The College of Policing’s proposal to require all new police officers to obtain a degree will hamper the new Prime Minister’s pledge to recruit 20,000 new officers, Lincolnshire’s Chief Constable has warned.
The plans mean that from summer 2021 the only route into policing will be through the Police Eduction Qualification Framework (PEQF), which requires all recruits to have an academic degree or be prepared to commit to study for one in work time.
Last month Chief Constable Bill Skelly announced he would be seeking a Judicial Review in relation to the College’s plans, because for Lincolnshire the imposition of a degree requirement will mean 40 fewer officers at any one time for frontline policing - roughly 10 per cent of his deployable strength – as well as the extra cash costs necessary to pay for academic contracts and training.
Following on from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement to fund 20,000 new police officers in England and Wales, Mr Skelly has expressed concern about how the uplift will be affected by the College of Policing’s plans.
He said: “We are the lowest funded force in the country and for some time we have made a case both with the public and politicians for fairer funding distribution. To be given a cash injection for more officers is nothing but great news.
“But my biggest concern at the moment is how we will fulfil the Prime Minister’s ask for additional resources when we are being told we have to abide by PEQF.
“The College is still adamant that the only entry route into policing in the country from the summer of 2021 is with a degree, or committing to obtaining one. This will mean taking officers out of force to study – so how can we make sure we put more boots on the ground, as Mr Johnson has asked for, under the restrictions of the PEQF requirements to study? For us in Lincolnshire this is unaffordable; and has massive deployability issues. I cannot put officers out into our communities if they have to spend time in the classroom, and so it follows that I can’t meet what the Prime Minister is asking for in the timeframes he’s asking for it.”
Lincolnshire Police will now draft their outline case for submission which will go to a review panel for a decision on whether the Judicial Review can proceed.
Mr Skelly added: “All we are asking for is a stay of implementation. We would like Lincolnshire to be the control force who don’t have to implement PEQF until others have tested the process.
“The risks are huge, not only in relation to public safety but also in relation to diversity.”
In response, Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, chief executive of the College of Policing said: “I’m pleased the new Prime Minister has made such a strong public commitment to improve police officer numbers.
“Recruiting 20,000 officers over the next three years is a huge opportunity for policing, to bring in more officers, to equip them and to extend diversity across the service. It is a significant challenge but it is one we are already working to make a reality.
“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 explains over the next year, new training for officers joining policing will be up and running in more than 30 police forces across England and Wales.
Officers are already undergoing the updated training in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, South Wales, Gwent, Dyfed-Powys, West Midlands, Northumbria, Avon and Somerset and Staffordshire.
As police forces across the country begin to introduce the new training, the college points out it is important to remember why the service agreed to make these changes.
It explains that policing has significantly changed since the last training course for new recruits was introduced 13 years ago. The job of being an officer is more complex and the demands on police are changing and increasing as criminals become more sophisticated.
The college says the public expects police officers to be given the best training to protect them and believes officers should be recognised for the complexity of the job they do. The new training was independently assessed as being degree standard. It includes digital policing, vulnerability, disclosure, mental health and more and still requires police officers to have empathy, compassion and common sense.
The college argues that a common misconception is that a degree just means sitting in lectures but for the majority of time the new apprentice recruits will be in force on frontline duties in the same way probationers work now.
A criticism that officers have made of police training is that it does not contain sufficient face-to-face training. Taking that on board, 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 will 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 added that it is important to note, you do not need a degree to join as a police constable.