Calling for backup – Cambridgeshire Police seek help from business to find ways to innovate

These officers, led by Pc Patrick Hopper, were quite innovative and came up with a uniform procurement idea that saved the organisation £9k this year and £18k next year.

Cambridge Network CEO John Gourd talks to Detective Inspector Tom Rowe of Cambridgeshire Constabulary

What is innovative policing? And how can the Cambridge business community support and sustain it?

Cambridgeshire Constabulary is looking to change the ways it acts, thinks and innovates – and the organisation seeks help from Cambridge Network members to understand how to do so, by building new relationships and learning from experience in the private sector.

This blog is a conversation between Cambridge Network’s CEO, John Gourd, and  Detective Inspector Tom Rowe, who has the grand title of Thematic Lead for Innovation for Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Enterprise Strategy.

John asked asked some pertinent questions:

John: What exactly does your role entail?

Tom: It may surprise some to learn that I am not solely in the business of generating ideas.

Last year, soon after I had volunteered for the Thematic Lead role, I was excited but also fearful. As I spoke to colleagues in other areas such as Cost Saving, Income or Funding, I looked on with some envy at how easily they could measure success with clear outputs, compared to my very conceptual, fluid theme.

How could we measure the success of Innovation? But then I saw the opportunity that innovation presented: flexibility, sustainability and cultural change.

Cambs Police badgeThat sounds enormously challenging. How do you propose to go about achieving it?

To scope how we could improve our innovation, we needed to understand the current picture. Firstly, it was clear that there had been many great ideas generated in the organisation; however, all had come from proactive individuals with developed communication skills, social capital or confidence. But what of those individuals who lacked these opportunities or advantage – how could we engage with all of our organisation?

Secondly, we had no digital framework to capture ideas beyond emails to the right person. How could we democratise the process to ensure anyone could submit electronically?

And thirdly, the ideas – while inventive, exciting and useful – were all internally driven. With the thousands of daily interactions with the public we serve, why had no idea circulated from the thousands of victims and individuals, the partner agencies or the communities we speak to every day?

Among this was also the need to challenge and prompt debate within a traditionally structured organisation – a strength at times, a weakness in others!

So what have you done to address these issues?

What has grown from these initial stages, and working with the Force’s Organisational Improvement Centre, has been the creation of the Creative Projects Team. The team – made up of an exciting blend of operational officers and police staff volunteering their spare time with the Force’s innovation and change officers – seeks to focus on these three keys areas. It aims to support and develop all officers to generate and submit those ideas; help to build a platform and finally improve how we engage with the public.

Generating ideas is great, but how do you expect to progress? What’s your anticipated outcome?

Our true ambition is to implement a sustainable new approach for the organisation that encourages diversity of thought, embraces change, promotes and develops its people and utilises the very best in technology, as well as building a critical support network of businesses and other sectors in trialling ideas and suggestions as critical friends.

How can Cambridge Network members help?

Policing Cambridgeshire shares many of the challenges of UK forces; however it also possesses fortune and privilege of working in partnership with the thriving and innovative industry that forms the Cambridge Network.

As part of our drive to open the doors, ears and eyes of policing,  we want to appeal for experience and support from your members in two key areas:

  • Understanding how we can proactively reach out for ideas from the community – how has your sector managed this and how can external ideas  be brought in with confidence? What steps and tools did you use and what did you learn?

  • Fostering links and relationships with interested sectors to develop a peer-to-peer network to help discuss and review ideas – and identify how your experiences can contribute to building a policing approach that will directly help to support and safeguard the local community.

What’s the next step?

The Creative Projects Team is now set up and already generating interesting ideas – we have the people; we have the drive, and we have the vision. We just need some friends.

It is time to bring innovative policing approaches into the 21st Century. If you would like to learn, understand more and help in our journey, please get in touch.

Image (top): These officers, led by Pc Patrick Hopper, came up with an innovative uniform procurement idea that saved the organisation £thousands.


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