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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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“We must be different by design,” says Thames Valley Police’s Director of People


1. Is agile leadership particularly useful in the police force with people at all levels having to respond to unique situations quickly and authoritatively?

Absolutely yes. I always say to our newly qualified police officers at their confirmation ceremony that they are taking on one of the most challenging vocations I can imagine. From day one, they will be confronted with the unpredictable and be expected to respond calmly and professionally in full public gaze. This demands confidence and understanding to earn respect.

For me, agile leadership demands personal energy and resilience, the ability to coach, the ability to make and articulate structured, evidence based decisions and the confidence to exercise discretion positively and ethically. Grip, pace and simplicity of  message come in handy too!

Who is Dr. Steven Chase?

Steven first joined Thames Valley Police in 1997 as Head of HR.

Prior to that he served for over 20 years in the Royal Air Force, achieving the rank of Group Captain.

Steven holds a Doctorate in Business Administration and is a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

He currently serves as President of the CIPD's Police Forum.

At Thames Valley Steven is responsible for all aspects of people management, from leadership, health and safety and organisational development through to ensuring the People Directorate is engaged as a strategic business partner throughout the organisation.

2. What's your approach to talent identification and management at Thames Valley Police? What qualities do you look for?

We need to manage our talent at a number of levels. We clearly need to identify our future leaders and develop them accordingly. We also need to grow those who wish to pursue more specialist routes such as firearms officers and road traffic officers. However, this is not just about upward progression and specialist career pathways. Many of our officers will spend their whole career working with communities in their neighbourhoods and they are brilliant at doing so.

It is also important to say that policing is not just about police officers. The police family includes Police Community Support Officers, Special Constables, police staff and volunteers many of whom work with partners across the Thames Valley footprint. Our police staff fill a number of important operational and operational support roles as well as delivering the bulk of our business support activity.

3. To what extent is the police force like a 'normal' modern organisation? Can models of  leadership/change be mapped across or is there something different about the police that needs understanding?

Thames Valley Police is a large, complex organisation with a wide range of stakeholders, serving diverse communities and public needs. Although that local context needs to be understood – as with any organisation – we can and do use leadership and change models drawn from research, professional practice and organisational learning.

The National Decision Model is police specific and has been developed to aid structured decision making, particularly in operational situations. However, we also utilise a host of well recognised coaching models, self awareness tools such as MBTI and EQI and transformational leadership programmes. I am currently working on an approach to trustworthy leadership at organisation and individual levels designed to emphasise and promote ethical behaviour.

4. Public opinion on the police swing regularly and there are often PR problems to contend with. What people processes and leadership initiatives help encourage on -the-beat officers to respond effectively and in a way that conforms to the public view of reasonable police force?

Notwithstanding some high profile examples of the police service not meeting the standards of conduct and ethical behaviour that we demand and expect, public support for the police remains strong. That said, we cannot be complacent and the formation of the College of Policing and the introduction of a Code of Ethics for policing our clear examples of a desire to maintain and improve our standards of professionalism. Policing by consent is at the centre of the British Policing Model and for this to be maintained we need the respect and trust of the public. Our legitimacy is key.

In addition to the Code of Ethics, we also have a set of Force values which clearly outline what we expect of our people. These values feature in all our recruitment, selection and promotion processes and are embedded in our individual performance review system. Our approach is to encourage good and ethical behaviour, but if people step out of line we will deal with it appropriately.

5. In strongly hierarchical organisations and strong historical cultures of leadership, how does change work? Is it much harder to implement progressive measures?

There is no doubt that hierarchy and culture play a part, but I might argue that this is the case in most large organisations. Consistency of leadership and brave, long-term decision-making are crucial factors. If you are at the cliff edge, it is too late! There are times, of course, where levels of command are vital, particularly in operational situations, although it is very common to have expert tactical advisors of more junior rank.

Putting aside the natural and important human concerns associated with change – how will my role change? will my role continue? will I have to change location? etc – my experience  here  is that any organisational inertia is at the conceptual, organisational development stage. Once the path of change is determined, people get on with the implementation and delivering policing for the public. We are good at that.

6. What are the three biggest things you have learnt during your time at Thames Valley?

  • A great career choice! I am fortunate to work with some amazing people at all levels and across a wide variety of roles. The public value what we do and that is important to me.
  • Enjoy the moment you are in and as a leader focus on the future with energy and enthusiasm.  Look after yourself and those around you. Prepare for the unexpected!
  • Be comfortable in your own skin. Grow and develop professionally and personally, but don’t try to be someone else. You don’t have to be an extrovert to succeed, but you may need to learn some authentic extrovert behaviours.

7. What are the challenges at Thames Valley currently on your mind?

  • Trying to be the best that we can be. Looking to break ground and be different by design rather than chasing best practice.
  • Specific challenges would include extending workforce diversity, maintaining a positive and healthy workforce, finding innovative solutions to financial challenges and ensuring that we have the skills to police in the future.
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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence