4. Policing is currently facing a crisis in legitimacy. As deprived communities are struggling in the face of crime and economic hardship, there are growing concerns that police forces are not efficiently equipped to protect and support the most vulnerable and victimised in societyi. A representative, diverse and inclusive policing workforce - made up of law-abiding, emotionally intelligent, and value-driven individuals at all levels - is central to increasing public trust and confidence in the policeii. Whilst police forces have made efforts to increase officer diversity, there is still a long way to go before policing is truly reflective of - and trusted by - communities. Since the launch of the Police Uplift Programme (PUP), the proportion of ethnic minority officers has increased from 6.9% (as of March 2019) to 8.1% (as of March 2022)iii. This suggests, that despite some progress, the PUP was a missed opportunity to increase police workforce diversity which remains far from representative of the total population who identify as from an ethnic minority background in England and Wales (which currently stands at 18.3% according to the 2021 population censusiv). In 2021/22, Police Now recruited 321 neighbourhood constables and 165 detectives into policing across England and Wales. Of these officers, 56% identify as women, 21% identify as from an ethnic minority background, 5% identify as black heritage and 14% as LGBTQ+. Alongside this, Police Now participant retention rates are high and consistent across our programmes by gender and ethnicity, with our latest data showing an overall participant retention rate of 85%v.

Diversity without inclusion is futile

5. The recent publication of reports, such as Baroness Casey’s Interim Report on Misconductvi and His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services’ Inspection of Vetting, Misconduct and Misogyny in the Police Servicevii, have provided compelling evidence of an irrefutable fact: diversity without inclusion is futile. Policing must move beyond basic diversity quotas to focus on creating cultures of equity and inclusion where all individuals feel valued, welcomed, and supported. The need to prioritise a culture of inclusivity within the police is urgent and essential for tackling institutional racism, misogyny, and sexism, thereby improving officer experience, retaining a diverse and high-performing talent pipeline in policing and improving the experience of those who come into contact with the police. As such, where standards of conduct are not upheld in relation to diversity and inclusion, clear escalation routes must be implemented by accountable leads in force. This will support the commitment to a zero tolerance of racism encouraged by the Police Race Action Planviii.

Ethnic minority officers feel less welcomed and supported when joining the service

6. Data from Police Now shows that underrepresented new recruits – that is officers that identify as women and/or from an ethnic minority background – feel less welcomed upon entry into force. For example, 86% of white officers, but only 74% of ethnic minority officers, said they were made to feel welcome by colleaguesix. Furthermore, in regular subjective assessments of officer wellbeing, ethnic minority officers are 13% less likely to demonstrate positive wellbeing compared to white officers, with figures increasing to 27% less likely for ethnic minority female officersx. Police Now analysis shows that the strongest predictors of retention in policing are job satisfaction and wellbeingxi. Therefore, not only is there a moral need to ensure that these officers feel included and protected from racism, misogyny, and sexism at work, but – in the face of vast and ever-changing social challenges – there is also a business need.

Diversity is a key driver of police performance

7. Operating in a highly technical and globalised world, British policing needs to be equipped at all levels with the practical and intellectual skills necessary to meet the needs of contemporary and future communitiesxii. This requires diversity of thought, experience, and abilities. Research has shown that a diverse workforce that incorporates differences in experience, perspectives and background can help foster innovation and drive high performancexiii. In the context of policing then, a diverse workforce can strengthen policing’s ability to innovate, address community issues and improve perceptions of police legitimacy, thus driving organisational outcomes identified in the Policing Vision 2025xiv, Future Operating Environment 2040xv, and Strategic Review of Policingxvi. Moreover, the challenges of the future can only be met if policing has talented and diverse leaders in frontline and decision-making roles, operating in the most nurturing and inclusive workplace environments that increase their job satisfaction and wellbeing.

Retaining diverse and talented officers

However, the links between organisational justice with officers’ commitment to their role, particularly during periods of austerity, has been well established with low feelings of internal fairness having detrimental impacts on morale and role commitmentxvii. Data from Baroness Casey’s report demonstrates that women, and black and ethnic minority probationary Metropolitan Police officers are resigning at a disproportionate rate compared to their male and white counterparts, respectively. The report found that female probationers made up 40% (n=144) of all resignations for the year 2021/22, whilst black and ethnic minority probationers made up 22% (n=81). It is therefore Police Now’s recommendation that even in the face of understandable concern for future policing budgets, forces should prioritise diversity and inclusion initiatives due to a clear need for a representative police service. Not doing so may prove detrimental to policing’s ability to meet the demands of the future. 

