This is the official blog of ex-Sgt Ellie Bloggs. I was a real live police constable then sergeant for twelve years, on the real live front line of England. I'm now a real live non-police person. All the facts I recount are true, and are not secrets. If they don't want me blogging about it, they shouldn't do it. PS If you don't pay tax, you don't (or didn't) pay my salary.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

A Volcanic Anticlimax

Apologies for the absence, I have been stranded by a cloud of fetid outpourings from the centre of an archaic and gargantuan geological feature: yes, it is PDR review time.

This is the time of year when all supervisors, even just pretend-supervisors like me, have to assess and rate their underlings. I have been reliably informed by someone who has never worked with anyone on my shift, nor any police officers, that most of my team are pretty average. To be precise, about 60% of them are average. Further to that, 20% of them are under-performing, 15% of them are doing better than average, and 5% are truly gifted. If I grade my team in any other proportion, the chances are I don't know what I'm doing and my gradings will be rejected by someone in an office forty miles away.

Over the force as a whole, just 10% of staff are graded with the top rating - Fabuloso. It may surprise you to hear that most of the Fabuloso staff are Superintendents or above.* Which is reassuring, except that the rating is supposed to be according to your current role and not as some kind of measurement of your worth against all other human beings. It seems likely there might be some Fabulous PCs, quite a lot of Darned Good ones, a high number of Reasonably Competents or Somewhat Strugglings, and a scattering of Total Nincompoops. But no, according to my trainer, a startingly high proportion of senior officers are performing very highly, which means a frightening number of PCs should really be facing inefficiency regs**.

In actual fact, it is almost impossible to grade a PC as anything other than Reasonably Competent, without the full wrath of the PDR system bearing down on me. I try to explain this to my staff, but they can't help being suspicious that I'm just using bureaucracy as an excuse. And so I am forced to write things like: "Lloyd is a potentially Darned Good officer" and "Becks is almost Somewhat Struggling". At least it puts into context some of the end-of-year reviews I have received in the past.

I am still waiting with bated breath to find out what my own review will say. In fact, no I'm not. The rules state that if you've been doing a job for less than three months, there is only one grading that can be chosen. That's the only fair way.

Then again, the only time anyone ever reads your PDR is if you're about to be kicked out of the job, and then your series of "Reasonably Competents" looks a bit less demoralising.

'Diary of an On-Call Girl' is available in some bookstores and online.

* These figures are based on the trainer's input, there is no way to actually establish their accuracy without seeing my senior managers' PDRs.

** This is how you get someone kicked out for under-performing.


Blogger TonyF said...

47.5% of statistics are made up.

I remember comments made on certain peoples annual assessments..

This man will go far. We Hope.

This man is doing a village idiot out of a job.

The men would follow this officer only out of morbid curiosity.

This officer has reached rock bottom, and is starting to dig.

23 April, 2010 20:37

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a PC currently serving in Afghanistan in various places including patrolling in Sangin, for 8 months, I have just received my mid year appraisal and unlike the police I have been given a fair appraisal. I have to say its good however unlike the police, where I need to develop it quite blunt. I don’t get upset I don’t run to his boss I get on with it learn from them and make sure I don’t make the same mistakes. My last report from the police was a mid range grade even though I was the highest arresting officer on the team and had received a commendation for bravery. I was given the same grade as the person who hadn’t arrested anyone in 2 months. When I pointed this out the scale was explained for the very reasons above. As an officer in the TA who also writes many reports I asked the Sgt to justify this to which he replied I hadn’t filled out enough stop and search forms to be given a higher grade. The process is a waste of time and as stated is only of any use if there is a discipline process.

23 April, 2010 21:05

Blogger ambulanceamateur said...

Same everywhere. There is a profile and appraisers need to conform to it. Whether this is reasonable or not doesn't enter into consideration.

You may as well use Excel to make a list and order it by a) how competent you think people are and b) how much you like them.

Top 5% are outstanding, etc etc.

This obviously bears no relation to reality. Some teams will be overstaffed with intelligent go-getters. Others will be full of numpties.

Unfortunately, for reasons of self-preservation, you are encouraged to fib a bit.

23 April, 2010 21:23

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thankfully our force doesn't use that system any more, you are either competent or not (though there are 3 different reasons for being incompetent, lol)
oh, and some people are super competent, but not often, because the line manager has to write something to evidence it, if they give you anything other than "competent"'!

so guess what.....we are all competent.....

23 April, 2010 22:50

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one ever reads the PDR and the SMT know it. Complete arse-covering waste of time, yet again, devised by people with too much time on their hands.

God bless cut & paste and CTRL F.

