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Devon & Cornwall Police Federation

Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chair Andy Berry has added his view to the debate on whether all police officers should require a degree to do the job.

12 July 2021

Devon and Cornwall Police Federation Chair Andy Berry has added his view to the debate on whether all police officers should require a degree to do the job.

Andy said: “It’s somewhat disappointing to hear the new head of the APCC, Marc Jones, roll out the well used and rather divisive trope that graduates are a bit soft and useless and so bring in the soldiers. 

“Hopefully he won’t be suggesting the return to height requirements and a separate women’s police department as well!

“However he’s perhaps not entirely wrong but lets first deal with the myths.  For starters the Police service has been recruiting degree holders for decades and in 1993 with my degree in civil engineering I joined the police. 

“On my course there was also an ex-soldier.  You see the police force had for years employed people who develop their skills in different ways before they join the police.  Graduates whether their degree be in dance or astro-physics bring skills with them and the fact that they have a degree doesn’t make them soft or impractical.  Maybe Graduates have a broader perspective of the world… well I guess some do and some don’t.  But why wouldn’t we want ex-soldiers too. 

“In my force we continually struggle to find officers who want to carry a gun and sometimes those who would can’t shoot straight (that would be me), we also saw the value of the logistical expertise of the military who came to help my force organise and plan for the G7 summit.  The military in our country are probably the best trained and most highly skilled in the world…..but I’m guessing most don’t have degrees.

“So do cops need to have degrees to be a good cop? The answer is resoundingly and very obviously not. I know loads, including my wife, who do amazing work as cops without a degree. So was the pressure to make policing a degree only profession a necessity to enable our industry to keep up, to make sure we had the right skills, weren’t racist or misogynistic. No of course not, it was mostly about the money. Police forces are legally obliged to pay an apprenticeship levy and consequently creating the Police Constable Degree Apprentice’ was perhaps a pragmatic way of getting some money back from the Government. I’m sure also that the requirement for it to be a Level 6 qualification was driven by the wish of the College of Policing to draw level with other bodies such as the college of nursing.

“So a Cop needs to have many skills but is my view that it’s the ability to interact with other humans which is the most important. To be able to emphasise with a victim, to be able to calm and reason with the angry or upset, to second guess a villain, to look into a persons eye and see truth or lie. A cop needs to be brave and sometimes fearless and to be happy patrolling alone as they might be with crewed with a team patrolling in the streets in a van. None of these things need a degree or indeed any qualification other than a decent bit of experience of life. But policing is about understanding the law, our powers and being able to write complex files or write reports. So there does have to be quality training but does it need to be a degree apprentice or a shorter 2 year degree holder course?

“On that point I’m not convinced and so think that Marc Jones might actually be generating a debate that needs to be had. Many in the military developed their skills without an academic background and the thought of having to study for a degree to become a cop perhaps isn’t that attractive a 35 year old mum of 2 ex-soldier. So are we missing a trick? Yes, we almost certainly are because why wouldn’t we want to bring in highly trained ex military personnel.  But it’s not just about ex-military personnel since there are many people without degrees, looking to change their career, who would bring a diversity of skills and experience into the police service. 

“The last thing we should be doing is narrowing our options by having a homogeneous route into the police service, so I agree that the Home Secretary should look again before it’s too late.”

The College of Policing wants all recruits to gain a degree before joining the force – or to gain one on the job.

Conservative Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones – soon to be the new PCC head – has urged Home Secretary Priti Patel to scrap plans for graduate-only police recruits and says ex-soldiers will be better than university leavers with 'expressive dance' degrees.

His comments come after Nick Adderley, Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Constabulary, criticised the all-graduate recruit plans.

CC Adderley said police recruits joining after university are not prepared to work nights or weekends and are 'sadly lacking' in life experience.

Bernie O’Reilly, interim CEO of the College of Policing, said: 'Policing has changed significantly in recent years and the new training has been created to reflect the challenges officers face and recognise the complex nature of the job.

'The public deserves highly trained, highly skilled officers that can protect them from all crime types, from domestic violence and digital fraud, through to organised crime and modern slavery, as well as protecting vulnerable people.”

The College of Policing added that the new training scheme had already been adopted by 33 forces.