Progressing diverse and talented officers

8. Beyond the recruitment and retention of diverse talent, policing needs to ensure that there are equitable opportunities for women and ethnic minority officers to progress into decision making ranks and different types of teams across policing. Research shows that perceptions of a lack of access to promotion and progression opportunities can negatively impact upon officer wellbeing, resulting in early voluntary resignation from the servicexviii. Effective support and role modelling mechanisms for new recruits, particularly those from ethnic minority backgrounds, are necessary in order to mitigate the implications of early voluntary resignation. Police Now recommends that police forces increase investment in multiple paths of professional development at the Sergeant rank to create a pipeline of high-performing and diverse talent. In 2021, Police Now launched the Frontline Leadership Programme (FLP), a one-year developmental programme that prepares the most diverse, committed, and capable police officers for promotion into formal leadership roles (see Recommendation 3 below for further details).

9. Providing tangible avenues for officer involvement, learning, and sharing – for example, through the establishment of staff support networks and mentorship schemes – is a simple but effective way to drive inclusivity and belonging among underrepresented officers of all ranks. The success of the police, now and in the future, depends on the extent to which women and ethnic minority officers feel included and respected by their colleagues and force. Police forces should focus their efforts on creating a workplace environment where everyone has the ability to thrive, no matter their background.

Organisational justice inside police forces promotes procedural justice with the public

10. Organisational justice is an essential pre-requisite to create a high-performing and inclusive police workforce fit for the future, where all individuals can thrive and deliver effective community policing through procedurally just encounters with the public. Organisational justice refers to employees’ perceptions of fairness, in other words, the extent to which individual employees perceive the policies and practices of their employer to be fairxix. Organisational justice comprises of three key dimensions, namely distributive justice, procedural justice and interactional justicexx:

         Distributive justice relates to employees’ concerns about the fairness of outcomes they receive (e.g., pay, reward and compensation);

         Procedural justice is concerned with the extent to which the processes of how these outcomes are decided are perceived to be fair;

         Interactional justice relates to with how well decisions are communicated and their sensitivity toward employees.

There is now good evidence to suggest that when there is organisational justice inside the police station, there will increasingly be procedural justice on the streetsxxi. In other words, how police officers and staff members treat each other and experience their role affects how they treat the public. The consequence of not embedding organisational justice within police forces and increasing the volume and status of officer training on this, is therefore clear.

Organisational justice is vital for the implementation of community policing

11. Noting the central themes of this inquiry, the successful implementation of community policing and the likelihood of its goals being achieved (effective problem-solving in partnership with the community to tackle crime, reduce anti-social behaviour and build trust) depends on the support of police officers themselves. Crucially, the research evidence-base shows that organisational justice is strongly associated with police officers’ support for community policing and therefore the likelihood of this policing approach being implemented effectivelyxxii. Indeed, any reform initiative or transformation project in the context of policing is unlikely to succeed unless it is supported by those officers who are responsible for carrying it outxxiii. The evidence-base also shows that an absence of perceived organisational justice translates into lower role commitment, morale, wellbeing and discretionary effort amongst police officers. This has significant implications both for the retention of diverse and talented officers, police standards and professionalism and therefore policing’s ability to meet the expectations of the public and rebuild trust.

Perceptions of organisational injustice are aggravated by economic conditions

12. Organisational justice warrants particularly careful consideration by police leaders given the current economic, social and political uncertainty. There is strong evidence to suggest that police officers’ organisational justice perceptions can be aggravated by wider contextual challenges, such as reform to pay and conditions, public sector austerity and spending cuts. External factors can directly contribute to perceptions of organisational injustice, underpinned by a feeling amongst officers that they are ‘under attack’ and subsequently expressed as a defensiveness and ‘resistance to change’xxiv. Police leaders and policy officials must therefore work together to improve the outcomes that frontline officers receive, ensuring they are given a voice and feel heard, particularly in periods of uncertainty, change and reform. Consideration should be given to the quality of training, leadership development and wellbeing support that frontline officers receive with a view to sending clear signals to officers that forces care about them, seeks to understand them and responds to their needs, in doing so, strengthening organisational justice perceptions.

