Headlines: January 14th, 2004

Centrex, the new independent national police training body, set up in 2002 to replace a Home Office run training organisation, is severely criticised in a report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. Centrex is an abbreviation for Centre of Excellence and its mission is to become the key strategic partner for the Police Service in learning and development. The report highlights failure at corporate governance and management levels and calls for immediate action to remedy strategic weaknesses. The Chief Constable of Merseyside Police has been appointed as the new Chief Executive and will take up his post later in the year. An interim Chief Executive is currently in post.The main differences between Centrex and the National Police Training organization it replaced are that it does not receive direction and strategy as a department of the Home Office and it operates independently as an Non Departmental Public Body. Centrex designs and delivers training and development with a focus on career-long learning from Probationer through to Chief Constable, as well as promoting British policing overseas. It develops national doctrine through the National Centre for Policing Excellence and supports the creation and provision of national learning programmes. It is a major supplier of products and services to law enforcement organisations in over 60 countries

The report presents a picture of operational managers and staff taking pride in their work and seeking to provide an excellent service. Each unit strives to be efficient. Failures at the corporate level negate this effort. The result is that managers and staff feel ignored and frustrated.

Weaknesses include the absence of measures of performance, with no targets or measurable outcomes. There was also a failure to have any dialogue with customers. Many key areas lack any strategy including human resources, communications and marketing and corporate organization.

The Centrex Board operates a ‘champion’ system whereby individual members with a specific interest, level of skill or expertise take a special interest in one of the business areas. Inspectors found that most of the 1500 staff could not name their champion or cite any related activity.

The police service is experiencing closer scrutiny than at any time in the past and is currently engaged in a radical modernization programme. This makes the role of Centrex crucially important. The report calls for Centrex to address identified shortcomings and implement recommendations. It sets out a list of short term actions that need to be taken promptly as well as a number of longer term measures.

The report is available at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmic/new.htm