11 June 2021
The recruitment and training of new police officers was quick to move online at the beginning of the pandemic, but the Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) has warned that some trainees haven’t had enough exposure to real-life policing incidents.
PFEW Professional Development Lead Dave Bamber raised the points during a session on police recruitment during the pandemic at the Federation’s Virtual Annual Conference on Thursday.
The police 20,000 “uplift”, heralded by Government needs 50,000 officers recruited over the three year period to also cover resignations and retirements. Dave also raised concerns that there are not enough tutors for all these new officers.
He said: “I’m reassured by the strategic intentions...but the issue comes down to implementation. Multiple students to one tutor is never right... We’ve heard about people receiving online training, but it’s not right that people haven’t had that exposure to policing.”
Dave said he understood why training had to move online over the past year, but he argued that the implementation over 43 different police forces “can be varied at best, chaotic at worst”.
He called for a bigger drive from the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs’ Council to ensure that “every officer, in all 43 forces, has the same opportunity to develop”.
PFEW’s Gemma Fox added: “There needs to be an evaluation of the training, in that virtual and blended arena, before we in police can accept that as the norm. We don’t want it to become an efficiency tool for forces, to use online learning to save money.”
Jo Noakes, Director of Workforce Development at the College of Policing, admitted that there was a need for more tutors. But she added that there had been some advantages to moving to online training: “We’ve seen less of a diversity difference, we’ve seen people from ethnic minorities doing better in the online assessment process than they have in previous processes. So the innovation has meant there’s some really great things happening across the service.”
But she admitted: “Without doubt, bringing in 50,000 officers over three years, and a pandemic on top of it, brings a number of challenges.”
Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball said that the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests had helped the Met think more deeply about diversity and “accelerate” their ambitions. She said that the Met’s intake since January this year had been just under 30% from minority ethnic groups and around 40% female.
Helen also spoke about how the police service needed “an acceleration of flexibility”, including part-time options, to recruit and retain female officers after they had had children.
She disagreed with the idea that the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA) attracted more younger, inexperienced officers. She said: “The average age of our joiners since January has been 27...I think we’re joining people with life experience. Our degree apprentices are coming in from fields like the prison service and teaching assistants.”
She wanted to “bust the myth” that people needed a degree before they entered policing, but added that it did need: “Great communication skills, great written skills, good problem solving and great people skills.”