GMP officer sole UK representative at US policing leadership and management programme

A Greater Manchester Police (GMP) officer will be the sole representative from the UK to offer a purely British perspective of policing at the Policing Leadership Academy (PLA) in the US.

Jun 2, 2023
By Paul Jacques

He will join US officers in a six-month education programme on data-driven management, violence reduction and community trust as part of the newly launched academy.

Chief Superintendent John Webster was specially selected from a shortlist of colleagues, with GMP the only UK force invited.

He will join police leaders from across the US, bringing together data and behavioural science insights from top academics at one of the world’s leading research institutions, along with leading safety practitioners, with an aim to be the most impactful public safety training ever offered by the US.

He will spend one week a month Stateside as part of the University of Chicago’s six-month education programme on data-driven management, violence reduction, and community trust as part of the newly launched PLA.

Chief Supt Webster, district commander for Stockport, said: “I’m really excited and feel incredibly fortunate to have been selected to be that advocate for the force and to represent GMP and also the UK.

“It’s a huge honour, and I can’t wait to galvanise that learning in the US and then hopefully bring it back to GMP and the UK and share it, and hopefully deliver a better service tomorrow than we do today.”

Charlotte Layton, director of human resources, said: “This is such a fantastic opportunity for GMP and for Chief Supt Webster. We are so excited to be supporting this piece of work.

“We received a number of applications from across the force as it is a fantastic opportunity, however, we do realise it is a huge commitment in terms of time away from family, friends, and other commitments.

“We will be working closely with the team over in Chicago to prepare for future cohorts in the years to come and are hopeful that we will be able to extend the opportunity to express an interest out to more of our GMP officers.”

The University of Chicago says the impacts of this “ambitious leadership and management educational programme will be measured and evaluated in the most rigorous possible way, to ensure it’s achieving its two interconnected goals: reducing violence and increasing policing fairness on the ground”.

“Many of America’s most economically disadvantaged and racially segregated neighborhoods are experiencing higher rates of gun violence than ever before, and research shows that if we want to save lives, fair and effective policing is essential,” said Roseanna Ander, executive director of the university’s Crime Lab, the research organisation housing the initiative.

“But in far too many communities, we are failing to deliver policing that truly serves and protects. The PLA is trying to change that.”

The PLA is part of the University of Chicago Community Safety Leadership Academies, which also includes the Community Violence Intervention (CVI) Leadership Academy.

“It is critical that CVI and police managers – out on the front lines of American cities each day – be seen as complementary components of the public safety ecosystem and are trained with the same comprehensive focus on leadership and management to achieve their shared goals: community safety and trust,” said Chico Tillmon, incoming director of the CVI Leadership Academy.

The PLA’s six-month curriculum is hands-on and interactive, culminating in a ‘community capstone project’ to turn lessons learnt into lives saved. Researchers from the world’s leading universities will conduct a multi-city, randomised controlled trial to measure the PLA’s impact on safety and fairness outcomes in the country’s highest violence neighborhoods.

Research by the University of Chicago Crime Lab shows that changes in police department management can drive reductions in both violent crime rates and police use of force.

For example, 30 years ago, the murder rates in Los Angeles (LA) and New York City (NYC) were at their respective historic highs. But from then through the start of the pandemic, murders dropped by 80 per cent in LA and 90 per cent in NYC, as trust in police increased and incarceration declined.

As cities across the US struggle with surging rates of gun violence, the PLA was designed with a simple question in mind: ‘Why are LA and NYC outliers compared to other large American cities?’

Part of the answer is that LA and NYC were early adopters of data-driven management.

“The PLA is built on lessons learned from Los Angeles and New York City,” said Charlie Beck, former police commissioner of the Los Angeles Police Department and former interim superintendent of the Chicago Police Department. “Put simply, improved police management and leadership is the key.”

Together with Chief Supt Webster, the PLA’s first cohort consists of more than 24 police leaders from US police departments currently tasked with managing America’s highest violence police districts every day.

Collectively, the first cohort of US officers serve cities comprising more than 20 per cent of homicides in America.

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