Police Now officers as role models for organisational justice, professionalism and high standards

13. Police Now sets out to be an organisational role model of organisational justice inclusion, with participants across our core programmes trained and tested to act with the highest levels of integrity and fairness.  Police Now’s participants are encouraged to role model organisational justice through a prism of their own standards as well as in accordance with standards imposed by external codes and guidance.  Participants also spend dedicated learning time on procedural justice theory, and how the model of procedural justice works both within police organisations and externally with the public. Participants’ assignments within the first three months of our programmes focus upon values, procedural justice, and culture – the golden thread to develop fair and respectful officers. With interactional justice in mind, Police Now provides focused training to all participants on equity, diversity and inclusion, policing diverse communities and anti-racism. In scenario-based training delivered as part of Police Now’s academies, participants have dedicated learning time to practice applying the key dimensions of organisational justice. This includes practicing how to challenge colleagues and more senior officers with fairness, dignity and respect, and how to provide constructive feedback to peers who they consider not to be applying organisationally or procedurally just practices, including during their interactions with the public. Whilst embedding the principles of organisational justice, this helps to encourage a culture of role modelling and professionalism, armouring new joiners to the service against cynicism and promoting a mindset of leadership both with and without rank.

Perceptions of organisational justice are lower amongst ethnic minority officers

14. There is, however, still more work to do to improve organisational justice perceptions amongst officers joining the police service. A survey of new officer joiners administered by Police Now shows that only 80% feel that their opinions are valued and taken into account by their police force after six months in service. Put another way, 1 in 5 officers who are new to the service do not feel that their opinions are valued and taken into account in their police force. Of greater concern, only 68% of officers who identify as being from an ethnic minority background feel that their opinions are valued and taken into account in their police force, compared to 84% of officers who identify as whitexxv. We anticipate that this will be of significant concern to the service, noting the likely impact of this perceived absence of internal fairness within police forces on officers’ wellbeing, job satisfaction and their future progression and retention in the service.    


Supporting the progression of women and ethnic minority officers

15. Evidence suggests that there remains an absence of well-structured and high-quality leadership development opportunities for frontline officers, as well as a lack of diversity in senior ranks. Recent reports, including HMICFRS’ Leading Lightsxxvi and The Police Foundation’s Strategic Review of Policing in England and Wales, have identified that there is not only dissatisfaction with leadership development processes amongst officers, but also a lack of a culture of professional development in frontline policing. More starkly, the Police Foundation and HMICFRS discovered that women and ethnic minority officers were less likely to apply for promotion. This needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. The representation of women and ethnic minority officers at senior ranks will help to challenge existing cultures, practices and promote ways of working that improve rather than damage legitimacy. This is vital at a time when policing faces explicit reports of cultures of racism, sexism and misogyny. The provision of structured leadership development programmes for women and ethnic minority officers which offer tailored support – rather than designed on a ‘fit for all’ basis – is a necessary first step. This is particularly important for those in sergeant roles, or those seeking promotion to sergeant. As line managers and leaders of the majority of officers, sergeants have heightened potential to instil confidence, lead and role model positive behaviours with new recruits and officers longer in servicexxvii.

Police Now’s Frontline Leadership Programme

Police Now’s Frontline Leadership Programme (FLP), launched in 2021, is a one-year programme that equips officers with the knowledge, skills and confidence to be effective leaders, line managers and innovators. The FLP directly addresses the shortage of sergeants predicted by 2024 with a focus on supporting women and ethnic minority officers and eliminating existing progression barriers. The programme delivers in-person and virtual training sessions focused on three key aspects:  promotion navigation, self-development and leadership empowerment, with support dependent on the stage at which the officers are at, tailoring specific support and guidance to meet development needs and going beyond traditional offerings from generalised force mechanisms. Structured leadership development programmes such as Police Now’s FLP unlock and enable promotion opportunities for diverse and talented frontline officers, ultimately promoting more visible and cognitive diversity at senior ranks. To date, 205 officers have enrolled on the FLP (48% of whom identify as women and 25% of whom identify as being from an ethnic minority background). Importantly, 105 of these officers have since taken the Sergeants’ NPPF Step Two Legal Exam and successfully passed, with the remaining 100 currently preparing to take the exam. A FLP participant who has recently been promoted to detective sergeant, said: “I think it is employing the ‘leader mindset’ to your everyday practices that helps you go out and get your best evidence to use in that board. The exam will help you become a sergeant, the FLP will help you become a leader!”


