Dedicated Ward Officer Development Day Debrief

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On Monday 15 February 2016 Lambeth’s Dedicated Ward Officers, including the Police Now cohort on Lambeth, assembled at PA Consulting’s Head Office in Victoria to hold their first (and believed to be the Met’s first) Dedicated Ward Officer Development Day (#DWODay).

We were pleased to be joined by our Borough Commander, Detective Chief Superintendent Richard Wood and, at our close, by Chief Inspector Roy Smith. For my sins I had the task of curating, organising and running the day.

It had been a while since I last organised and facilitated an event on this scale (six years in fact – when I was at the Institute for Government!), so I’d forgotten some of the many tricks of the trade!

The Goals

  • Improving communication: providing an opportunity to meet and network with other DWOs in Lambeth (LX). DWOs are ring-fenced from most abstractions and work across multiple sites. Arguably we’re the biggest team, with the most impact in communities – but we rarely see one another!
  • Increasing local impact: better understand useful third-party services, make better use of anti-social behaviour tools and provide an opportunity to safely feedback any issues to the Senior Leadership Team.

The Agenda

The agenda for the day covered:

  • a welcome from the Borough Commander;
  • a brief input on the history and future of community engagement and local accountability by Nick Mason, Chair of Lambeth’s Safer Neighbourhood Board with Q&A;
  • expert input from Lambeth Council officers who work hard in support of police with regards public safety, fraud and anti-social behaviour, including Q&A;
  • insight to the potential and latest iteration of RIPA-related communications data systems by Natalia and Matt of PA Consulting with Q&A;
  • training on a new system to obtain data from third parties to help officers prevent and detect crime with Q&A;
  • open sessions on what is going well and what’s not going so well in Lambeth’s neighbourhoods;
  • a chance for key issues to be played back to our Senior Leadership Team with Q&A; and
  • closing remarks from Chief Inspector Neighbourhoods (@RoySmithMPS).

Owing to time constraints it was not possible to cover a discussion of offending problems via a ‘Speed Networking’ exercise. I suspect the failure to cover this exercise helped contribute to a weak score in relation to the goal of improving communications.

‘DWO policing style’ in Lambeth

The DWOs present were asked to provide three words to describe their ‘DWO policing style’ and the result saw proactive, professional and robust as the most frequently used. Other words included: friendly, flexible, approachable, committed, open-minded, community.

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My own personal takeaway from the wordle is that Lambeth’s Dedicated Ward Officers consider themselves willing and able to flex their style according to the situation they are dealing with. I also feel hugely fortunate to be surrounded by so many able colleagues who seek to police by these words.

The Feedback

At the conclusion of the day, in addition to the three words above, attendees provided anonymous feedback on how they thought the day went and the feedback can be summarised as follows:

  • Overall 67% of those attending found the day useful or very useful.
  • A slightly higher proportion of PCSOs (25%) vs PCs (21%) didn’t find the event useful.
  • Overall 48% found the day improved communications between DWOs.
  • Third-party services, RIPA/Comms Data and Council Contacts identified as key take-aways by attendees.
  • Overall 81% would like to see another DWO Development Day organised.
  • Mental health, safeguarding and gangs identified as key topics for future event.

Charts providing a breakdown of some of the above are included below.

Conclusion

Pulling the day together alongside my day job as a Dedicated Ward Officer proved challenging and – as any police officer will testify – it can be tough to spend a day inside a room when you are more used to being out and about on the street. However, I was pleased with the outcome even if running it as a one-man band proved taxing!

One observation made by those in relation to any further Development Days was to consider an annual Lambeth-wide Day and then a Cluster-focussed day (i.e. one for the North Cluster, Central Cluster and South Cluster). I’m inclined to agree that this might prove the most beneficial approach.

In any event, there was some interest around the day on Twitter (from @MPSCampberwellGn & @MPSGreenwichTnC), so I hope this blog sharing some of the content and feedback from the day proves useful.

Last, but by no means least, an enormous thank you to Neil Amos and his colleagues at PA Consulting for accommodating us at short notice and for providing the RIPA-related input as part of the day. Thanks also to our partners in Lambeth Council for attending and providing an extremely useful input which was identified as one of the key takeaways from the day.

Appendix: Feedback Charts

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About the Author

PC Rory Geoghegan
I was the Dedicated Ward Officer for Clapham Common Ward in the London Borough of Lambeth until May 2016. I’m a former strategy consultant and criminal justice researcher. As a Dedicated Ward Officer I was something of a foot and cycle patrol fanatic! All views expressed are/were personal opinions and the usual disclaimers apply.

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