24 April, 2010 12:11

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

A constable arrived on my shift having been transferred from another station.He had a somewhat checkered carrer very often under performing.He could not understand
this and proudly produced a copy of his last annual appraisal in which his previous Sgt had written"Any supervisor who gets this man working for him is very lucky".
So in PDRs you need to be very clear and very precise about your actual meaning!
Oh and if Blandshires PDR system works as you say then it poor in the extreme and reflects the standard of those individuals who thought it up

24 April, 2010 13:20

Anonymous shijuro said...

IMHO PDR's can be useful...

My last three mentioned a point about my post that has almost saved my bacon with the Thought Police.

I love writing things down...

24 April, 2010 19:21

Blogger English Pensioner said...

I remember with the introduction of open reporting, my boss at the time commented that I "didn't suffer fools gladly".
Very true, but he didn't seem to realise that he was the main fool that I was suffering!

24 April, 2010 23:23

Anonymous Steve D. said...

Supervisors often give their useless subordinates 'competent' ratings, because without them the subordinate would never get a transfer and the supervisor would be stuck with them. When I was in the Army one had to be posted when promoted and many people were promoted by supervisors just to get rid of them.

PDRs can be useful for documenting incompetence to support someone getting the tin-tack, but let's be honest; you have to really go some to get sacked from the Police or any public sector job, for incompetence. A sideways move to a BIU or somewhere similar where you can't get into trouble is about the worst you can expect.

In the Met 6 yrs ago we had performance related pay which was paid if your PDR mark was in the top 5 or 10% (can't remember the exact figure). Is that still the same and does that mean an A/Sgt can seriously affect your salary - especially considering that in many departments you have just one supervisor and if you don't get on, well you're poorer for the year? That system never seemed fair to me.

25 April, 2010 05:46

Anonymous Craig Richmond said...

Because the whole thing is no doubt objective as well, the goal is to get your underlings to document all of the things they have done well. Make sure that all of the things in their list of objectives (which I'm sure they have) are met, examples are given and that it's clear that they have done everything they were asked to do.

Then when Management give you stick about they can't all be average, good or outstanding, you have a good body of evidence to show that none are under performing and you can ask one of the managers to identify from the documents which one isn't doing what was asked of them.

Make it all evidence based. :-)

We had a similar bell curve requirement a few years ago. So the bell curve, guaranteeing that some percentage weren't doing well combined with a statement that as an organisation we intend to hire and retain the highest quality staff must mean that management's requirement for the bell curve must have meant they were accepting that they were failing to succeed on the recruitment and retention of good people?

25 April, 2010 10:49

Anonymous Retired Sgt said...

And I bet it wouldnt last 30 secs in front of an employment tribunal

25 April, 2010 11:00

Anonymous NottsSarge said...

We write our own here - and this is accepted as 'best practice'. So the most idle, time-wasting numpty who ever scraped through the selection procedure but reckons they're pretty damn good can say exactly that. The whole thing is then vetted by the line manager, who may or may not have the balls/time/inclination to disagree, and the entire farcical procedure is over for another year.

Coming at a time when the Senior Command Team here are fighting for their lives and two independant reviews have shown them to be nothing less than shite, there should be a row of 3s in their PDRs. I can't help but think that they will somehow have turned them into 1s instead before all going for a nice cup of Earl Grey and some mutual back-slapping.


25 April, 2010 11:06

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's PDR time in my force too. Mine (I'm a member of staff) was a complete waste of time, a farce even. I was allowed to write bits myself, and my Line Manager was encouraging me to over-report work I'd done, in order to (literally) tick boxes.

It's no wonder that the police service (staff and officers) is racked with incompetents.

25 April, 2010 18:50

Anonymous Anonymous said...

i want to have a conversation with the idiot that came up with these things.

first cuts.......NPIA/Skills for justice...and the whole competancy framework nerds department.

there you are millions saved and no one will notice!

true or false


25 April, 2010 21:46

Blogger Hogday said...

I used to think, somewhat naively, that the officer who ticked all the `top boxes` was a mythical creature that we all aspired to equal, but in reality never would because it just wasn't possible. I had no idea that the folks at headquarters really believe he/she/it is out there.

26 April, 2010 13:12

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The same system was used in the RAF, and at one of the irregular "what's wrong with the RAF" meetings, a RAF police dog handler asked why all the dog handlers were awarded 4's when the supervisers had never been out on nightshift to assess their strengths and weeknesses. As this happened back in the 70's the discussion details are a little hazy, but the only resolution that came from that question was that in future assessments would be upgraded to 5's but only for the dogs!!!!

30 April, 2010 08:46


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