Why lions need other lions to be their leaders

Kevin Moore was one of Sussex most senior police officers – he was head of CID. He retired from the force at the beginning of 2018 and since then he has been pretty blunt in expressing his views about how, in his view, the force is under performing today.

Last year he took part in a BBC documentary highlighting the force’s record low detection rate.

Here he questions whether the way the force is being led is part of its problem.

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Kevin Moore.

I am sure that the majority of readers are familiar with the phrase, ‘Lions led by Donkeys’, it was originally used to describe the British Infantry and their leadership during the First World War.

However, I am now firmly of the view, with some notable exceptions, that the phrase is very apt to describe the police service and its current leadership.

What brought this to my mind was the recent death of Sir David McNee, the former Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police. Like many of his generation of chief officers, his name will remain in the memory of many of us.

This is simply because these individuals had a presence and a status that meant that as soon as their names were mentioned, everyone knew who they were. Sadly, the same cannot be said today.

In years gone by, the same credibility was afforded previous Sussex Police Chief Constables. Most Sussex people will have no difficulty in recalling the names of Sir George Terry or Sir Roger Birch.

Why then has this issue been brought to the forefront of my mind so recently? I guess like many things it’s for a number of reasons.

First is the number of distinctly distasteful misconduct issues reported in the media regarding serving Sussex Police officers. While there have always been ‘bad apples’ in every barrel, including the police service, I can honestly say that I can scarcely remember a time when things are as bad as they are now.

I can say this because for a period of two and a half years I worked in what is currently known as the Sussex Police Professional Standards Department. I was responsible for ridding the organisation of a number of individuals who brought the police service into disrepute. However, I don’t recall there being quite so many serious breaches of discipline as there appear to be currently.

Over just the past few weeks there have been instances of senior police officers having sex on duty and another where a young woman lost her life. In the latter case this was as a result of officers failing to undertake basic investigations in the lead up to her murder which may have prevented this from happening.

What has been the outcome?

The response from Sussex Police has been the usual hand wringing during which it is claimed that lessons have been learnt and training has been put in place and that instances such as these prove how good the systems are in identifying poor service provision etc. etc.

However, my contention is that strong leadership within an organisation will often prevent the majority of such things happening in the first place. I have seen the decline in standards for myself having only finally left the organisation in January 2018. By the end of my almost 40 years of service, it was clear that the desire at the most senior levels to target and deal with poor service and falling disciplinary standards was, in my opinion, falling massively.

Gone are the days when senior leaders issued an order or an instruction and could expect it to be carried out to the letter. Now, individuals are invited to question and resist anything with which they do not feel comfortable in carrying out or implementing.

What nonsense is this?

In a disciplined emergency service there simply is not the time to constantly question and resist sensible instructions issued by those in command. The result of such behaviour leads to inertia and a failure to get things done – in other words, the tail starts to wag the dog.

This brings me on to my second key issue regarding outcomes arising from weak leadership within the police.

A couple of days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting six new graduate recruits about to join Sussex Police. They were brought to the Old Police Cells Museum in Brighton where together with others, I volunteer as a guide.

I was impressed with their energy and enthusiasm about the police service and it left me with a positive feeling as regards policing in the future.

However, my concern is that weak police leadership may serve to damage the aspirations of such individuals. Therefore, things need to change.

The symptoms of poor leadership within Sussex Police are clear for all to see in my opinion. How many readers, not associated with Sussex Police, can name the current Chief Constable who has actually been in that post for a number of years now? Very few I would guess.

However, I will bet that many more know that Katy Bourne is the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Ms Bourne is not supposed to interfere with operational aspects of policing. However, when there is a policing issue in Sussex invariably we see her on the television or hear her on the radio or read about her in the newspapers.

So where is the Chief Constable? Compare this with our neighbours in Kent where senior police officers are very visible.

Virtue signalling

The outcome of all of this is that Sussex, like some other forces, seem to focus their attentions on what has been described in recent times as ‘virtue signalling’. This is promoting things which on the face of it look positive but tend to hide what is really going on.

When it comes to the crunch, sadly, Sussex Police has been found wanting on a number of occasions.

While there have been many examples, the most notable are the failings surrounding the Shana Grice murder and the Gatwick drone fiasco.

In the meantime we have the PCC promoting issues which, while important to a minority, do not impact on the greater majority. Similarly, they involve somewhat ‘virtuous’ issues prioritised by the Home Office and Government. It is the vast majority of the public of Sussex that I feel are being consistently let down in terms of service delivery by Sussex Police. This reveals itself through a poor response to calls received from the public in the first instance and also in terms of follow up investigation.

It is this that needs to be put right and that requires strong leadership and direction. In other words, we need the lions to be led by lions rather than donkeys!

  • What’s your opinion? Do you agree with what Kevin has to say? Tell us by email tellmeyourstory@hastingsinfocus.co.uk
  • https://hastingsinfocus.co.uk/2018/10/09/is-sussex-police-really-serving-sussex/
  • https://hastingsinfocus.co.uk/2018/10/08/sussex-police-under-the-spotlight-in-major-bbc-investigation/
  • https://hastingsinfocus.co.uk/2019/05/03/my-blood-ran-cold-are-the-police-losing-control-of-the-streets/

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