Personal resilience: A key strength offered by disabled people in policing

What will the police work force have to worry about in the future? Has Boris Johnson become the Home Secretary? Has Tom Winsor been commissioned to give his insights into policing again? Will our pay ever rise by more than 1%?

One question that is almost certain for many: “How will I manage to hold down the office of constable at 59 years old?”

With limited or even no back office roles existing in a future police service, the expectation of officers being ‘fully deployable’; increased risk of dismissal; and a higher probability of injury, illness or disability – how difficult will it be to hang on in there until full pension age?

An interesting question. The short sighted approach to building a ‘new police workforce’, would be to expect every officer to be fully operationally deployable. It is easy to assume this may be the intention when reading about Limited duties and Capability Dismissal. But with the best will in the world this is unrealistic in any occupation, especially policing.

In a world of an ever changing definition of the ‘front line’ what does operational resilience really mean? Will it really require an entire workforce to be fully fit? You only have to look at the amount of crime taking place on-line to see why this ideology may be flawed.

So how important is personal resilience when trying to ensure you have a workforce that is ‘fit for purpose’?

Personal resilience is not to be under estimated when seeking to improve the ‘resilience’ of your workforce.

Now I know that in this context the term ‘resilience’ refers to two different things, but isn’t there a point of convergence?

Operational resilience refers to the number of officers you can deploy to the ‘front line’ in times of urgent need, the extreme scenario being the London riots. Is it likely that you will need to ever deploy every officer at the Chief Officers disposal to the ‘front line’?

Even in the event of a Terrorist attack, how could Policing continue to operate if every officer was on the ‘front line’. What even is the ‘front line’?

Personal resilience on the other hand is an individuals ability to persevere in the face of adversity. A trait the public would expect from those who are there to protect them.

Seemingly two different things – but where do they converge?

Who is likely to have the greater personal resilience – a 21 year old probationary officer or a 45 year old officer of 20 years service?

What about the officer who has never (fortunately for them) had to endure a personal, chronic battle with pain or fatigue compared to the officer who survived cancer?

Which one is more likely to press on and go to work even when they don’t feel 100%? Which one is more likely to give 100% of what they have to give even when they are not feeling at their best?

The answer is not always the same, of course it depends on individuals and circumstances. However, I am sure many can testify to the claim that a disabled person will work harder than someone who isn’t disabled.

How do I know this? As a disabled person I know that I constantly have to prove myself. I often have to work harder to achieve the same as others. I have to make my own opportunities, as they are rarely handed to me. I have to fight for career progression. So how do I do this?

By giving a minimum of 100% every time I go to work.

By going to work even when I am unwell and have an acceptable reason not to be there.

By always reminding myself that I have to work harder than others to get what I want, what I deserve.

I am not alone in doing this. It is a common trait of disabled people.

This week I was told about the ex armed forces veteran who is applying to become an officer in one of the police forces in the north of the country. Doesn’t sound particularly unique does it?

Well what about when I tell you they are an amputee? The fact that this person is seeking employment is testament to their personal resilience, let alone setting their sights on the challenge of being a police officer. But why shouldn’t they?

Workforce resilience is not just about having a young, healthy, fully fit workforce. It is about experience, determination, personal journeys, all of which create ‘personal resilience’ – something disabled people have in abundance.

So when planning the future workforce, don’t underestimate what people have to give, especially those who have already lived through tougher battles than many will ever experience. There is much more to resilience than ‘fully deployable officers’. Personal resilience may be the ingredient that makes a workforce truly ‘operationally resilient’.

Jamie Mills
DPA General Secretary