All new police officers in England and Wales will have to be educated to degree level from 2020, the College of Policing has announced.
It said the training would help address changes in crime-fighting.
Prospective officers can either complete a three-year “degree apprenticeship”, a postgraduate conversion course or a degree.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council said the changes would “help modernise the service”.
The college’s Chief Constable Alex Marshall said the nature of police work has changed significantly.
“Cyber-enabled crime has increased,” he said, “So has the need for officers and staff to investigate and gather intelligence online and via information technology.”
He also said protecting vulnerable people has become a “high priority”, with officers now spending more of their time working to prevent domestic abuse, monitor high-risk sex offenders and protect at-risk children.
Mr Marshall said: “The nature of police work is getting quite complex and it is quite contentious, and the public expectation is that you’ll be patrolling in my street and, by the way, you’ll be patrolling online.”
Even investigating a pub fight – which used to mean interviewing the victim, perpetrator and the bar staff – now also extends to researching videos, pictures and comments published online.
Policing degree: the changes
The College of Policing, which is responsible for setting standards of ethics and training for the police service, is in talks with 12 universities about running the degree courses.
The syllabus is likely to cover the law, safeguarding the vulnerable, understanding how an officer behaves on the street and how to build trust by interacting well with communities.
There will be three options at entry level:
- A three-year police constable degree apprenticeship paid for by the force, allowing individuals to “earn while they learn” – spending 80% of their time on the frontline, and the rest completing their degree while receiving a salary
- A practical policing degree, as seen in other professions, where the student would complete a three-year self-funded course and apply for a job once qualified
- For graduates, a six-month postgraduate conversion course funded by the police
Other changes to be introduced include:
- A national set of qualifications for officers following promotion, for example in skills such as management and leadership
- A requirement for officers applying to be assistant chief constable or above to have a master’s degree – to be paid for by their police force
The college plans to publish a directory of education qualifications for officers and staff next summer, with guidance as to how their on-the-job experience counts and what funding might be available to support them.
There are currently no standard recruitment requirements for officers across the 43 forces in England and Wales.
Some forces accept officers with Level 2 qualifications (A-C grade GCSEs), while others insist on Level 5 (diplomas or foundation degrees).
The College of Policing said about a third (38%) of those currently going into policing have a degree or post-graduate qualification – which is classed as a Level 6 qualification.
Mr Marshall said the current workforce was not getting the same investment in training and development as people in other professions, such as medicine or the military.
“It is very lopsided and we don’t do a lot of professional development training,” he said.
The money for the apprenticeships, due to be introduced next year, is expected to come from a new 0.5% apprenticeship levy on all employers with a wage bill of more than 3m.
‘Fair and right’
The announcement follows a two-month public consultation which received more than 3,000 responses, almost 80% of which were from police officers.
The majority were keen to gain accreditation for their existing skills, Mr Marshall said.
Police officers of all ranks account for 124,066 of the 200,922 people employed by police forces in England and Wales, official statistics show. Some 4,735 officers joined the forces last year, accounting for 4% of all officers.
The new qualification rules will not impact on current officers, unless they apply for a promotion to assistant chief constable or above.
Andy Fittes, general secretary of the Police Federation of England and Wales, welcomed the move to accredit qualifications to serving officers, and supported the idea of a framework that might standardise courses.
However he questioned the implementation of the training, given the “immense demands” being placed on the service.
Chief Constable Giles York, the National Police Chiefs Council lead for workforce, said the scheme would “improve our ability to attract and retain really good people”
He added that it was “fair and right” that officers receive the recognition and accreditation they deserve as professionals.
Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-38319283