Degree requirement will hamper police recruitment drive, warns Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Police
The head of policing in Lincolnshire has repeated his warning about plans that could see all new officers studying for a degree.
Chief Constable Bill Skelly described a proposal to require candidates applying to join the police to complete either a three-year "degree apprenticeship", a postgraduate conversion course or an academic degree on acceptance of their place as one with "huge risks".
Just two weeks after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced plans to recruit up to 20,000 new police officers in England and Wales, the College of Policing has outlined its "three new ways to prepare new recruits for the role of constable".
They include a three-year apprenticeship in professional policing practice, with both "on and off-the-job learning", resulting in a degree for the recruit who successfully completes their probation.
But speaking about the plans, which are due to come into effect from summer 2021, Mr Skelly said: "The College of Policing is still adamant that the only entry route into policing from the summer of 2021 is with a degree, or a commitment 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 requirements to study?
"For us in Lincolnshire, this is unaffordable and has massive deployability issues which will mean that I cannot put officers out into our communities if they have to spend time in the classroom."
As reported by Spalding Today a month ago, Mr Skelly has launched a judicial review of the College's Police Education Qualification Framework (PEQF) which will require all recruits to have an academic degree or be prepared to commit to studying for one in work time.
The Chief Constable claimed that by imposing a degree requirement on forces in England and Wales, it will mean 40 fewer officers at any one time for frontline policing in Lincolnshire alone, or roughly 10 per cent of his staff availability.
It will also mean extra costs for the county's force to pay for academic contracts and training.
Mr Skelly said: "The Prime Minister's announcement about the recruitment of 20,000 extra officers in England and Wales is the most positive thing to have happened to policing in a decade, as well as being such good news for Lincolnshire.
"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 a fairer funding distribution.
"To be given a cash injection for more officers is nothing but great news and could make such a difference to public safety here in Lincolnshire.
"The details are still being worked through and there is much still to do.
"But my biggest concern at the moment is about how we will fulfil the Prime Minister’s wish for additional resources when we are being told we have to abide by the PEQF requirement.
"I cannot see how the two are possible together and so it follows that I will be unable to meet what the Prime Minister is asking for in terms of the recruitment time frames he is asking for."
"The legal action is still ongoing and Lincolnshire Police will now draft its outline case for submission which will go to a review panel to decide on whether the Judicial Review can proceed.
"That will happen in the next few months so there is still a long road ahead.
"However, myself and the Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones, are in full agreement on this.
"All we are asking for is a stay of implementation because I do not feel that there has been enough research or consultation carried out to support the College’s assertion that having a degree is the best and only way into policing in the future.
"We would like Lincolnshire to be a force which does not have to implement PEQF until others have tested the process first.
"In my opinion this scheme is being imposed on police forces with a significant lack of empirical evidence.
"The risks are huge, not only in relation to public safety but also in relation to diversity because insisting on a degree will seriously restrict the range of applicants we receive.
"It is a fundamental principle of policing in this country that we do so by consent and that we reflect the communities that we serve.
"If I am going to be forced to be exclusive in the way that I recruit then I would rather do so from the agricultural fields of Lincolnshire than from the playing fields of Eton."
The College of Policing's chief executive officer, former Staffordshire Police Chief Constable Mike Cunningham, said: "I am pleased that 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.
"Therefore, 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 PEQF course."
More by this authorWinston Brown