Employer Supported Policing: What next?

Reflections from workshop discussions | Manchester, February 2018

We have nearly 300 employers signed up to the Employer Supported Policing scheme currently. This could be 3000 in the next 5 to 10 years if the model, communication and energy of policing moved in this direction and created bespoke options to meet the needs and interests of employers and volunteers. We need to be equipped to manage this growth well, to build strong relationships between policing and large and small employers and to ensure a positive impact on the individuals volunteering their time, energy and skills. There are growing public and political debates about policing models in England and Wales and the role, contribution and integration of volunteers in the policing workforce – recognising the benefits of schemes such as ESP for employers, businesses, public safety and the investment in the personal and professional development of our workforce need to feature strongly alongside narratives of police demand and resources. The national Citizens in Policing transformation programme seeks to support this developing narrative and through trialling innovative models of volunteering in policing, new evidence will be produced to help direct policy and practice development.

A significant amount of work is already underway grow the Employer Supported Policing (ESP) model and to attract new employers to engage with policing and to sign up to schemes which allow employees dedicated time to volunteer with policing. The benefits of ESP schemes for the volunteers, the police and for wider communities focus on increasing public safety, reducing demand on policing services and enabling volunteers to develop skills, to enjoy participating and to give something back to their local community or business. At present, employers are attracted to the scheme through stumbling across an information pack, attendance at business conferences and networks where Special Constables or ESP leads in policing may run a stall or give a talk, or through existing relationships with policing in relation to tackling business crime or fraud for example.

At a workshop held in Manchester this month, representatives from across police forces in the North, and a few businesses, participated in discussion about what more could be done to involve and engage new businesses in ESP schemes. This short paper explores the themes that arose during those discussions and provides ideas for development across forces.

Ideas for engaging new employers in ESP schemes

The numbers of employers engaged in the ESP scheme is continually growing at the local, regional and national level. The workshop discussions highlighted the challenges of managing relationships across employers which operate differently at local and national levels and using similar approaches to bring in small and large businesses. Several ideas were shared to facilitate growth of the ESP scheme both in terms of the scale of employers involved and the speed at which new employers sign up:

  • Developing a narrative about ‘ESP’ which focuses on what it means for businesses and for the individuals volunteering their time, directing attention to specific interests of employers and ensuring that bespoke messages are created for smaller and bigger businesses;
  • Improve relationships between policing and businesses, addressing any negative perceptions or issues, such as resourcing towards preventative and investigative work in tackling theft and fraud;
  • Create packages of activities and skills that are engaging to individuals and employers, and that bring life to the programme, allowing for flexibility according to the needs and interests of businesses – for example, leadership development, investigative skills, engaging with diverse communities, tackling road safety;
  • Create guidance or policy around appropriate deployment and tasking of ESP Special Constables and volunteers, which enable forces to balance policing needs and employer needs, for example in relation to security and prevention duties dedicated to specific business and retail spaces
  • Capture the impact of ESP schemes on police performance, including for example crime prevention, community engagement and public reassurance, in order to create effective messaging and advertising about the potential of the programme for both employers and individuals
  • Improve internal knowledge of ESP to create buy-in across officers and staff in forces, which could help to develop connections with businesses through networks created by other departments, for example those connected with business crime
  • Improve partnerships with local authorities, forums, networks and chambers of commerce, and create a consortium of retailers to engage at a broader level
  • Share ideas, models and approaches to ESP across forces to encourage development
  • Coordinate force leads for specific businesses and head offices, to ensure consistent communication and reduce duplication of effort

Police Support Volunteers and Volunteer Police Cadets

Often overlooked in traditional approaches to Employer-Supported Policing, Police Support Volunteers and Volunteer Police Cadets offer opportunities to expand the involvement of employers and to increase the scale of support volunteer roles. In order to achieve this, internal knowledge needs to improve about the potential for ESP schemes and for innovation in this area. Several ideas were shared which focus on the need to design new roles and to identify opportunities for specialisms:

  • Create clear pathways for recruiting PSVs
    • Identifying if individuals are being engaged in order to bring in their existing skills, expertise and experience, or;
    • Identifying needs and roles in policing which individuals in specific employment or local communities could be trained up to undertake
  • New role profiles need to be designed which engage people willing to volunteer in policing in ways which use existing skills linked to their employment, for example, linking road safety with cycling businesses and heavy vehicle companies
  • Build on existing relationships with local authorities and voluntary, community and third sector agencies, which can link up volunteering potential to employers and strategic commitment to social responsibility and impact
  • Improve internal knowledge of PSVs and opportunities, creating buy-in across policing departments and improved identification of PSV role opportunities, improved induction and support in role and improved outcomes
  • Increase the use of digital and social media to communicate opportunities and policing needs, stimulating discussion about the ESP scheme in relation to support volunteers and cadets
  • Link up emergency response and rescue models which create flexible and demand-driven approaches to engaging volunteers in partnership with their employers
  • Develop narrative around ESP schemes to support cadets, for example through provision of mentoring, confidence and leadership skill development activities and volunteer placements
  • Consider corporate sponsorship of cadets programmes

