Lincolnshire’s Chief Constable pressing ahead with judicial review over degree level training courses for police officer recruits

SUS-191208-171103001
SUS-191208-171103001

Lincolnshire Police’s Chief Constable is pressing ahead with a Judicial review into plans by the College of Policing to insist on officers having to obtain a degree.

Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly claims the recruitment policy would be counter-productive meaning at least 40 officers on his force would be taken away from front line policing each year.

In July this year Lincolnshire Police issued proceedings for a Judicial Review of the College of Policing’s decision not to allow Lincolnshire Police to develop and maintain a Level 4 initial training programme for new recruits.

This action was in response to national plans to implement a new officer recruitment process which requires all recruits to have an academic degree or be prepared to commit to study for one in work time.

The announcement by Mr Skelly of that legal challenge launched the process which is still ongoing.

Mr Skelly explained: “I am very disappointed that the College has refused to change its position. I proposed that Lincolnshire Police would be a control group to assess whether the new entry routes improve the quality of police officers. Lincolnshire Police has worked with the College for two years in an effort to try and avoid the need to take this action but during that time the College have refused to accept what a detrimental effect the introduction of Police Education Qualifications Framework would have to Lincolnshire Police.”

The legal claim, which runs to 42 pages in length plus supporting documentation, contends that the College of Policing has failed to make sufficient assessments of abstractions, other costs, equalities impact, and the integration of the PEQF workforce with the existing 122,000 serving officers.

Andrew White, Assistant Chief Officer for Lincolnshire Police said: “Two years ago the College did not accept that the abstraction and other costs related to the introduction of PEQF were substantial. Over time we have provided them with detailed documentation to show that for a force as small as Lincolnshire the additional abstraction cost – time away from front line duties – would account to at least 40 officers per years, almost 10 per cent of our response and patrol strength. Latterly the College have accepted this analysis but have not reassessed whether this impacts on the implementation of the scheme. Even now the College has not undertaken any work regarding the expected increased turnover on the police service and the consequential impact on pension scheme deficits.”

Mr Skelly concluded: “I regret that we have had to take this action but we have no other choice when faced with the College‘s refusal to compromise. Our action is designed to allow PEQF and a revised level 4 entry route to co-exist until 2023 at which time a proper evaluation can be undertaken to assess whether the benefits of the increased costs and qualification requirement has developed better police officers.”

As part of the court process the defendant has three weeks to respond to the claim. A judge will then consider whether to grant an oral hearing for full consideration of the Lincolnshire Police claim.

Study time would be significantly increased compared to the current recruitment programme, there would be increased turnover and failure to complete the course. In addition, there will be extra cash costs to pay for contracts with local academic providers and a requirement for more training staff within the force. There is no estimate for the impact across England and Wales but if it is 40 officers for Lincolnshire, it could easily be over 4,000 for the country.

The plans mean that from summer 2021 the only route into policing will be through the Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF).

Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, College of Policing CEO, said: “The demands on the police are growing while the nature of policing is becoming more complex and at the same time criminals are becoming more sophisticated.

“We have updated the training to match the complexity of the job today and by next year there will be more than 30 police forces delivering the new course.”

He explained the public expects police officers to be given the best training to protect them. The new training was independently assessed as being degree standard. It includes digital policing, vulnerability, disclosure, mental health & more and still requires police officers to have empathy, compassion and common sense.

For the majority of time the new apprentice recruits will be in force on frontline duties in the same way probationers work now.

There will be face-to-face training for new recruits that may include attending a higher education establishment some of the time.

The minimum amount of time spent off the job training will be 20 per cent but each force is expected to work with the higher education establishment to agree an exact figure. Off the job could include work-related projects, which could help tackle local crime or anti-social behaviour problems.

The college insists you do not need a degree to join as a police constable.