From Blame to Praise in Policing: Implications for Strategy, Culture, Process and Well-being

Tomkins, Leah (2020). From Blame to Praise in Policing: Implications for Strategy, Culture, Process and Well-being. CPRL, Milton Keynes.


A learning culture is fostered where there is a positive association between learning and well-being. We express this heuristically as: learning enables well-being (‘learn enough to be well’) and, in reverse, well-being enables learning (‘be well enough to learn’).

A sense of emotional and political/institutional security and well-being is needed for people to overcome defensiveness and be open to learning, especially within the context of learning from failure. Defensiveness is very understandable, because learning involves admitting to the need to learn; the idea that one could have done things better; and the anxieties of imperfection. Defensiveness makes particular sense in organizational environments where things happen quickly and unpredictably, and where the stakes are high, both individually and institutionally - in other words, an environment like MPS.

Well-being at MPS is, therefore, not just an appealing objective in its own right; we argue that it helps to underpin a successful culture of learning. This means that efforts to enhance well-being are one of the ways to strengthen and improve OL.

We have developed a model of five different reasons for failure, which depicts three types of failure: Preventable; Tolerable; and Intelligent. We are using it to help frame the challenges for MPS officers and staff to feel that it is safe to learn. Receptiveness to learning involves feeling reasonably secure in the belief that one will not be unjustifiably blamed for things that are not one’s personal fault. For instance, where task complexity or unpredictability is the main reason for failure, the institutional response should not default to deviation.

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