Evolution of the ESP ‘Toolkit’

The toolkit to introduce employers to the ESP scheme and to provide information, policies, guidance and templates for the implementation of schemes, has developed over time to include a significant amount of information. The toolkit was reviewed by the workshop group and the following feedback was provided:

  • Provides a lot of information in a dense format, it could be simplified and give an indication of where to go for more detail
  • The branding of the toolkit is police-centric which does not reflect the partnership nature of ESP
  • Could better demonstrate diversity of ESP schemes, employers and volunteers, through imagery and case studies
  • It needs to better represent smaller employers and show a range of models and options, perhaps providing a variety of documents/downloads which reflect relevant benefits
  • Use the toolkits and documentation to promote the positive contribution of some businesses, for example offering in-depth case study examples to those employers that have been the scheme for several years
  • This needs a call to action, for all volunteers and employers –  what to do next, how to get involved, if you’re not ready or able to implement ESP then here are a number of others ways to volunteer and support policing…

Making the benefits of ESP clearer

The benefits of ESP are broad, for policing, for volunteers, for employers and for communities more widely. There are existing quality marks and employer awards that highlight good practice in employers demonstrating social responsibility, giving back to communities, developing their staff and providing an excellent working environment which supports the wellbeing of their staff. The ESP scheme could better link in with such assessments and create a broader connection to the ‘social value’ of employers supporting volunteering in policing specifically. Linking the contribution from Special Constables and volunteers supported by their employers to crime reduction, enhanced police response, improved investigation and criminal justice outcomes, improved public safety and perceptions of policing and so on – can be hard to achieve but is necessary for this wider social value to be captured. The National Citizens in Policing Transformation Programme is working on this. In particular, developing a framework to move us closer to being able to calculate the social impact and value of various volunteering models in policing. This type of framework needs to consider the following types of data and information:

  • Skills, expertise and experience brought into policing through ESP Special Constables and volunteers
  • Professional and personal development of volunteers through the scheme, including for example confidence, communication, problem-solving and decision-making, leadership and teamwork, network of connections and support and stronger resilience and wellbeing
  • Activities and practical contribution of volunteers, captured through assessments of duties, tasks, hours, against measures such as visibility to the public, preventative work, intelligence and investigation work, developing relationships with communities, reducing demands on Regular police officers, providing responses to incidents and managing communication with victims
  • Linking those measures to the Force priorities and national public safety agendas
  • Linking those measures to the needs of employers, in terms of outcomes – security and prevention work which reduces crime, reduces costs to employers and insurers and leads to efficiencies and savings for customers/employees/the public;
  • and to inputs for employers – employees skills and abilities and thus contribution to business development, effectiveness and efficiency, and more broadly employees wellbeing, morale and motivation, which can be increased through investment and time for volunteering, leading to heightened commitment, reduced absence and improved retention of staff

Direction and management of ESP

Several great relationships have been built between individuals in policing and big and small businesses, which are largely developed on strong personal relationships. In order to take ESP to the next level, a central drive from the national Citizens in Policing programme is needed to educate and bring colleagues across policing on the journey. The following suggestions are key to creating the culture change needed for ESP to significantly expand:

  • Awareness and education for senior leaders in policing about the various models and potential for volunteering, increasing support and buy-in for Special Constables and volunteers to be fully integrated into the workforce and operating models
  • A clear formula for the purpose of volunteering and involvement in policing is needed before significant growth in this agenda is achievable, for example addressing and balancing the various drivers for public involvement in policing – bringing skills into policing, increasing policing capacity, developing relationships and trust with the public, increasing police visibility, improving police transparency, reducing demands on specific areas of policing, and so on
  • Varied force investment in ESP means there is great diversity in programmes and delivery across England and Wales – national coordination and guidance could provide some consistency and opportunity to bring all forces up to speed. More broadly, force investment in the infrastructure to support Special Constables and volunteering in policing plays a significant role in the recruitment, training, communication, support and ultimately retention of those involved. Senior leadership and support of developing the quality of these aspects would inevitably improve the ESP programme also
  • Structured feedback and engagement from central, regional and local areas to improve communication about ESP models, approaches and employer engagement
  • Improved communication and appreciation of employers from senior leadership in forces and nationally could further build relationships with employers and volunteers, including for example more sophisticated capture of the contribution and impact of individual volunteers and employers – reiterating the return on investment at the individual, employer and policing levels

This short paper explores the ideas and thinking of colleagues across policing and a few businesses in the North of England, but provides a fairly comprehensive assessment of the issues and challenges of growing the ESP scheme. In particular, the need to tackle cultural barriers to integrating Special Constables and volunteers into the policing workforce in ways which create positive impact for policing, the public, employers and volunteers themselves. The role of senior leadership, a central narrative and drive and an informative evidence-base about the relative benefits and social impact of ESP and police volunteering more broadly are core to progressing this agenda.