Future Policing – The Law Engagement Officer (part one)

The first in a series of articles anticipating the future of policing and the changing nature of the police officer role; specifically the awareness and skills required

Police photo (2) (1)A proportion of people are attracted to become a police officer to enforce the law. With one of many aims being to keep the general public, who hardly ever come in to contact with the police, feeling safe by focusing on those who break the law.

The changing landscape of policing however is calling for more engagement and less force, especially when you consider that


  • Two thirds of all reported incidents don’t require law enforcement action
  • Crime is going down (according to Government figures)
  • Incidents involving vulnerable people and those not committing crime, dealt with by the police, is going up
  • One in four of us will experience a mental health issue in our lifetime, leaving us close to/ within the vulnerable category

Engagement is a ‘hot’ word and there has been lots of credible research into both public and private sector organisations urging them to master customer and employee engagement.

When employees are engaged it’s been proven there are

  • Increased rates of discretionary effort
  • Less staff sickness/absenteeism
  • Improved efficiency and productivity

In police parlance, community engagement is often talked about but not for reasons of being ‘nice’ to customers as cynics sometimes think, but for making a real difference to the prevention and detection of crime.

Engaged communities 

  • Report more crimes
  • Offer intelligence to detect more crimes
  • Take responsibility for the values and standards in their neighbourhoods
  • And when a major incident occurs they co-operate with (and not shut-out) the police

To better understand the changing need for the future rise of Law Engagement Officers we also have to consider what engagement means; its structures, values, behaviours, attributes and relationships.

Old school thinking believed that public and private sectors were far different as regards to the needs of customers. Over the years I have lost count of the amount of Police officers that have objected with, “we’re not Marks and Spencer’s”, “we’re not selling anything” or “we don’t have customers”

What unites both sectors is the fulfilment of basic human needs that are psychological and emotional imperatives. These are the need for

  • Affiliation
  • Trust
  • Collaboration
  • Advocacy

If you have communities or customers that trust you, that feel they are connected to you, that are motivated to work with you and tell others about your great work, you have an exemplary service offering. These are what both private and public sectors hanker for and they occur through engagement.

Human beings need highly engaging, quality human interactions that require much more than the latest process or piece of technology or cost saving initiative to see them through.

These are attributes, behaviours and a relational awareness that no process can ever reproduce.

Get your internal and external customer engagement wrong and the consequences are severe as both sectors are often experiencing. Take the health service and the over-processing, target, tick box, time prioritised, un-empathic cultures they have sometimes developed.

Over-processing (treating staff and customers as just another on the conveyor belt tonight) often leads to short falls within

  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Collaboration

And increases within

  • Stress
  • Distress
  • Punitive and non-supportive behaviours

These are some of the hallmarks of bureaucratic climates that create empathy fatigue for front line professionals and that disengage their customers.

What are the attributes of engagement?

We shall explore these in detail within the next article but for now here’s one to whet your appetite – Courage and specifically Internal Courage because engagement implies turning towards difficult feelings, not away from them.

Turning towards, stress, vulnerability, discomfort and suffering with the skills and attributes of empathy and compassion. And with a compassion that must also be used on ourselves when the working environment we are in is squeezing us for more and more and we are left feeling vulnerable, stressed and depleted.


Future Vision is running a special seminar focusing on some of the subjects within this article on December 10th 2013 in Manchester. For more details (and a PDF download) go to https://police-customer-service.eventbrite.co.uk/

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