As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the College of Policing has reacted and responded to a
number of dynamic, fast moving and strategic issues.
What can be said about the way the response has been handled is there has been welcomed and important dialogue, negotiation, discussion and engagement between the College and the Federation which has been consistent, and hopefully constructive, throughout this time - creating as good a situation for our membership as we can hope to gain during this challenging period.
A number of development processes and programmes relating to our membership have been affected, developed and instigated through recent weeks.
The decision to cancel the Sergeants’ legal examination in March has had a significant impact on our members. It is understandable that officers who have invested a great deal of time and effort to develop themselves feel disappointed, with some probably feeling frustrated and some feeling annoyed.
Both prior to and after the examination cancellation we were in constant contact with staff and the senior executive at the College of Policing. Its decision was not taken lightly, which again potentially added to the frustration of the candidates as the cancellation took place at the eleventh hour following specific governmental advice on mass gatherings, which included the Sergeants’ examination as some candidates were due to sit their examination in facilities catering for more than 2000 people.
Due to the cancellation of the examination a number of subsequent issues have needed to be resolved. It has now been agreed officers at the end of their five-year validity period and who were set to sit the examination in March would be granted a further 12 months validity, whilst officers on stage 4 of the NPPF would be allowed up to 24 months instead of the usual 12 months to complete their portfolios and the College would expedite their work on developing an online process to examine the legal knowledge of officers.
It had been suggested the exam should be scrapped in the circumstances, but this can’t be the case as the process is enshrined in law so it would be inappropriate for us to advocate, or the Police Service to breach enacted legislation.
Of great significance has been the development of an emergency eight-week training programme for new recruits which has been formulated, agreed and disseminated. But we have made it clear that this training programme should not be seen as a panacea to any force level training issues, nor should it be seen as the approach to be automatically adopted for the training of new recruits. It is, as it says, an “emergency” curriculum.
The curriculum covers essential police learning that is seen as necessary for an officer to be deployed as a safe and lawful resource, working with a team or with a specific mentor - not a replacement for the full learning required to reach independent patrol status or a sufficient amount of training to see an officer through their probationary period. It is a training programme that will equip our members with enough knowledge and understanding to be deployed during an emergency and a crisis in a specific and directed manner.
It is fair to say many safeguards have been included in the curriculum and the accompanying guidelines at the request of the Federation and through our negotiations; it is also accurate to say the safeguards were included willingly. The emergency measures that have been made available to forces have been subject to much debate and remain so.
We will of course continue to make sure that any concerns from colleagues are not overlooked by pressing on with these discussions over the processes and will feedback on any issues we become aware of which will result in amendments to the guidelines.