There is a lot of talk again about standards of Policing and Police Officers thanks to Lord Stevens’ review of Policing in England and Wales. As if the recommendations by our beloved Tom Winsor weren’t enough to throw British Policing into a panic Lord Stevens, the ex Met Commissioner, has made a further 37 “radical” recommendations which Labour seem set to put into their manifesto. His recommendations, it is claimed, will raise the professionalism of Policing in England and Wales (much needed) and he calls for, amongst other things, a registered charter of Police Officers from which if found guilty of gross misconduct we would be struck off thus preventing us from being recruited into another force in the future. I can’t say I disagree with that. I am all for ensuring miscreants in uniform are ousted from the job for good to prevent them continuing their immoral and/or criminal deeds and tarnishing the reputation of the Police further. It does worry me however that Officers will be expected to pay into this in order to “practice”, much like Doctors.
One thing that got my back up a little however is that Lord Stevens seems to have gotten himself focused on Police Officers needing academic qualifications for some reason. There is a recommendation for a publicly accessible list of Officers and the qualifications they hold (if any) and also the recommendation that payment of new recruits should be reflective of the qualifications and experience they hold. Experience, if we’re talking about within the Police such as whether the person has served as a Special Constable or even a PCSO, then yes I agree but QUALIFICATIONS… No, I do not agree that that should have any bearing on any aspect of being a Police Constable.
Firstly, what the hell has it got to do with the public what qualifications a Police Officer may or may not have? I get that the Police Service is a public service and must be as transparent as possible but any academic qualifications should be private and up to the individual concerned to reveal to others? Why should Officers have to reveal this in a publicly accessible list? Business interests I get, personal achievements I neither get nor agree with.
Secondly, what on earth have academic qualifications got to do with being a capable Police Officer? Perhaps it is more relevant for those in higher, more political and business oriented ranks for which we now have direct entry anyway, but to be a Police Constable and to be able to do your job efficiently I can not see what relevance academia possesses. If you have A-Levels or a Degree then brilliant, well done. It won’t restrict your ability as a Police Officer but if you don’t then likewise, it will not restrict your ability at all.
I have some academic achievements of which I am proud. I am not going to share these here as I have already stated it is irrelevant and nobodies business but mine and those I choose to share with and I am not writing this to blow smoke up my own arse or to try and impress. Throughout my short career to date I have been very fortunate to have worked in various roles from being a comms operator to a detective on a team dealing with drugs and firearms and I took the decision 3 years ago to return to uniformed policing. Never, in any of my roles and in any of the situations I have encountered, have I had to rely on or utilise my higher educational knowledge and achievements.
Being a Police Constable is not about being an intellectual, academic individual. It is not about how many words you can write in a dissertation or what grade you can achieve in an exam on one particular subject matter. It is not about being placed into an academic category or having your intelligence judged by another academic. That certificate and that achievement is very impressive and well earned and shows commitment, dedication and hard work BUT it has diddley squat to do with how good an Officer you will make.
If you can tick the following off of your list of personality characteristics then you may just be on the way to being a fine, outstanding Police Officer;-
Ability to communicate with a variety of different people
These are not things you learn in a class room or from a book they are part of who you are. They are traits that you will find in every single professional Police Officer.
Academic qualifications in Policing are about as irrelevant as the colour of your skin or the genitals you possess.
It bugs me that people are placed into social classes based on education or are judged to be superior or inferior because they have not studied for and passed an exam. Education in important. We should all be able to read and write and to communicate correctly and we should all possess a certain degree of general knowledge and common sense. However, if you choose not to go to Uni because you want to get stuck into work or a career choice then good on you. Why should you be looked at or thought about any differently than somebody who went on to study for several years more and gain another qualification?
Police Officers always have and should always remain a reflection of the society it serves. You have people from every walk of life, every state imposed class, different religions, ethnicities and sexual orientations. You have Officers with no qualifications at all and Officers who would not feel uncomfortable discussing quantum physics with Stephen Hawkins.
The Government’s opinion that you can only be professional or successful if you have been to University or have a qualification is typical of their out of touch view of British society. They view themselves and their Etonion ilk as superior to the rest of us and if we wish to aspire to their successful, dizzy heights, if the Police Service wishes to be as “professional” as they are then higher education is surely the answer…? Bollocks. Let’s see David Cameron or Ed Milliband wading into a group of fighting drunks or sitting down and breaking the death of a loved one to a grieving family. They are very successful and educated men… it does not make them better for the role of Police Officer than say my mate Russell who has cleaned windows since leaving secondary school 12 years ago. You can not TEACH being a Police Officer. You can teach the basics such as law, policy, procedure etc and provide the knowledge needed in order to uphold and enforce the law of the land but there is MUCH more to being a Police Officer and you can not teach what is needed to actually BE one.
I discussed this earlier with a friend of mine who asked to remain nameless but he is the rank of Chief Superintendant. He has a glittering career behind him and has worked on some high profile and successful investigations. He is what you would consider a fine example of a career cop. However, when he joined he had only basic educational qualifications and not very good grades. It shocked us both to think that had he applied under Lord Stevens’ and Labour’s future Police Service then it is very likely he would be overlooked for the job.
Whilst higher education may broaden your mind, it does not necessarily broaden your horizons. Just look at how many post graduates are struggling to find employment. It is not the education that makes a fine Constable it is the PERSON wearing the uniform. The natural characteristics of the man or woman will determine whether or not they can stick it within the world of Policing. Nothing more. Nothing less.