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Keeping police leaders ahead of their game today is the key to developing a service fit for tomorrow: Mike Cunningham QPM joins Skills for Justice

Mike Cunningham

Involved in policing for over thirty years, the end of 2020 marked Mike Cunningham’s (@MCunningham1232) departure from his pivotal role as Chief Executive of the College of Policing (CoP). In 2021, looking to further his contribution to leadership development, Mike joins Skills for Justice (@Skills_Justice) as an associate, imparting his thorough understanding of the workforce challenges and opportunities facing policing today, in his mission to drive change across the sector.

Mike said: “I believe the continuous professional development of officers and staff in policing is a long way from where it needs to be, and there are many reasons for that. While policing and other law enforcement agencies are working in a very fast moving world, it is incumbent upon these justice sector professionals to hone their skills if they are to be effective on behalf of the communities they serve. Skills for Justice seek to equip our policing people in that way, with the skills, workforce development and expertise a modern service need. So, I feel it is a very good fit for me.”

Instrumental during his time at the College for instigating delivery of the insightful report ‘Policing in England and Wales: Future Operating Environment 2040’ (FOE 2040), Mike is a big believer in assessing future requirements. He said: “The work we did at the CoP on the FOE 2040 is very important to helping people assess how they are developing their organisation. If you’re going to develop organisations properly, then I think it has to be predicated on understanding what the future holds. So that’s an area I hope I can offer something to the work the team at Skills for Justice do.”

Skills for Justice are excited to be acquiring Mike’s broad sector knowledge, as they continue their work with policing organisations across the UK to develop the strategies and capabilities to navigate both the pandemic recovery, and to plan for the future.

Dr Benedict Eccles, Head of Consultancy Practice at Skills for Justice, added: “As a sector skills council, we value Mike’s thought leadership and passion for effective policing. We have mutual interests in developing a great workforce that is fit for purpose in organisations committed to quality in their services. Our clients, such as the uniformed services and departments of the civil service, are already benefiting from having access to his support and expertise. It’s a privilege to have him on board.”

Every day in policing brings new challenges and recent times have shown just how tirelessly officers, staff and volunteers work to keep people safe, balancing extensive knowledge with swift decision-making and empathy towards the public to deliver an effective response. Yet, as these challenges evolve in complexity, it gets continually harder for leaders to ensure the service is adept to meet them.

Mike said: “Recruitment and Organisation Development (OD) has come a long way in helping support the workforce, as they find their way through the service and face the challenges of the next generation. Nevertheless, we must make sure that new recruits, as well as those who have been in policing for some time, remain current, if we are to stay ahead of those who seek to subvert the law, fully protect people, and ultimately bring people to justice. Because one thing we know for sure is there will always be people finding new ways of using technology and new ways of approaching vulnerability and victims.”

For the sector to adapt and grow for the future, Skills for Justice seeks to instil leadership development and OD which is grounded in the reality of modern policing and crime prevention, to make this aspiration a reality. Supporting police leaders today to fully understand the vital role that OD plays in addressing future challenges is a key component to achieving this.

Mike said: “The term ‘OD’ certainly seems to mean different things to different people sometimes. Yet at the end of the day, organisations have to develop, move on, and improve, and you do that by developing people. But also, you do it by thinking about the way the organisation works: how it functions, how decisions are made, how it interconnects with other organisations, and how it’s enabled through technology, which is vital to ensuring that organisations remain fleet of foot. They have to be, as the world is very, very fast moving. Crucially, none of this can really be done without a clearer understanding of what the future holds.”

Skills for Justice have already put Mike’s years of respected experience to use with the launch of a new suite of open programmes. These have been designed specifically to provide police leaders with the space to develop collaborative strategies and capabilities to address the vast range of possibilities the future may hold.

Mikes said: “For the British policing model to work, the public have to have confidence in the services that are provided for them. If these services are to be effective, it’s vital we use foresight of what might happen in the future to better prepare now, and we must bring organisations together to think about these issues together, not just in silos.

“I think the best people, the best leaders and the most effective practitioners are people who remain constantly curious and wanting to stay fresh. The important role of organisations like Skills for Justice is how we can keep individuals and organisations on the front and ahead of their game, and I am looking forward to being a part of these vital discussions.”

With the shared commitment to nurturing the skills development police leaders need today to build a thoroughly modern service fit for tomorrow, applying Mike’s valuable insights will help Skills for Justice ensure the future of policing starts now.

Mike said: “Leadership is a great privilege, but it’s also a big challenge. If we’re going to equip our police leaders to be effective, then we need to do it deliberately and thoughtfully, and development has to happen where people are exposed to the experience of leaders across organisations and across sectors. Hence, I am very passionate about contributing my own thoughts and experience, both to help leaders develop, and to support them develop staff who don’t seek leadership roles but have the skills the public they serve requires.”

Mike Cunningham QPM is a former senior British Police officer and was Chief Executive of the College of Policing from 2018-2020. Mike joined Lancashire Constabulary in 1987 and after completing the police Strategic Command Course in 2005 became Assistant Chief Constable, taking responsibility for operational policing. From September 2009-2014 he was Chief Constable of Staffordshire Police. In 2014, he was appointed Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and bestowed the award of Honorary Doctor by Staffordshire University in recognition of his significant contribution to policing and law and order.

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