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Chief takes on College in legal challenge to stop 'degree bobbies'

Judicial review action launched over fears PEQF will cut frontline officer deployed numbers by 4,000.

CC Bill Skelly: Taking on the College

CC Bill Skelly: Taking on the College

Date - 11th July 2019
By - Nick Hudson - Police Oracle
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Controversial degree-entry plans for all new officers could slash the frontline workforce in England and Wales by more than 4,000 personnel as policing faces a legal challenge from one of its own chiefs to halt the recruitment process.

Lincolnshire Police has taken the “exceptional” step of seeking a judicial review of the College of Policing scheme, which will see three new national entry routes into the service by January of next year.

Chief Constable Bill Skelly says the College is railroading the Police Education Qualifications Framework proposals through, “ignoring the growing evidence that demonstrates their impracticality”.

He is calling for a three-year cooling-off period to allow “legitimate evaluation” of the new system which he claims hits at forces’ deployable strength at any one time – because the study time has been significantly increased compared to the current recruitment programme, increased turnover and failure to complete the course.

In addition to the financial costs, CC Skelly says that no assessment has been made on such issues as the additional strain on the police pension scheme or on the impact on equalities.

He argues it will place officers in the classroom rather than out on the front line – equating to around 40 fewer in his force, which is 10 per cent of his overall strength,  and “could easily be” more than 4,000 for the whole country.

“I have been raising these concerns with the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council for more than two years since the impact of PEQF became clear,” he said. 

“The College has pushed forward ignoring the growing evidence that demonstrates the impracticality of their proposals for Lincolnshire.

“Their most recent communication states the intention to change Police Regulations to enforce the  Police Education Qualifications Framework recruitment process from next year,” added CC Skelly.

He is being fully supported by Lincolnshire’s police and crime commissioner Marc Jones who is funding the court action. 

“All I am asking for is a stay of implementation to the summer of 2023 to give time for a legitimate evaluation of the new system being imposed across the country  and for the  results to be assessed and any adjustments made,” added the chief constable.

In the meantime the force is developing an enhanced initial training package that meets the requirements of the modern police officer “without creating an unaffordable impact on the police service in Lincolnshire”.

Special research undertaken by the force on the abstraction impact of withdrawal of a police officer from operational duties for the purposes of learning and assessment is “very high”.

Its study reveals predicted abstraction of the student officer for the Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship route is around 40 per cent for year one, and 20 per cent in years two and three.

Currently abstraction levels through IPLDP is 40 per cent in year one and 6.4 per cent for year two

So, if a force recruits five per cent of its total strength each year, then the abstraction of total force strength would more than double – from the current level of 2.5 per cent six per cent of total constable strength.

The predicted abstraction of the student officer for the Degree Holder Entry Programme route is around 40 per cent for year one and 20 per cent in year two while for the Pre-Join route it is around seven per cent for years one and two.

The Lincolnshire research claims no consideration appears to have been given by the College in its modelling to the impact of either the failure of student officers to complete their qualification course, or their resignation from the service before their normal retirement date.

The College continues to present the unsupported claim that development of a higher skilled workforce will result in better policing outcomes.

Latest academic examination of the evidence of the impact of graduate education on policing concludes that, “research is unable to confirm unambiguously that values associated with higher levels of education may bring improved policing outcomes,” and critically, that, “it seems policing or criminal justice degrees confers no particular advantage”

Former West Yorkshire sergeant-turned-lecturer, Dr Richard Heslop, told Police Oracle earlier this month of some of the worrying problems occurring on higher education campuses, and cautioned against assumptions that sending officers to study at university will lead to “improvements in policing”.

Four years ago CC Skelly's predecessor, Neil Rhodes, wrote to the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, warning her that his force faced going bust under the government's funding arrangements.

The chief constable said bobbies on the beat would be a “thing of the past” in Lincolnshire with any response to minor offences would have to be largely ignored, while investigations into issues such as historic child sex abuse and cyber-crime would stop.

In a stark assessment, he warned: “The cupboard is bare and it is likely that we will be the first force in the country to fall over."

Geographically, Lincolnshire is one of the largest forces in the country, covering almost 2,300 square miles but it has one of the smallest personnel complements – with 1,100 officers.

The force has estimated that by 2024 it will be spending £1.15 million on PCDA training, of which only £400,000 would be met by force apprenticeship levy contributions.

It has anticipated funds recouped from provision of apprenticeship training might be deployed to fund other PEQF qualification routes, but this simply places the eligible costs of apprenticeship training as a cost to the force, so no real saving is achieved.

College of Policing Executive Director DCC Bernie O'Reilly said: "We are aware of a potential legal challenge in relation to the implementation of the new entry routes into policing.

"The training for new recruits seeks to prepare those entering the service for the complexity of the job and has been developed with colleagues from across policing.

"We continue to work with Lincolnshire Police to enable them to join the other 30 police forces across England and Wales who are introducing the new training over the next year."

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