Arrested Development: an exploration of training and culture within Greater Manchester Police

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Arrested Development: an exploration of training and culture within Greater Manchester Police

MMU Fellowship

Roger George Pegram and

Professor Peter Clough

Table of Contents

  • Summary

  • Introduction

  • Failures in Police training

  • Methodology

  • Results

  • Behaviours

  • The Training of the Special Constabulary

  • Standards and Culture

  • Inter-Branch Working and the Cultural Dynamics

  • Well-being

  • The ‘Academic’ Police Officer Versus the ‘Trade’ Police Officer

  • Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Bibliography

  • Appendices


This study sought to review Greater Manchester Polices’ training and how these significant changes in budget and the way in which the police operate affect the training environment. It will also looked at what future changes will or could happen and also sought to make recommendations on how Greater Manchester Police can make these changes and better facilitate change in the area of training.

More specifically it examined the challenges that the trainers within the training branch (currently known as Organisational and Workforce Development), who deliver this training to officers and staff, face both inside and outside of the work environment and how they can adapt to more effectively deal with the waves of change that they face.

Recommendations for further research are made. This will ensure that an evidence based approach is taken in line with the ‘triple T strategy of policing’ pioneered by Professor Lawrence W Sherman and explained in his work ‘The Rise of Evidence-Based Policing: Targeting, Testing, and Tracking’ (Sherman, 2013). Such testing of hypothesis is essential to ensuring that what works in policing is recognised and utilised. Equally, it is essential to also identify what practices do not work and ensure they are discarded.


The Police Service has in recent times undergone the greatest period of change in its history. This has been driven by British Police forces having their budgets significantly cut and therefore being forced to find more efficient and lean ways of working. The expectation is that the police service can cope with a reduction in budget yet seek to maintain and improve the quality of the service that it provides. There has been much written about this and arguments as to whether the police service can provide a high level of service to the public with such budgetary cuts continue at the time of writing this paper. Indeed, the current Chief Constable for Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy, stated it was the "biggest challenge GMP has ever faced". (BBC News website 1)

Failures in police training

In the early 1980’s police training come under heavy criticism following on from the disorders seen in London, Liverpool, and Manchester. Lord Scarman was commissioned to investigate and report on the Brixton disorders of 10th -12th April 1981. Lord Scarman wrote “The training of police officers must prepare them for policing a multicultural society. Much of the evidence submitted to me has suggested that the present training arrangements are inadequate.” He went on to state “It was argued that the total time and resources devoted to training are insufficient, and in particular that inadequate emphasis is put in training on problems of policing a multiracial society.” (Scarman, 1981 pg. 79)

This was later elucidated upon by the Macpherson report which was released in 1999 which again criticised police training following the murder of Stephen Lawrence. A number of recommendations were made to address police training specifically in the area of racism awareness and valuing cultural diversity. (BBC News Website 2)

Following on from the recommendations made by Lord Scarman the Police Training Council (PTC), the tri-partite-led (ACPO, APA, Home Office) governing body for national police training issues replaced in 2002 by the Police Training and Development Board (PTDB), created KUSAB a mnemonic for police training to address the following in all areas of police training: Knowledge, Understanding, Skills, Attitudes, and Behaviours. (HMIC, 2003 pg.17)

Police training had traditionally focused on law and definition and this new mnemonic was created out of recognition of the need for attitudes and behaviours training.

In more recent times The HMIC (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies) released a report entitled ‘Taking Time for Crime’ in 2012 and stated the following about police training:

‘…training was focused on procedures and legal use of police powers rather than on becoming an effective crime-fighter. The emphasis is on removing risk rather than proactive intervention. Some evidence-based knowledge is taught, but there is little evidence that this is being applied on the ground (CID officers being the exception). (HMIC, 2012, pg.2)

This statement from HMIC displays that police training still focuses on ‘procedures and legal use of police powers’ and indicates that there is still need for improvement in training officers in the attitudes and behaviours. In 1978, albeit in an American context, Professor Lawrence Sherman asked the following question in relation to police training “Should the curriculum offer training or education?” (Sherman, 1978 pg.62). Professor Sherman also states “…the best way to educate the police institution for change is to develop the capacity of the police to use knowledge to solve problems” (Sherman, 1978 pg.1) this clearly makes the distinction between training and education. It also clearly articulates the benefits of developing knowledge to inform problem solving. Police training certainly addresses the first three elements of KUSAB. The Knowledge, Understanding, and Skills. However the last two elements, Attitudes and Behaviours, will surely come from education. Could better educated officers and staff bring about the ‘effective crime fighters’ that the HMIC report ‘Taking Time for Crime’ mentions?

