Evaluating the new architecture of policing: the College of Policing and the National Crime Agency - Home Affairs Contents

6  Role in recruitment to the profession

61. On 31 March 2014, some 209,362 were employed by the 43 police forces of England and Wales. This was comprised of 127,909 police officers, 64,097 police staff, 13,066 police community support officers (PCSOs), and 17,789 special constables. There were 6,715 minority ethnic police officers, who constituted 5.2% of the police officer total.Figure 3: Police workforce, England and Wales, 31 March 2014

Source: An Independent Review of the Police Disciplinary System in England and Wales

Officer numbers rose from the previous year in 10 forces and fell in 33 forces. As figure 4 shows, overall police officer strength is falling, but at a slower rate than in previous years. The Metropolitan Police had the most officers (24.2%). The eight metropolitan forces (City of London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Metropolitan Police, Northumbria, South Yorkshire, West Midlands and West Yorkshire) comprised 47.8% of all officers.[82]Figure 4: Annual changes in police officer strength

Source: Police numbers: Social Indicators page - Commons Library Standard Note, SN/SG/2615

62. The College of Policing has a key role to play in recruitment to the police. It runs both the Direct Entry (Superintendent) Programme and the graduate Fast-Track Programme, which are intended to ensure that the senior ranks of policing are opened up to outside talent and that talented people are promoted quickly.[83] The College's Five-Year Strategy includes a commitment to "support forces to address under-representation of black and minority ethnic communities within policing, drawing together evidence of what works in positive action and community-based approaches to recruitment".[84]

63. However, there is much more to be achieved in this area. As figure 5 shows, the trend over the past 5 years has not shown much improvement in terms of recruiting women or BME police officers. Senior officers have consistently pointed out to us that the reduction in total strength has been an obstacle to improving minority representation.Figure 5: Police officer strength, 31 March 2014

Source: Home Office Statistical Bulletin, Police Service Strength, England & Wales

Alex Marshall told us that the College's own 88 staff were 50% female and 10% BME, although the senior management team of five people included only one woman and nobody from an ethnic minority. He added that, through the BME Progression 2018 Programme, work was being undertaken to examine how the look of senior leadership in policing could be fundamentally changed:

    [This] work is important in that it reaches down into policing and looks at people who are currently sergeants, inspectors and chief inspectors, and how we develop them. … We are already seeing many of those people being promoted on merit, and we think that that looks positive for the future.[85]

Vetting Code of Practice

64. In November 2014, press reports suggested that some forces were considering relaxing the rules on the recruitment of police officers with prior criminal convictions in order to improve diversity, and that the Metropolitan Police had already done so. The College has confirmed that it is reviewing the national standards around vetting as the current vetting standards are creating barriers to people who might be interested in policing. The latest guidance on this subject, which was issued by the National Police Improvement Agency in 2011, states that

    Police forces should not recruit those with cautions or convictions, which may call into question the integrity of the applicant or the Police Service. Each case should be dealt with on its own individual merits.[86]

65. The Police Federation told us that they were opposed to relaxing the standards.[87] Sir Hugh Orde suggested that, if anybody in the evidential chain had a previous conviction, that would have to be disclosed to the defence, through the CPS, if that person was involved in a prosecution and could then be used to undermine their credibility.

66. We raised these concerns with the College, who said that they were aware of the action by the Metropolitan Police, but that the College of Policing were not relaxing vetting standards. Alex Marshall confirmed that the Metropolitan Police had adopted some flexibility with respect to the vetting standards, but told us that "the basic rule is that any conviction at all means you cannot get in. … We do not intend to change it".[88]

67. We welcome the clarification from the College of Policing that individuals with a criminal conviction cannot become police officers, and that the rules are not changing. Those who join the police should be beyond reproach, and standards must be kept at the highest level to maintain, and improve public confidence.

Fast Track and Direct Entry Programmes

68. Following a public consultation on direct entry to policing, the Government asked the College of Policing to develop two new talent management programmes: a Fast Track (Constable to Inspector) Programme and a Direct Entry (Superintendent) Programme. These new programmes will enable a wider pool of talent to enter the police service, as well as rapidly promoting the very best talent from within the service. It is intended that they will attract individuals with new perspectives and diverse backgrounds to support the continuous development of policing.[89]

69. On 17 November, The Guardian reported on the opening for applications for the second fast track programme. In the first cohort, of the 1,849 people who applied, 105 went through to the national assessment centre and only 43 were recommended for the programme, despite there being vacancies for up to 83 candidates. The programme lead, Chief Superintendent Nicola Dale said:

    "The bar is set high … We are assessing their potential for superintendent. We are looking for the future leaders of policing. We don't want people to be coming through unless they are the right sort of calibre and have the right personality to do the role".[90]

