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Learning Through Leadership Talk 2023

09 Jul 2024   /   Nhung Phung

‘If not you then who?’: Rose Fitzpatrick CBE QPM

In this blog post, John Hind, our Director of Education and Leadership, shares his thoughts on our recent Learning Through Leadership talk, “If not you then who?” by Rose Fitzpatrick CBE QPM. The event took place on 21 March 2023.

Late March saw a first as the Fellowship’s ‘Learning through Leadership’ programme transferred to Rank’s Garden Walk Headquarters. Those present were privileged to hear Rose Fitzpatrick, Foundation trustee and member of the Fellowship Leadership Team, share her experiences of over 30 years of service in the City and Met Police forces, culminating in her role as Deputy Chief Constable of the newly formed Police Scotland service in 2013.

A pioneering meeting at Garden Walk chimed with pioneering aspects of Rose’s career. A Theology and Philosophy graduate, she joined the city police at a time when only 2% of recruits held degrees and only 8% were women. As a relatively mature recruit with clear potential she was promoted to inspector in less than five years when the average time taken was ten. Her role with the City force was challenging: the force’s counter-terrorist role being stretched by incidents such as the Bishopsgate bomb, but it was the impact of the Macpherson report following Stephen Lawrence’s murder that persuaded Rose that her real passion was for community policing. Transferring to the Met force as a Superintendent, she became the Borough Commander for Tower Hamlets in 2002 as at that time the only female officer in such a position in the Met force. 

Her description of working in a diverse ethnic community as ‘mind blowingly interesting’ is testament to her commitment to true community work and it was this interest that took her out of a very brief retirement from her service into her role in Police Scotland.  Here – pioneering again – she faced the challenge of how best to make the new unitary national force address the differing needs of its various component communities – the needs of policing in Glasgow, for example, being radically different from those in Highland communities. Five years of facing the cultural and political challenges inherent in her role left her fulfilled but exhausted though a second retirement was even shorter than her first. Two days into her family holiday she was asked to establish and chair a new National Suicide Prevention Leadership Group for Scotland, a role which she still holds.

In all of this, a clear part of the answer to Rose’s title question lies in the manifest sense of duty and service that clearly drives her. Indeed, a crucial point she made was the need to reflect before taking on some challenges and to recognise when others may be better placed to take them on. Listening to one’s instinct was vital in such cases and Rose made the point that one can practise this, not least when facing up to the ethical and moral challenges leadership presents. Avowedly assuring us she was not the hero who ran into danger – though some of her colleagues were – she nonetheless showed real moral courage on a number of occasions when determined to do what she believed to be the right thing – even at the cost of temporary unpopularity. That leadership can be lonely is true – especially in situations where one has to stand up for one’s principles – and this was compounded for Rose by the lack of female peers at her level within the organisations she served. She did however make the point that asking for help is vital when facing challenging decisions is in no sense a sign of weakness: rather, it is a way of developing strengths.

Rose spoke on the day the Casey report into the Met police was published. Clearly digesting the report in full was impossible: however, in response to questions from a thoughtful and engaged audience, she did stress the need for proper resourcing of the police service, especially with regard to recruitment, vetting and training. In keeping with our theme, appropriate leadership is vital too. Looking back on all Rose said, it was clear that her moral purpose and sense of duty, coupled with a genuine understanding of the importance of the police’s relationship with their community, made her the kind of leader the police need. Those of us present were fortunate indeed to hear what she had to say.

About the author:

John Hind joined the Rank Foundation in June 2021 as Director of Education and Leadership. He is responsible for overseeing the School Leadership Award and Fellowship, following a career in teaching, most recently as Principal of Dame Allan’s Schools in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from 2004 to 2020. John studied history at Cambridge University, completed an MEd at Newcastle, and a part-time PhD at Durham.

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