Taking policing back to its birth Sir Robert Peel set out nine principles (NY Times website) that he gave as ‘General Instructions’ that were issued to every new police officer from 1829 these principles were:

  1. To prevent crime and disorder, as an alternative to their repression by military force and severity of legal punishment.

  2. To recognise always that the power of the police to fulfil their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.

  3. To recognise always that to secure and maintain the respect and approval of the public means also the securing of the willing co-operation of the public in the task of securing observance of laws.

  4. To recognise always that the extent to which the co-operation of the public can be secured diminishes proportionately the necessity of the use of physical force and compulsion for achieving police objectives.

  5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by pandering to public opinion; but by constantly demonstrating absolutely impartial service to law, in complete independence of policy, and without regard to the justice or injustice of the substance of individual laws, by ready offering of individual service and friendship to all members of the public without regard to their wealth or social standing, by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good humour; and by ready offering of individual sacrifice in protecting and preserving life.

  6. To use physical force only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public co-operation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective.

  7. To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

  8. To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.

  9. To recognise always that the test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, and not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with them.

These principles are in the main about the prevention of crime yet police training rarely touches on this aspect. Police training focuses predominantly on law and procedures. It is evident that the education required in skilling officers and staff in criminological matters of crime prevention and understanding causations of crime is missing. Indeed, the College of Policing has highlighted ‘evidence based policing’ within its strategic intent saying

“A fundamental element of our role as a professional body is to be a catalyst for the development and use of knowledge and research by and for those working in policing. This will ensure that the best available evidence of what works is accessible for practitioners when making decisions.” (College of Policing, 2013, pg. 12).

The ‘what works’ centre within the College of Policing aims to promote the use of what works and share good practice amongst the forces of England and Wales. The Society of Evidence Based Policing (SEBP) is a global network looking to promote evidence based thinking and practice. This is going some way to addressing the smarter thinking that is needed in the current time of austerity where significant cuts to the police budget have been made. The College of Policing, Higher Education facilities and the SEBP have the capabilities to ensure that the best possible methods for reducing crime are identified, used, and also tested as being effective. Police training needs to become the outlet for these agencies to promote evidence based practice at a local level. This would involve educating police trainers in evidence based thinking and ensuring that they promote the use of best evidence during the lessons they deliver.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies (HMIC) may well hold police forces to account with regards to their use of evidence based practice in the near future. It is unthinkable that this accountability around the use of evidence based practice will not happen as the evidence base of what works in policing grows and more understanding in what reduces crime and harm within our communities is gained.

This research sets out to explore police training with Greater Manchester Police and to see how culture and the environment within which training happens affects the ability for Greater Manchester Police to deliver quality police training, education, and more importantly effective crime fighters.


In this qualitative study eight interviewees, were recruited from OLWD (Organisational Learning and Workforce Development) branch within Greater Manchester Police on an opportunity basis. These interviewees train in the areas of Crime training, Uniform training, and Computer training. All are experienced trainers who have spent significant time in the training environment.

For the current study, an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) approach is used as; “IPA is an inductive approach. It does not test hypotheses, and prior assumptions are avoided. IPA aims to capture and explore the meanings the participants assign to their experiences” (Reid, Flowers & Larkin, 2012, p.20).

IPA was first used in the mid-1990s and draws upon psychological concepts and ideas which have much more established histories. Smith & Osborn (2003) put forward a case for an approach to psychology which was able to capture both experiential and qualitative aspects but could still interact with mainstream psychology.

Much of the early work using IPA was conducted in health psychology but the use of IPA is being expanded to the social sciences more generally (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2012). It is with regard for the transferability of this research method from psychology to physiotherapy applied practice where a significant proportion of subjective history taking includes the exploration of psychosocial impacting factors. IPA studies are conducted on relatively small sample sizes. The aim is to reveal something of the experience of each of those individuals. As a component of this, the study might explore the similarities and differences in each case and move to more general claims. The aim is to find a reasonably homogenous sample in order that both similarities and differences in views and experiences can be fully explored. Immediate claims often are bound by the identified group investigated. An extension may be used via theoretical generalising of principles, where the reader of the report accesses the evidence in relation to existing experiential and professional knowledge (Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2012).

Ethical approval was sought in line with the University’s Academic Ethical Framework and the University’s Guidelines for Good Research Practice. Ethical Approval was granted by Manchester Metropolitan University following the application of an ethics approval form (AEAF) which is attached in the appendices.

One of the challenges faced was the fact that the interviewees all had to remain anonymous and due to their particular skill areas and areas of business it was easy to identify them by some of the comments made during the interviews. These comments have been left out or edited but the essence of what was being said has been captured. The interviewees were told that their identities will remain anonymous and that they will be allocated a number within the body of this paper. The technique used was by way of informal structured conversational interview. The interview consisted of conversation around three main areas. The questions posed being:

1) What have you seen change in police training during your career?