70. Sir Hugh Orde had previously expressed concern over the direct entry scheme, and had been quoted as having concerns over "people on work experience taking high-risk decisions". He told us 888 people had applied, of whom 46 attended an extended interview process run by the College. Of these, 13 were recommended to forces. Sir Hugh told us that they were "certainly very enthusiastic, keen and able people", and that the College's role was to make sure they were fully trained and brought up to speed as quickly as possible.[91]

71. We acknowledge the concerns raised by Sir Hugh Orde with regard to the direct entry scheme. However, the figures we have seen shows that only 1.5% of applicants to the direct entry programme, and 2.3% of applicants to the fast track programme have been successful. This suggests that there is a high bar to entry, whereby only the very best talent will be able to achieve this rapid promotion.

Certificate in Knowledge of Policing

72. The Certificate in Knowledge of Policing was introduced in April 2012. The Certificate is the first step towards achieving the Diploma in Policing, the national minimum professional qualification for a new constable. The Certificate was developed by the College of Policing, together with Skills for Justice, the Sector Skills Council. There is no national requirement for candidates to achieve the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing before they can apply to become police officers, though some forces have introduced this requirement locally, including the Metropolitan Police Service. The cost of obtaining the Certificate currently varies between £750 and £1000 per candidate.[92] We have previously recommended that the cost to the candidate should be reduced to a maximum of £500, to be defrayed across the first year of service. Means-tested support should be in place to ensure that the best candidates are not lost because of financial barriers.[93] Chief Constable Lynne Owens, QPM, Surrey Police believed that the Certificate could be a barrier to entry,[94] whilst Chief Constable Sara Thornton, QPM, Thames Valley Police, explained that her force were starting a pilot with Bucks New University where the force would pay bursaries for BME candidates. Thames Valley police were also pursuing a similar arrangement with Brookes University.[95]

73. There are also concerns about the certificate, and how providers deliver training. We have heard of one company who provide the certificate online, for whom there is a 100% success rate, because if someone looks as if they are going to fail, it offers assistance.[96] The College told us that it was evaluating the delivery of the certificate, including equality impact assessment monitoring, analysis of different delivering models (classroom learning, online), and processes for the licensing and approval of providers. The review will include visits to providers and run from January to March 2015, with reporting scheduled for the end of March.[97]

74. We remain of the view that cost of obtaining the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing, which in some police force areas is a pre-entry requirement, is putting off talented and diverse recruits. This type of pre-recruitment qualification, which may be prohibitively expensive for some candidates, may stifle diversity. Means-tested support, such the bursary arrangements set up by Chief Constable Sara Thornton, QPM, between Thames Valley Police and local universities, should be in place to ensure that the best candidates are not lost because of financial barriers.

75. We are concerned about the standards that are set by the providers of the Certificate. It cannot be right that one provider has a 100% success rate for the qualification. The Certificate has the potential to deliver a new set of standards for recruits, but to do so it needs to be a trusted qualification. We welcome the College's decision to commence a full implementation review of the Certificate, in particular with regard to the approval of providers.

76. Once the College's review of the Certificate in Knowledge of Policing is complete, we recommend that the College takes a stronger role in overseeing the training and awarding of this certificate. In its current disjointed state with seemingly different standards across providers, we cannot ensure that certificates provided are of the same quality throughout the UK.

82   Chip Chapman, An Independent Review of the Police Disciplinary System in England and Wales, October 2014  Back

83   https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/home-secretarys-college-of-policing-speech Back

84   http://www.college.police.uk/en/docs/Five-Year_Strategy.pdf Back

85   Qq 185-187 Back

86   Police Officer Recruitment: Eligibility criteria for the role of police constable, National Policing Improvement Agency Circular NPIA 02/2011 (1 March 2011) Back

87   Qq 63-66 Back

88   Qq 179-181 Back

89   http://www.college.police.uk/en/talent.htm Back

90   http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/nov/17/how-to-join-the-police-service-fast-track-programme Back

91   Qq 63-64 Back

92   Home Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2013-14, Leadership and standards in the police, HC 67-I, Paras 32-33 Back

93   Home Affairs Committee, Third Report of Session 2013-14, Leadership and standards in the police, HC 67-I, Paras 98 and 111 Back

94   Home Affairs Committee, Out of Court Disposals, HC 799, Oral evidence, 6 January 2015, Q 77 Back

95   Home Affairs Committee, Police Information Notices, HC 901, Oral evidence, 13 January 2015, Q 1 Back

96   Qq 148-151 Back

97   College of Policing written evidence Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2015
Prepared 17 February 2015