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How Did I Get Here?

Britain's best Police Training Supervisor, Sergeant Iwan Owen
Police Trainer Sergeant Iwan Owen was recently named Britain's Best Boss in a competition held by Lloyds TSB and Working Families. Nominated for the award by all six tutor constables working under him, at the Western Division Professional Development Unit of North Wales Police, Sgt Owen was singled out by judges for operating a high trust working environment.

How did you come to work in training?
I've been doing this particular role for three-and-a-half years and in training for eight years. Before taking this job I was an operational sergeant in Holyhead and before that I was a tutor constable working from the police headquarters in Colwyn Bay . I knew exactly how to guide the students because I had been working in the area for a while.

Describe your role.
I am responsible for six tutor constables who train student police officers in law enforcement, coaching them through the everyday incidents that happen out on the streets.

You won this award in part for fostering a high trust environment. How does it work?
There are core hours that we need to cover, so when I first came to this job we all went away and came up with our own shift systems. We looked at them all and came up with one that worked. I am lucky, I have committed staff who know what their students need, so for me to dictate to them what they need to do and when they need to work would be foolish. For instance today I have two officers who should be on the 2pm to midnight shift, but a training opportunity arose so they started their shifts at 10am . They didn't have to come to me to ask if it would be OK.

I feel that the constables enjoy the fact that they have a high level of autonomy. Like all trainers, they are committed, enthusiastic individuals with a passion for their subject who try to pass on their knowledge and take a great deal of pride in doing so. It's not a complete hands-off system. We have a computerised system that records what time they came in and how long they worked for. It works for us. We have 440 targets to meet every 10 weeks and we hit them all.

What are the best and worst aspects of your role?
Best: Seeing the students achieve. We get them ready for independent patrol. I had an email recently from an ex-probationer (trainee officer) of mine who had just been promoted. It means a lot to me to be remembered and thanked all these years on.
Worst: The documentation and paperwork.

What is the best lesson you can pass on?
Trust your staff. The reality is that most people want to work. They come to work for a challenge and mental stimulation. If they are working and performing than you don't need a stick.

What has been your worst training moment?
I've had a few "crash and burn" experiences. I've had students burst out in tears in the middle of training - as you can imagine, some of the subjects we cover can be horrendous. I also once had to give feedback to a student about their smelly feet.

What influences have had the greatest impact on your attitude to training?
I've had some wonderful role models and have been into classrooms with enthusiastic and humorous tutors. I don't think you can beat the energy of the classroom and seeing people develop.

How do you see your work changing or developing in the next few years?
In the short term we have a new assessment process called the Initial Police Learning and Development Portfolio. This force is part of the pilot and it means that our targets are changing. In terms of roles, to be honest I am perfectly happy. If I went for promotion it would mean more management and organisational work and take me out of the training arena. I would really like to stay hands on. Even though I don't get to do it as much as I used to, I love the buzz of the training room, and a promotion would mean leaving that behind.

HR Zone, 15-Aug-2005
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