The deadline for applications is closed. We are a step closer to a new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, but interested members of the public, like the workforce, will have little to go on beyond gossip and rumour until the successful candidate is appointed.
It could have been different – we could have been looking forward to the publication of biographies of the shortlisted candidates. It would have saved any embarrassment for those that might not have made the cut – while providing some sense of who might be successful.
London – including those who report the news and those who help keep London safe – would grow more familiar with the candidates, benefitting both the process of transition and signal the candidates as having a degree of credibility that might not be necessary, but otherwise cause no harm.
We would also be looking forward to the candidates facing community panel interviews. Giving those seeking the top job, a chance to share their philosophy and listen to Londoners. For those who might have spent some time out of London, it could benefit their catching up with issues in London – and a chance to describe some of what they have seen and done outside of London. For those in senior positions in London, it would provide a valuable opportunity for them to reacquaint themselves with some of the broader challenges that might not otherwise come to note through their day-to-day work.
We would also have a public candidate forum to look forward to – providing a much more visible opportunity for the candidates to share their vision for policing in London. It wouldn’t be a debate, it would be a straightforward Q&A forum. Providing an incredible opportunity for the candidates to connect with hundreds, if not thousands of interested and engaged Londoners.
It’s not about Pop Idol or X Factor. It’s not about undermining the office of constable or politicising policing. It’s about recognising that as a Chief Constable or Commissioner of Police, they are the leaders of the organisation. They set the tone and they set expectations.
Some would suggest that such proposals would see prospective chiefs pandering to particular agendas and just saying whatever they needed to get the job. What critics fail to realise is that, if these are concerns, they are of course concerns irrespective of whether the pandering or expediency takes place in private or public.
What we miss – by not having a public element – is any opportunity for the prospective police chiefs to challenge any myths or misperceptions that may surround them. The risk being that exceptional candidates might be ruled out owing to public or political misunderstanding.
What a boost to morale it would also be for the prospective candidates to face public question on taser or spit guards and to hear one or more of the candidates explain that officers in their current or previous force had access to such tools and that they would like to see the same protection afforded to London’s officers.
If police chiefs are the professional leaders that we know they can be, does a public forum daunt them? Of course not. If we expect police chiefs to stand up for the service and the frontline as well as the safety of the public, we must afford them the opportunity to stand up and be counted. The public candidate forum and community interview panels that we advocate for in The Next Commissioner provide such an opportunity.