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West Midlands Police Federation

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Force tutors: ‘We need to attract the right people for the right reasons’

15 January 2020

A shortage of officers putting themselves forward to act as tutors has prompted the Force to mandate officers to take on the role.

But, according to one experienced tutor, this could lead to difficulties further down the line due to the challenges of tutoring.

“There are inherent problems with mandating officers to perform the role of tutor,” says DC Chris Smith, a Federation workplace representative who has acted as a tutor for around 23 years, “Ideally, the Force would have a cadre of skilled and willing volunteers.

“The role should be attracting the right people for the right reasons and, as an organisation, we should be able to retain those officers and their skill sets. Tutors used to be rewarded for their tutoring efforts and I think this is something the Force should look at again for recruitment and retention in the role.

“Mandating officers to perform the role of tutor could result in an unmotivated workforce providing poor standards of learning.”

Chris, who is currently based on an investigation team at Brierley Hill Police Station, believes all officers should have the attributes to be a good tutor – patience, an ability to listen and good communications skills – but says a sense of humour can also help.

However, he understands that just because officers have the skills it doesn’t mean they would want to take on the role although he thinks all supervisors should at least do a spell as a tutor.

Chris took on a tutoring position shortly after coming out of his probationary period, having joined the Force in July 1995, and put himself forward after his sergeant suggested he would be good at it.

“At the moment, I’m tutoring two student officers on Force CID. Tutoring is best done on a one to one basis but I have looked after as many as four students on one day which was challenging,” he explains.

“Tutoring is a full-time job in itself and that’s when you’re only tutoring one person at a time. It requires a great deal of time, focus and patience. We often have to balance this with our own investigation workloads and I also have to balance this with my work as a Federation rep.

“I’ve tutored under a number of different systems, I’ve tutored PCs and prospective DCs, students by normal entry routes, Police Now entrants and one of the Force’s first inspector direct entrants. I’ve mentored and I’ve coached, I’ve found all to be enjoyable and if I had my time over I would definitely do it again.

“I believe tutoring is an undervalued role within the organisation. But I find it can be immensely rewarding. It’s great to see people develop during their time with me. I like this kind of hands on practical learning which is ideal preparation for student officers beyond independent patrol.

“Students have different learning styles and rates of learning so it can sometimes be challenging and tiring for the tutor - and student. However, I’ve found the most recent experience of tutoring very uplifting, the students are keen and enthusiastic and that kind of motivation rubs off.”

Chris has been a Federation member since joining the Force and became a Federation rep about 18 months ago, having put himself forward for the role due to concerns about the reduction in staffing levels, increased workloads and mounting stress levels among officers.


October 2020