Those of you following me on Twitter will know that I was recently elected and later appointed as churchwarden to our village church. I’m not new to this area having been secretary to the PCC for the last 5 years. We are not financially flush. The church is 14th century, huge for a small village and needs a lot of care. We have a turnover in excess of £100k and as such we have to be registered with the Charity Commission. Notwithstanding our income the running costs, statutory fees and the financial recession we have run with a small deficit for the last 2 years. We are fortunate enough to have some very generous supporters. However, there is also a lot of expense that doesn’t get recorded. Getting keys cut, buying petrol for a mower, photocopying, printing, ink, paper and so on. Members of our leadership team and congregation simply pay for it. They pretty much consider it part of their giving. Whilst this is welcome it does give us one problem. We do not have a totally accurate picture of how much it costs to run our church. The things people do will still be needed if they suddenly leave the church or area. The expense then falls to the church. People who are already busy struggle to take on extra burdens and the additional expense can undermine our budget plans.
There is a way around this. People generating expense for the church should claim it back. If they still wish to donate the money as part of their giving then they can easily give it back. Even better gift aided! This gives us a far more accurate picture of our financial affairs. It’s just a bit cumbersome and folks can’t be bothered. As a result the problem remains and a crunch day will come.
In over 20yrs service with the police I have never taken work home with me. As police officers we generate reams of paperwork. Notwithstanding some feeble attempts to reduce bureacracy the burden remains one that every officer knows well.
As a probationer many of my peers told of taking paperwork home. It helped them keep things under control. Allowed them more time at work to get on with the never ending list of incoming jobs. Trying to get the Sgt or Inspector to agree to allow you some writing time was a tough call. On nights they would say, “Why don’t you come in at 3 and do it then?” By the time 3am arrived, you either had a prisoner (more writing) or somebody else did which meant you had to stay out.
Having switched to a traffic unit the demands were no less. In fact as a proactive traffic officer I had fewer arrests than on section but my paperwork increased 10 fold! Summons, traffic management reports, accidents (not collisions… but that’s another blog!), operations and fatals. The pressure to meet those requirements and still turn out to accidents is immense. But obviously the paperwork must and did take a back seat when a bump came in and the public needed me. The paperwork just continued to grow. The temptation to take some home and clear the decks was strong. But I never did.
As a police officer I get paid. Not an overly handsome amount but sufficient with overtime and conditions to secure me. I get paid from time A to time B. Just like any other employee. I don’t get paid at any other time. But unlike many employees police officers are never “off duty”. Does this mean we should take work home with us?
Our behaviour out of work is as strictly controlled as when in. We can be enjoying family time and suddenly find ourselves on duty. Dealing with an accident until those on duty arrive, detaining a shoplifter that’s struggling with security… the list goes on. Does this role activity outside our normal working hours mean we should also take paperwork home?
Dealing with an emergency or spontaneous situation when presented to us in an off duty capacity should engender action. This is what we are about. We care about our communities and hold fast to the traditions, and requirements of the office. Is paperwork being taken home an emergency or spontaneous need?
Over the years countless officers have taken paperwork home to make their working days easier. Deadlines are approaching and the only way seen to be a solution is the dining room table. In recent years officers around the country in varying degrees have been issued with PDA’s and Blackberry’s. They can take this equipment home and have access to the force email network. Whilst this equipment undoubtedly makes a working day easier it also lends itself to officers checking and responding to emails on their days off. Yes it keeps their list down for when next on duty but should they be doing it?
Over the years I have belligerently refused to take paperwork home. Supervision faced with strong evidence to know I am not swinging the lead have been forced to afford me time to write in duty time. If only everyone did this.
Good will, just like paying for sundry items at church out of your own pocket, is a kind gesture but ultimately it will lead to problems. Those officers taking work home must stop. You are giving a false impression to those in charge and the government that we can cope. As cuts continue to bite this situation will only become worse. How long will it be with you taking paperwork home or answering emails before it becomes expected? How much of your two days off are you prepared to donate to paperwork? Where will you draw the line?
As we reduce in numbers over the next few years the pressures will increase. Stop giving a false impression of what is achievable within your working day now. The job has a responsibility to allow you time to do your work in work time. They cannot simply ignore it on the basis it seems to get done by you taking it home. You have the ability to do this now. If you don’t you are buying yourself time now that is selling your future and that of your colleagues down the river.