2) Can you tell me about the culture that exists in relation to training within Greater Manchester Police?

3) How do you feel Greater Manchester Police can improve the training it delivers?

This then allowed for conversation to flow and more questions to be asked along these three main questions the research set out to explore.


The results identified the following five main topic areas that the interviewees concentrated on: behaviours, the training of the Special Constabulary, standards and culture, inter-branch working and the cultural dynamics, well-being, and the ‘academic’ police officer versus the ‘trade’ police officer.


Clearly, we have seen the need for police to be better equipped to deal with behavioural situations and also have an enhanced awareness of their own behaviours. What came out of all the interviews that were conducted was the fact that the trainers knew there was a lack of emphasis on behaviours within the police training arena. Interviewee one said:

We concentrate on definitions and things like that; we are not good at soft skills.”

When questioned further on what they meant by ‘soft skills’ they went on to add:

Well, things that don’t fit easily into the boxes of definitions. Psychological issues and things like that. I mean there is a course going on today by an outside speaker about unconscious bias, it is very interesting and they have had to bring an outside speaker in because I don’t think anyone within the job is aware of it.”

Interviewee five said:

Everybody that comes into our classes has been through a recruitment system to get the job. They have been assessed as having the attitude, the behaviour, and the potential to be damn good at a testing job. Then we say ‘okay we are going to forget you have got that’ and we don’t expand on the potential they have been recruited for.”

Interviewee five then went on to link this to behaviour stating:

If we start with changing attitudes the behaviour will follow automatically as in betaris box; attitude drives behaviour. If people understand the why we will hook them. Get them giving their opinions, value the opinions that you have recruited them for. Thousands is spent on recruitment and training and they have live skills they can bring in. Tell them why and they will understand… We have to look at it and do something differently.”

Clearly, the feeling is that we could make better use of the students and their existing skills. It is intimated that police training does not build on these skills but rather dampens them down. Traditionally police training moulds the officers into what the organisation wants them to be. However, it could be that these officers are moulded into what the trainer believes a good officer to be and dependant on the trainers experience, understanding, and values differences in the message of what a good police officer is will occur. Interviewee five sees it differently and believes that building on their existing skills and what they have brought into the organisation should be built upon. This then brought a comment from Interviewee five of:

We run the risk of taking a thirty year step backwards in the pursuit to cut costs.”

Indeed, in these times of austerity policing may well be tempted, even forced to review how much of an investment it puts into the training of its officers and staff.

Interviewee 2 was asked about the value placed on training. They said “There is no value placed on training.” And that it feels that training seems to be a ‘knee jerk’ reaction to bad press or HMIC reporting. Interviewee 2 explained further their opinion of the response officer training day which was built into the response officers current shift pattern:

The Wednesday training was just a knee jerk reaction to something and response officers are coming and being trained in something that is not going to be of any real benefit to them. And we have only targeted response officers it is like saying ‘you’re getting it wrong and nobody else is’.”

Interviewee Three in the same way said:

It seems to me that the response officers training day I think was a knee jerk reaction to the restructure of the force and the new policing model. Response officers were given a limited and specific role and it seems they were given something back by way of a training day, which is all well and good for that cohort of people there is little left in the pot for the rest of the organisation. A glaring example of that is the neighbourhood policing teams who do not get any training and if they want training have to find it for themselves.”

Interviewee five backed this up saying:

It would be better if people understand why they are doing it. Why they are being trained rather than a ‘sheep dip’ approach of everybody on response is getting this.”

Accordingly, John Adair a leading authority on leadership in organisations agrees a sheep dip approach to training does not work. (Adair, 2011 p.g.207)

The Training of the Special Constabulary

Throughout my interviews with the uniform training officers there was a constant theme and disgruntlement around the training of Special Constables. Special Constables training at the time of interviewing was conducted predominately on Saturdays and Sundays by uniform training staff that would not be paid overtime but would receive a day back in lieu for them to use in the future. This is still the case with the exception that Special Constables are now also trained on a Friday in duty time. The training of Special Constables on a Saturday and Sunday for a day in lieu is an informal arrangement. Some felt that this informal arrangement is unfair. Interviewee 3 said:

“…you can’t enforce ad-hoc arrangements or goodwill. Putting in a clear structure communicates what your expectations are, and then if people refuse or decline to work you have something rigid to fall back on.”

Interviewee One echoed those views and suggested that the informal arrangement should be abolished and that a formal system be put in place:

A proper shift system where everyone gets to do it and we would need more staff. At the moment people can and do opt out it is a voluntary system. It is done on goodwill and sometimes that goodwill only goes one way.”

