Centenary celebration

As senior operational leaders, dealing with the most significant levels of threat, risk and harm, superintendents are thankful to have the support of a dedicated staff association, the origins of which began exactly 100 years ago.

May 27, 2020
By Lucy Sheehan
Chief Supt Charles Dawson and Chief Supt Paul Griffiths

Today (May 27) marks 100 years since the creation of the role of chair of the Superintendents’ Central Committee – a body that would form the basis of today’s Police Superintendents’ Association.

On this day in 1920, Chief Superintendent Charles Dawson of Liverpool City Police was elected into the role, becoming the first leader of a formative body to represent the rights and best interests of police officers in the superintending ranks.

In 1919, the Police Act created a Police Federation of England and Wales, but there was no representation for the superintending ranks. In 1920, the Home Office called a central conference of superintendents to decide how the rank should be represented on the Police Council, and on the May 27, 1920, the first central conference of superintendents was held.

Eventually, the Oaksey Committee recommended the formation of a representative body for Supers, and in 1952 the Police Superintendents’ Association (PSA) of England and Wales was formed.

Today, 100 years after Charles Dawson took on the inaugural role, Chief Superintendent Paul Griffiths of Gwent Police leads the PSA, having been elected into the post in March 2019.

“Today, we’re privileged to be part of a Service supported by staff associations and networks that work tirelessly to support members and the wider workforce,” said Mr Griffiths. “In Charles Dawson’s time, this was all very new, and the processes around rights, protections and conditions of police officers were slowly being seen as real service priorities.

“When I think about how the challenges I face today compare to those of Charles, I see striking similarities, despite the century standing between us. As a leader during this formative time for superintendent representation, he would have been concerned with matters such as conditions of service, working hours and regulations – all core matters for us today.

“We may have expanded into other matters around health and wellbeing, diversity, progression and development throughout the service, but I find it amazing that in the next 100 years, many of these themes will stand the test of time.”

Mr Griffiths and his national officer team work to support around 1,300 senior operational policing leaders, representing their best interests, while working to provide positive influence for the wider service. Now, facing one of the greatest national crises our country has ever seen, the PSA is supporting the Government, national policing partners and members, in policing communities in a way never previously faced. Similarly, in 1920, Mr Dawson experienced the greatest national emergency of his generation – serving in the First World War as a captain, through which he would eventually be awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

Mr Griffiths explains, “When I became president last year, I never imagined I would be leading the Association at a time of national emergency with a global pandemic. However, this shows the nature of our fine police service, responding and protecting the public, and this, I’m sure is how Charles and his colleagues would have dealt with the incredible challenges they faced, policing the aftermath of the First World War.”

Today, superintendents are the senior operational leaders of the service and deal with the most significant levels of threat, risk and harm, and for Mr Griffiths, this is why the rank needs the support of a dedicated staff association.

He added: “The fact that many of the issues facing Charles 100 years ago bear similarities to our challenges today, tells me that we have been really consistent about the key issues for our membership, what the focus is for those in the rank, and the importance of securing the best for the members and the service.

“Over the years, we have progressed into an influential voice for the whole of the service, working with government and other police partners, in addition to the membership focus that we have always had. I’m extremely proud to ‘carry the baton’ from Chief Superintendent Dawson, and from all the colleagues that have been in post before me, who have all helped shape an association that has significant influence on the policing landscape.”

Looking ahead, Mr Griffiths added: “Today, the biggest challenges facing me are undoubtedly around our response to this health and economic crisis. Looking ahead, I’m sure that certain things will stand the test of time – pay, pensions, conditions, working hours, health and wellbeing, will continue to be an underlying theme for superintendents and all ranks. My successor in the next century will also be working with the impact of technology and robotics, climate change, social and economic global inequality and potential instability.

“What I hope will be as important in the future as it is now, is the way we care for our public, our police and our people.

“I have been keenly supporting the development of the Police Covenant and it is crucial that this becomes the embedded part of our people focus. This is all about supporting officers, staff and their families so that they can do their best for society, and I hope that in 100 years’ time that is still a fundamental part of the Government and society’s commitment to policing.”

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