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Vision on: the future of training and Continuous Professional Development

Cancelled promotion exams and shortened programmes for new recruits. Right because of lockdown but not a long-term solution, says Dave Bamber the Fed?s Professional Development lead.
Published - 21/05/2020 By - Chris Smith

The COVID-19 outbreak raised a lot of issues for police forces very quickly and professional development was one of them.

The immediate risk was for Sergeant exam candidates who had travelled across the South East to sit their test at Alexandra Palace in London. The assessment was pulled the night before after the government announced the move towards lockdown.

Dave Bamber, the Federation’s lead on development and member of the College of Policing board, was pulled into the negotiations ahead of the cancellation. Some officers expressed disappointment on social media but he says there wasn’t another option.  

“Part of the problem was its eleventh hour decision. That really caused some anxiety, however I don’t think there was any option for the College of Policing: they couldn’t not go with the advice. It was an issue in a lot of forces,” he tells Police Oracle.

“There were 3,500 candidates who were going to sit it in Alexandra Palace. What can you manage to do? The answer is not a lot.”

The outbreak added to the pressure on forces that have a shortage of senior officers and a tough recruitment target to meet with Operation Uplift.

The solution has been to move recruitment and assessment processes online – and like the rest of the country utilise video conferencing to interview people.

Mr Bamber says the COVID-19 outbreak helped reinvigorate stalled efforts to get forces to make greater use of online learning to enable recruitment, promotion and Continuous Personal Development (CPD).

He says: “Out of this there has been more of an impetus to explore and develop the online option of Part II, the legal examination. Over the past few years there’s been a lot of issues raised about if it’s the right time or is there enough interest. It seemed to have slid lower down the agenda but with the issues that have come about, it has gained some needed impetus.”

But he says it’s still early days and the systems will need refining: “There are issues with the online option: it’s not like sitting the Highway Code part of the driving test. They’d have to build up a significant question bank but that’s the direction it should be moving in so that it’s more flexible for the workforce and the organisation. It could result in a greater amount of flexibility for the membership.”

The actual assessment won’t change but it can be adapted to suit the ‘digital native’ generation of new recruits and younger experienced officers.

He tells Police Oracle: “Because it being in legislation – it’s in an Act of Parliament – it’s not going to change. We have to deal with what we’ve got. The digital option, in my mind, is it. It makes it more 21st Century, more compliant with those who are more used to that as a process. It suits the people who are joining the organisation now.”

The other big change were the adaption of training programmes for new recruits who, depending on when they signed up, were at different stages of their development.

There was a switch to online assessments for people who had applied just before the lockdown began but earlier cohorts had schedules shortened. Was it the right decision and could this be a future way forward?

His advice to police forces is that the ‘Class of Lockdown’ will need monitoring and support. They will need to ensure they made the right decisions: “Maybe that needs a full scrutiny further down the line before it’s adapted as business as usual. It’s only time that will tell when you have police officers assessed in that manner who have then been deployed on the street. I don’t know when we’ll know that. I can see that online assessment and remote assessment carrying on.”

The Fed backed the changes. So does that mean they are ready to shift to changes in recruitmen

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