Secondment opportunities for sergeants

16. Police Now’s learning also suggests that provision of secondment opportunities and formal short courses can complement formalised leadership programmes in promoting officers’ progression. Secondments are becoming more common in the professionalisation of the police service, identified as a means through which to help officers develop new skills, knowledge and partnerships through which forces can better tackle existing and emerging threatsxxviii. Research has identified transformational leadership and role modelling to be the most effective type of training and development practice for officers which enables the highest amount of personal growth within rankxxix. It follows that well-structured secondment opportunities, with clearly focused objectives that offer role modelling and leadership exposure whilst in role, are an effective means for officers to learn, build networks, and develop their leadership capabilities for the benefit of the public. Police Now offers secondment opportunities as part of its core programmes. Seconded officers from forces are recruited as ‘Syndicate Leads’ at Police Now’s Academies. This provides high-performing seconded officers the chance to develop their own professional skills by managing, mentoring, role modelling and training new joiners in the service. Most recently, 20 sergeants were seconded to the 2022 National Graduate Leadership Academy as Syndicate Leads. Prior to commencing their secondment, Syndicate Leads engaged in Police Now’s Syndicate Lead Course (SLC). The is an intensive formal training course equipping seconded officers with the confidence, tools, and knowledge they need to effectively deliver training and support new officer recruits, whilst providing valuable leadership development that they can take back to their role in force. Feedback data suggests that Syndicate Leads play a crucial role in the development and experience of new recruits joining policing through Police Now, with officers’ commending the positive culture they created, characterised by tailored support, operational insight and role modelling. All of the seconded officers were highly satisfied with their secondment experience and felt they were able to return to force with improved leadership capabilities, knowledge and skills. This evidence suggests that secondment opportunities have an important role to play in developing leaders in policing, improving the capabilities of those at sergeant rank and subsequently the experience and wellbeing of new recruits to the service. 

Secondment opportunities for Police Now participants

17. Alongside opportunities for sergeants, Police Now also offers a highly competitive external secondment experience for participants as part of the National Graduate Leadership Programme. Participants undertake a 4-week placement at one of thirteen partner organisations in sectors including wider policing, consultancy, government, and research. Two examples are the Home Office and Counter Terrorism Policing. Participants can develop skills in areas such as research, problem-solving and project leadership. External secondments also promote the Police Now mission and raise awareness of the challenges facing frontline policing across multiple sectors, building links and partnerships for the future. Ultimately officers return to forces equipped with knowledge and learnings from other organisations and sectors which can enhance their capabilities as a neighbourhood officer, benefiting their force and community.

The value of networks to support police officers and improve policing

18. The benefits of leadership development programmes and secondment opportunities can be further enhanced with the provision of national and local networks for police officers. Skills and learning taken from leadership programmes and secondments can be discussed, shared and translated into targeted activities to solving crime, building confidence and helping local communities. The Policing Vision 2025 identifies networks and best practice sharing as two essential components which will assist the sector’s future response to complex threats, especially when connecting policing nationally and locally. Similarly, the importance of sharing expertise within networks has been recognised by the College of Policing with the creation of weekly knowledge sharing events (KSEs) that aim to provide opportunities to support everyone in policing. KSEs take the form of discussions, networking and professional development sessions. The College of Policing has outlined their usefulness in providing support for understanding complex areas through dialogue, practice sharing and support, encouraging consistency and professionalism in the long runxxx.


Police Now’s networks


Police Now has created specific national networks which act as forums for discussion and problem-solving. Membership of these networks comprises of current participants and alumni from our programmes, as well as Syndicate leads and Stream Managers that lead our academies. An example of a network focused on member support and development is the Police Now Sergeant’s Network. This network provides a space for officers who have started the promotion process and passed their legal exam, encouraging members to bring their challenges for discussion to support personal and professional growth and explore the solutions to challenges faced by different forces. Other examples of networks include how to support neurodiverse colleagues and members of the public, and Police Now’s National Policing Drugs’ Network, which has over 50 members. This network has recently worked with the Home Office and the NPCC, increasing their reach, influence and demonstrating the value that officers from different forces can have when collaborating on key issues.


Concluding remarks

19. It is our strong view that the police service would benefit significantly from implementing the recommendations outlined in this paper. Working with our partner forces, Police Now’s recruitment, development and progression processes are making an important contribution to the professionalisation and development of the policing workforce. Our experience and learning to date suggest that investment in the leadership development and progression of policing’s people, underpinned by cultures based on organisational justice and inclusion, is crucial to build a modern service fit for the 2020’s - effectively deliver community policing models, and crucially, rebuild public trust. 

20. Police Now would like to take this opportunity to thank the Home Affairs Select Committee for the opportunity to provide this written submission. We would welcome further opportunities to share our learning and contribute to ongoing discussions on policing priorities.

November 2022