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11 June 2021
The interim Chair of the College of Policing admitted the organisation is not as connected to the frontlines as it would like to be.
Deputy Chief Constable Bernie O’Reilly made the frank admission during a ‘roundtable’ question and answer session with audience members – many of them Fed reps – at the Police Federation’s Annual Conference on Wednesday 10th June.
He told the event: “I don’t think we’re as connected as we should be to be frank. We need to be better at communicating some of the great work we do. And some of the stuff that doesn’t go down so well gets hugely amplified. Our footprint in policing is extensive – everything you do every day is all college badged.”
DCC O’Reilly tackled concerns that the College is ‘just for the bosses’, insisting: “Policing and the College need to be proud of each other. We exist to support policing to protect the public. We’ve got significant work to do to make sure we’re adding value to frontline officers every day.”
The hour-long session was hosted by Lord Nick Herbert, the former Policing Minister who established the College and who has chaired the organisation since January.
He explained that, on taking up the role, he listened to key people like PFEW National Chair John Apter who explained that a review of the position and direction of the College was required. “We know the great pressure that policing is under and we have to ensure the College helps to equip the police service to meet those pressures,” he said.
Lord Herbert added that his intention as the person who holds the chief executive to account and helps to set the strategic direction, is to ensure the College is “practically useful for officers and staff”.
Asked about degrees for police officers, DCC O’Reilly said he felt that police training was of a standard that would be worthy of a degree and therefore it was right to offer that formal qualification. He pointed out that officers were retiring from the service “struggling to put together a CV” but the formal degree qualification could help address that.
Gemma Fox from the Police Federation National Board urged the College leadership to think about new ways to reach members, such as through roadshows. Lord Herbert agreed that “Visibility is key”.
Kaj Bartlett, a Sussex Federation rep, suggested that police officers could be made members of the College of Policing as a way of encouraging them to engage and feel part of it.
Lord Herbert said the suggestion had been made before and had been controversial – to revive it would be a distraction from the work the College needs to do now.
He added: “I didn’t close anything down in the review apart from that one thing. I’m hearing people saying there is a disconnect between police officers and the College – to revisit something controversial might exacerbate that. We have decisively said we won’t go there.”