Sweeping changes will mean the police service will be a graduates-only career in future

The era of ‘Dixon of Dock Green’ constables will be consigned to history by a “transformational change” in policing which will ensure every new recruit in the country has graduate qualifications in future, it has emerged.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 18 April, 2019, 17:56
Dr Alan Billings

Police forces and their ruling Police and Crime Commissioners have been given details of the new Police Educational Qualification Framework which will ensure that new starters either begin their career with a degree or work towards a qualification as part of an apprenticeship, following the pattern used by some entering the nursing industry.

South Yorkshire PCC Dr Alan Billings said the move was intended to reflect both the complexity of the skills police officers now need to develop and to put the service on the same level as the other public service ‘partners’ all forces now work with.

That will mean the service working with universities which are able to offer suitable courses, with Hallam University in Sheffield already among 22 nationally which can offer suitable degrees to suit policing needs.

The full timescale for the implementation of the changes has still to be decided and, Dr Billings said, there would be other issues such as pay rates which would have to be clarified before the scheme could be put into practice.

“There will be a much closer relationship between police forces and universities, with a professionalised body of officers,” he said.

“It is a big, transformational change of the organisation, not just of officers.

“The truth is that officers are already at this level of education and skills. This is formally recognising it. We are moving quickly towards it, nationally,” he said.

The change has been instigated by the College of Policing and it is expected there will be three routes into a policing career in future, with the option of a degree/apprenticeship with the opportunity to ‘earn and learn’, studying while serving, enhanced diplomas for those entering the service with a degree in another subject area and specialist pre-joining courses, allowing recruits to join with their academic studies already completed.

“Police will have to work closely with the universities to get the courses right,” said Dr Billings, “It is not just their degree, but ongoing training throughout their career.

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“Police are working with partners who are all professionalised. Their partners all have degrees.”

A large proportion of police work now involves problem solving and preventing issues arising before they can cause trouble and they are regarded as activities which need highly educated staff to work effectively.

Many emerging crime issues also need strong academic ability, such as tackling fraud and cyber crime which are increasingly exploited by criminals in preference to ‘traditional’ offences such as robbery.

“I really welcome this,” said Dr Billings, “I have always thought police have to get much smarter and thoughtful with the way crime is going, with things like fraud and cyber crime.

“You have to get ahead of them and upstream of it,” he said.

South Yorkshire Police have already been involved in a scheme called Police Now, using specially selected graduates on a two year contract to work in neighbourhoods to look for fresh solutions to long-standing problems.

At the end of that, the candidates have the option of joining the service for a career or taking the experience they have gained into a different area of work.

Those who have been working with the force so far have been credited with making a contribution towards improving the communities they have worked in.