What impact can I make if I join the police?

Upile Mtitimila is a Detective Inspector with the Cheshire Constabulary who enrolled with Police Now six years ago. He spoke with us about some of the concerns he had prior to joining the policing sector, the importance of diversity and inclusion, and how he has used his time in force to make a positive impact in society.

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What is the National Graduate Leadership Programme?

The Police Now programme lasts for two-years and trains you to become a neighbourhood police officer, with a real emphasis on problem-solving and leadership. I worked as a neighbourhood police officer with Cheshire Constabulary throughout the two-year Police Now programme and have since progressed into a detective role.

As a neighbourhood police officer, you embed yourself in your community and use problem-solving techniques to tackle crime and protect members of the public. This often involves working with colleagues across different policing teams, as well as organisations like the council and local charities. You get the chance to work on long-term projects to tackle crime at its roots.

You begin your training at the Police Now training academy before joining your police force for the remainder of the programme, where you continue to receive support from Police Now coaches and work towards your Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing Practice.

Why did you join the Police Now programme?

I joined because fundamentally I wanted to be doing something with my life that made a difference to others and also because, based on various personal experiences, I wanted to experience policing myself and contribute what I could to shaping policing as I would like to see it. Hopefully, the diversity of voices and visions helps ensure policing is the best it can be and if I help just one person, that’s enough for me. It’s a tough job but it’s a vocation.

You can make a real impact as a neighbourhood officer. For example, whilst I was on the programme I closed 11 premises associated with high levels of anti-social behaviour (ASB) and drug dealing in a 12-month period, developed force best-practice guidance on premise closures, safeguarded victims of ‘cuckooing’ and county lines, and also completed an MSc on Criminal Justice and Policing, Policy & Leadership – to name a few things!

One of the most important lessons I took from my Police Now training was to try and deliver the service that I would want my mum to receive and do my best to understand and resolve an issue on the human level; if you start with process and procedure you limit your capacity for impact – do what’s right, not easy.

Did you have any concerns before joining the programme?

I was apprehensive about policing before joining. This was due to some personal negative experiences with the police and some of the wider coverage across the media which I internalised. I think I generalised my expectations – based on these experiences – across the organisation and officers; particularly around whether I would feel included and practices and behaviours I might be uncomfortable with.

My mum was nervous around what I might experience within policing and I think this came from the dominance of a negative discourse around policing. I think my family are proud of me and my mum has probably got more confidence in policing from my experiences and the conversations we have.

Since joining, all those pre-conceptions have largely been misconceptions. I work with incredible people and do feel included and valued. Policing isn’t always perfect but it strives to be and it is constantly working towards that, with so much capacity for difference to be valued and shape the service we deliver.

How important do you think representation in policing is, and do you think the attitude towards diversity and inclusion is changing within the police?

Representation in policing is essential. Diversity of experience only strengthens the services we provide. The opportunity to improve our engagement and change the ways in which we work benefits the organisation as a whole.

I will never forget the elderly black man who commented on me carrying handcuffs and not wearing them. People need to see people that represent them in policing and it starts to change the narrative of policing being something done to people and shift it back to its core… something done by people – right back to Peel and the idea of the police are the public and the public are the police.

I think it’s important that we recognise the positive progress that has been made over the years. Progress has been made and I have had the chance to contribute to that progress. Following the murder of George Floyd, I was invited to share lived experiences and honest perspectives with the Chief Officer Group. This focused on issues around diversity, inclusion and culture in policing - alongside colleagues from other networks and underrepresented groups - to support a review and subsequent set-up of a Diversity, Equality and Inclusion team.

I have seen attitudes change within my time as an officer and every single conversation I’ve been involved in, the issue in relation towards attitude, has always been a communication issue.

Why is it important to have well trained officers in force?

Detectives and police constables need to be well trained to ensure they deliver the best possible service to some of the most vulnerable people in society. Similarly, victims affected by some of the more serious crimes times need to feel confidence in the officer investigating their case.

Resilience and perseverance for victims, for yourself and your own development ensure you strive to deliver the best possible service you can, at any one time. All of this impacts directly on people’s confidence in policing and you as an officer.

I began as a neighbourhood police officer on the National Graduate Leadership Programme, and have since progressed into a role as a detective. It is just as varied as any uniform role I’ve been in and just as challenging – although the challenges are different. For me a good day would be getting a positive result in a case or the result of a line of inquiry that cracks the case open. Ultimately, as long as I can say I did my best for the victims of crime, then that’s about as consistent as a day can look.

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