Priti Patel has been urged to abandon all-graduate police plans as officers would rather serve alongside former soldiers when breaking up a night-time brawl than people with “expressive dance” degrees.
Marc Jones, the incoming chair of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, said plans to make policing an all-graduate profession risked weakening the frontline by deterring older, experienced recruits like former soldiers.
Under the plans, devised by the College of Policing but yet to be formally mandated by the Home Secretary, recruits will be required to have a degree or join as an apprentice for three years and study for one while on the job.
Mr Jones urged the college and Home Secretary to keep open a third route for non-graduates as the plan “made no sense” when other professions and big companies like Google were moving in the opposite direction by opening up to school leavers and non-graduates
“If you are on your second, third or fourth career, and haven’t got a degree and have got personal responsibilities, doing a three-year apprenticeship is just not viable. Being paid £19,000 a year to be a junior officer isn’t viable for people for a prolonged period of time,” he told The Telegraph.
“It doesn’t make sense to tell a former soldier: ‘I know you served your country, but when you get home to your wife and two children, or your husband, we also want you to study for a degree to be a firearms officer even though you’ve been in Afghanistan for eight years.’
“An officer said to me: ‘At 2.30am in the morning when it’s kicking off outside of a nightclub, and I’m about to get out of the car, I would rather the person next to me had done four years in the Army, than had got a 2:1 in expressive dance.’
“It’s horses for courses. We need people with degrees, we need people who want to be chief constables. But we need a mix.”
Mr Jones, Lincolnshire’s police and crime commissioner, said the all-graduate approach denied a career to people seeking to do a traditional “cracking” job as a PC for 20 years. “Policing should reflect the society it serves and two-thirds of people in our country are without with a degree,” said Mr Jones.
His force calculated the extra time spent studying in the classroom will take 10 per cent of officers away from the frontline.
Mr Jones said there was also an increased risk of police officers leaving the profession in five years after getting a degree paid for by the state that would otherwise cost them as much as £50,000.
“Instead of running up costs of £50,000, the police will pay you and give you a degree. You can leave the service three, four or five years in with a degree, a great thing on your CV but all policing has done is incur a load of costs to train you and then they need to train another one,” he said.
Lincolnshire police claim it will treble the proportion leaving after five years from 10 per cent to 35 per cent.
The Home Office disclosed it is looking at ways to “better help” military veterans join the police but added: “You do not need a degree to join the police, and those who join as apprentices earn a starting salary of up to £24,780 and receive degree-level training fit for modern day policing.”
Bernie O’Reilly, the College of Policing’s interim chief executive, said the new training had been created to “reflect the challenges officers face and recognise the complex nature of the job.”
“The public deserves highly trained, highly skilled officers that can protect them from all crime types, from domestic violence and digital fraud, through to organised crime and modern slavery, as well as protecting vulnerable people,” he said.