Police moving with the times

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INEVITABLY, there will be some consternation at the prospect of West Yorkshire Police becoming one of the first forces in the country to encourage leading figures from business and industry to join its senior ranks.

The argument is one that is likely to engender a degree of sympathy – why should established officers, with many years of policing experience, be overlooked for promotion?

However, some perspective is required. Policing is not just about catching criminals and crowd control at major events. It is also about the sound management of around 5,000 police officers and 3,600 support staff, a not insignificant number.

If there are inspirational individuals from other fields of life who want to bring their motivational skills and organisation capabilities to the police, why should they be denied this opportunity simply because they chose to pursue an alternative career at the outset of their professional life?

The reason is this: the onus, like it or not, is now on managers in the public sector to deliver better services with fewer resources and there is every likelihood that people from private industry will be able to bring some new ideas to the table because they’re better qualified to question the purpose of longstanding protocols and whether they can, and should, be adapted to meet new challenges.

It is reassuring, therefore, that Chief Constable Mark Gilmore wants this new recruit to compliment “the skills, experience and leadership talent” that is already at his disposal in West Yorkshire, the fourth largest force in the country.

If this is the spirit behind this new initiative, it should, at the very least, be given the time of day. The scheme also only involves the appointment of one officer at this stage – the vast majority of senior personnel will still be fully fledged officers.

For, if standards are to be maintained in the future, it does require the creation of a generation of leaders who can get the best out of their staff. And, while this must not count against existing officers, Britain is supposed to be a meritocracy and the police should welcome innovation and change.

Europe ignores Russia at its peril

AS Foreign Secretary William Hague and other diplomats desperately try to respond to the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, and the deployment of Russian troops in a blatant act of aggression, their task is made harder by the West’s failure previously to take Vladimir Putin seriously.

A leader more in the mould of a dictator like Joseph Stalin rather than an elected democrat, it is ironic that Russia and Europe now stands on the brink of a new Cold War – with huge ramifications for defence and energy policy – when it was Mr Putin’s intervention that stopped the West from becoming embroiled in Syria.

What is so perturbing is how Europe and the West have been taken by surprise – tensions have been growing in Ukraine for months following the decision of its then president, Viktor Yanukovych, to shun closer ties with the EU in favour of a new alliance with Moscow.

Despite this, Barack Obama, a president with a diffident attitude towards foreign affairs at best, cancelled planned talks with Mr Putin because there was nothing to discuss. How misguided, especially when the Kremlin knows that the West does not have the stomach for any military response.

As such, the turmoil in Ukraine, and also Crimea, is not just one of the greatest security threats to confront Europe in recent times – but the biggest test of the effectiveness of its diplomatic apparatus.

This is why Mr Hague and others should heed the advice of Paddy Ashdown who has called for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to travel to Moscow for talks as a matter of urgency rather than Britain withdrawing from preparatory talks for the next G8 summit which, in an irony of timing, is due to be held in the Winter Olympics resort city of Sochi.

His argument is a powerful one. The former Lib Dem leader said: “Only if you take those high level moves could we restrain Russia.” Few would disagree with a sentiment derived from Winston Churchill’s assertion that ‘jaw jaw’ is better than ‘war war’.

Evolution of the English language

WHAT would William Shakespeare make of the evolution of English language, and how his perfect prose is being superseded by the slang words that are now commonplace on Twitter?

Those who cherish his legacy will probably despair that the attention span of young people does not extend beyond the 140 characters of a tweet to the great literary works of the past.

Perhaps they should respond with an abbreviation of their own – YOLO – and point out that ‘you only live once’ and no life is complete without an appreciation of Shakepeare’s genius. But the great writer would ‘laugh out loud’ – LOL for the benefit of the Twitterati – at the revival of words like grooglums to describe food left in the sink after the washing of dishes or gruds to describe an individual’s underwear. Neither would look out of place in a Shakespeare text.

And, given how Twitter has become such a trend-setter, perhaps linguists should end their online correspondence with a simple #bard on the Twelfth Night (12tonite) of every month as a prompt.