The interviewees were asked if that should include evening and weekend working. The reply from Interviewee One was as follows:

I have no objection to that as long as it is done under regulations and properly staffed. The objections I have with the current system for specials is the job is now assuming that you’re willing to work a six day week, which might not always be the case might it? I don’t agree with it we should work within regulations and have proper staffing.”

Interviewee Four agreed:

With regards to specials… I think it should be done under regs (police regulations). You should be paid a fair days pay for a fair days work. Overtime pots should be there and used accordingly especially when there is income generation as we are being told there is. Use the money for the good of the workers.”

Interviewee Two was concerned as to the workload and the amount of Special’s training that would be needed in future. They believed that as there are cuts to budgets and regular officer numbers decrease there would be a focus on recruiting “free police” and the impact that would have on the trainers:

The amount of specials coming in I have been told will double. We cannot do it. We struggle to get people to work them now.”

The question of quality was raised with most feeling that specials were not being afforded the quality of training that regular officers are provided with.

Interviewee Two: “The training they get as specials, they are not tested. Specials come of a weekend and they are not tested, so how do we know they have learned the stuff that they need? All they have to do is put a bum on a seat and stay there. If they don’t want to learn it, nobody is going to come and say ‘no you can’t be a special’. And then they send you out and there is an assumed knowledge which means that they are outside representing GMP and they’re not even identified as specials anymore (uniform for Specials is the same as regular officers). So a member of the public sees them as a police officer and assumes they have the knowledge and experience.”

Interviewee Five states: “Specials training is like school sports day it is too inclusive and to fair, nobody ever fails”

Interviewee Four offers one reason as to why Specials training may be viewed as failing:

With the specials it’s weekends. What they learn weeks 1, 2, and 3 they have forgotten by week 12.”

Indeed the training for specials is less intensive than that of the IPLDP (Initial Police Learning and Development Programme) and it could be that retaining the knowledge from the earlier weeks is a problem for Special Constabulary students.

Greater Manchester Police in recent years has only recruited from a pool of police staff and Special Constables on to the IPLDP programme to become regular Police officers.

Interviewee Two remarked:

The specials come with an idea that they know a lot, but then they will come up to you and say ‘I didn’t realise how little I knew’.”

Interviewees Two then states that they believe that PCSO’s (Police Community Support Officers) actually turn out to be better student officers than people from a Special’s background:

PCSO’s come feeling a little bit disadvantaged compared to the specials as they haven’t done legislation. When actually they are very good communicators. And it shows that they have been out there, doing it, talking to people.”

Interviewee Two then adds that a varied background makes for a good class of new recruits:

Police staff you have to assume no knowledge and they all get the same lesson regardless of what they have done before. Some come from custody and others from comms (Communications). And although they have not been a special or PCSO they will have skill sets that can add to the course and that’s quite good.”

Interviewee One speaks of how formal examinations should be used to assess the knowledge of Special Constables in training and how knowledge that should have been learnt during training whilst Specials’ is not retained and how new recruits from a Specials’ background identify this themselves:

Specials’ training is not fit for purpose it is bums on seats. There should be an end of course examination for them. There is currently an end of course SDE day but that is not stringently assessed. We know that the quality isn’t there as a lot of the specials join as regulars and PCSOs and we go over stuff such as theft and TWOC things that they have allegedly gone over as specials and they say ‘I’m amazed how ignorant we were as specials we knew none of this stuff it never got over to us’. The people who join us from the specials feel the specials’ training is substandard.”

However, Interviewee Four’s opinion was that role-plays and reviewing how Special’s apply the law within a practical environment was the real test:

We now do role plays. We actually try to see how people can apply theory in made up scenarios, but for the role-player to them it is real or as real as it can be. They are in uniform and they are under pressure because others are watching them.”

Interviewee Five had a more cynical view as to why there are no formal examinations for specials during their training:

We cannot have an exam what if somebody fails? (They say sarcastically) If they fail they should be back classed and re-trained. If we are not training to a standard then why bother in the first place? There has to be an end goal and at the moment you pass by just turning up.”

Interviewee Four who has recently trained a class of PCSO recruits and said the following:

On the recent PCSO course more than half of them are ex-special’s with more than 3 years in so these are experienced specials. At the end of the course 50-60% of them said collectively it was frightening the training we had as specials and were allowed to work on the streets because we now know after undergoing 8 weeks training how little we actually knew.”

Interviewee Two gave an interesting insight as to some of the difficulties trainers face when receiving recruits that have already worked within the organisation and how that compound the existing police culture:

The benefits from recruiting from outside is that there is no bad practice already engrained and they come with an eagerness to learn. The PCSO’s and specials as they have already been outside they are tainted a little bit because of what they have learned on divisions that has been bad practice or perhaps a little bit slapdash. They have learned the culture and sometimes you have to undo all that.”

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