The Home Secretary is facing calls from Police and Crime Commissioners to get new officer recruits ‘out of classrooms and on the beat’.
Sixteen PCCs have signed a letter to Suella Braverman warning that up to 10 per cent of their officers are studying rather than fighting crime on the frontlines.
They say that regulations requiring new recruits to undertake three years of study (equivalent to a policing degree) is likely to deter the non-academically minded and older recruits who are thinking of switching careers to policing. They warn that this endangers the Government’s flagship 20,000 Police Uplift Programme.
Cambridgeshire Police Federation chair Liz Groom said: “My colleagues are already run ragged trying to keep up with the demands of the job. The uplift is supposed to alleviate that pressure, but if new recruits are stuck in class, they are not able to give that support where it is most needed.”
Matthew Scott, PCC for Kent, who organised the letter, told The Telegraph newspaper: “We are turning away perfectly good people because we have decided you need a degree to be a police officer. There are many fine police officers who have never had a degree.”
The Federation supports the view that you should not need a degree to be a good police officer. And it backs the PCCs in supporting a return to “traditional” training methods, where officers can hit the beat after 20 weeks’ training.
Since Kit Malthouse signed off on the new regulations during his time as policing minister, it is mandatory from March 2023 for any officer completing their three-year probation to have gained a graduate-level qualification. They must also complete an evidence-based research project as part of their final assessment.
However, the PCCs in their letter, argue that a ‘more flexible approach’ would give “better options to help recruit a wider range of people with suitable experience, including the military, serving Specials and PCSOs, or people seeking a career change, more quickly”.
The PCCs represent forces across England and Wales and include: Kent, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Hampshire, Bedfordshire, Humberside, Surrey, Thames Valley, Warwickshire, Essex, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Cleveland.
A spokesperson from the College of Policing countered: “Officers must be trained to have the right skills to uphold the highest standards, fight crime like burglary, rape, domestic abuse and keep people safe. The updated training ensures that officers are consistently trained to national standards which are designed to avoid circumstances where police are trained differently dependent on where they are employed.”