The College of Policing’s proposed scheme to require all new police officers to obtain a degree will seriously restrict the Prime Minister’s pledge to recruit 20,000 new police officers, Lincolnshire Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly has said.
The plans mean that from summer 2021 the only route into policing will be through the Police Eduction Qualification Framework (PEQF), which requires all recruits to have an academic degree or be prepared to commit to study for one in work time.
Last month Mr Skelly announced he would be seeking a Judicial Review in relation to the College’s plans because for Lincolnshire the imposition of a degree requirement will mean 40 fewer officers at any one time for front line policing – roughly 10% of his deployable strength – as well as the extra cash costs necessary to pay for academic contracts and training.
Now, following on from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement to fund 20,000 new police officers in England and Wales, Mr Skelly has expressed concern about how the uplift will be affected by the College of Policing’s plans.
“Let me be clear,” he said, “Mr Johnson’s announcement is the most positive thing to have happened to policing in a decade, and is such good news for Lincolnshire. We are the lowest funded force in the country and for some time we have made a case both with the public and politicians for fairer funding distribution. To be given a cash injection for more officers is nothing but great news and could make such a difference to public safety here in Lincolnshire.
“The details are still being worked through and there is much still to do. But my biggest concern at the moment is how we will fulfil the Prime Minister’s ask for additional resources when we are being told we have to abide by PEQF. I cannot see how the two are possible together.
“The College is still adamant that the only entry route into policing in the country from the summer of 2021 is with a degree, or committing to obtaining one. This will mean taking officers out of force to study – so how can we make sure we put more boots on the ground, as Mr Johnson has asked for, under the restrictions of the PEQF requirements to study? For us in Lincolnshire this is unaffordable; and has massive deployability issues. I cannot put officers out into our communities if they have to spend time in the classroom, and so it follows that I can’t meet what the Prime Minister is asking for in the timeframes he’s asking for it.”
Last month plans were announced to seek a Judicial Review in relation to the College’s plans. More detail can be found on that here: https://www.lincs.police.uk/news-campaigns/news/2019/government-announcement-regarding-20-000-extra-officers/.
The legal action is still ongoing after deadlines have expired relating to the supply of documentation. Lincolnshire Police will now draft their outline case for submission which will go to a review panel for a decision on whether the Judicial Review can proceed. That will happen in the next few months so there is still a long road ahead.
Mr Skelly continued: “Myself and the Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones are in full agreement on this and all we are asking for is a stay of implementation. I don’t feel that there has been enough research or consultation carried out to support the College’s assertion that having a degree is the best and only way into Policing in the future. We would like Lincolnshire to be the control force who don’t have to implement PEQF until others have tested the process.
“This scheme is being imposed on police forces with a significant lack of empirical evidence. The risks are huge, not only in relation to public safety but also in relation to diversity because insisting on a degree will seriously restrict the range of applicants we receive. It’s a fundamental principle of policing in this country that we do so by consent and that we reflect the communities that we serve. If I’m going to be forced to be exclusive in the way that I recruit then I would rather do so from the agricultural fields of Lincolnshire than from the playing fields of Eton.”