Policing in collaboration

Working Together in a Changing World.


James Slessor, managing director, Accenture Police Services, writes that police forces are collaborating more than ever before and despite the challenges they are finding new ways of thinking and working.

A recent study by Accenture ‘Preparing Police Services for the Future’ interviewed 22 police leaders from 17 police services around the world and found most viewed collaboration not only in terms of working with other forces, locally and internationally, but also with non-policing partners - criminal justice agencies; the public, private and voluntary sectors; and citizens themselves. Similarly, in England and Wales forces are exploring options for collaboration with a broad set of partners.


Many police leaders entered into the recent period of austerity with limited experience of having to find long-term sustainable solutions to budget cuts. In practice, the approach taken was often the ‘salami slicing’ of resources – for instance, cutting 10 percent of all departments budgets across the force. However, the budgetary crisis has crystallised and sharpened leadership thinking around cross-force collaboration. Partnership has always been central to effective policing but now police leaders are increasingly looking to innovate and seek new types of partners.


For some observers, collaboration is not happening quickly enough. An HMIC report earlier this year expressed disappointment with pace of change, which it said was too slow. The majority of forces, it noted, made less than 10% of their savings by collaborating. HMIC made clear that more could be done to realise benefits from what it terms the “untapped potential” of collaboration.

Forces in England and Wales have undoubtedly spotted many collaborative opportunities. HMIC found that by November 2011 there were over 540 planned or active collaboration projects - with an expectation that nearly £170m in savings would be generated over the current Spending Review period (2011/12–2014/15). The pace of cross–force collaborations has increased in the last two years and, as the financial benefits from collaborative ventures can take time to realise, forces and their partners are likely to see further savings in the years to come


Long-term collaborations promise many benefits but to be successful all stakeholders must be willing to share information and to relinquish, to a greater or lesser degree, some control of resources they have committed to the project. And they need to ‘stick together’ – to see the collaboration through to its natural conclusion and not be deterred by inevitable challenges.

From the outset clear, end-to-end business cases must be established so stakeholders can see the benefits that will accrue as a result of their commitment. There may be apparent ‘winners and losers’ at particular stages of the collaboration process but it is crucial that all stakeholders believe they will benefit in the end. The benefits of collaboration are multiple and can be great if the Police Service and its partners are prepared to seize them.