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Interview: the loss of IPLDP during a changing workforce

The make-up of recruits via the degree programme is again under the spotlight as Superintendent Sukesh Verma tells Police Oracle how his force and others will be impacted by the loss of IPLDP.
Published - 05/07/2021 By - Chloe Livadeas

Nottinghamshire's Superintendent Sukesh Verma has spoken out against the college's degree programme, saying policing has a long way to go on diversity - something he feels the exclusivity of a degree requirement will only set back. 

Supt Verma was the lead for Operation Uplift and in November last year he became head of content management but still has strong links to recruitment as lead for cohesion.

Nottinghamshire’s comms recently celebrated the success of a 25 year old Indian ex-military man, who joined the police from the British Army via the Initial Policing Learning and Development Program (IPLDP)

PC Sabby Oliver passed out as an officer in May after completing an 18-week training course – and he’s already been making a number of arrests.

The college’s Police Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) means that from July 2022 anyone joining the service will either need to already have a degree or obtain one before passing probation.

The college argues IPLDP is out of date and plans to “professionalise” the service by phasing it out and replacing it with PEQF.

“We're almost doing the same thing that we normally do,” said Supt Verma, “which is using a sledgehammer to crack a nut”.

Nottinghamshire run roughly a 70/30 split of IPLDP and Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA). “A hybrid approach is best,” said Supt Verma, who convinced Chief Constable Craig Guildford to do it that way.

The force also claims to be the best performing force in terms of representation.

“One of the things that I said from the very off - if we abolish IPLDP there, we will lose almost 90 per cent of the BAME candidates that are successful.”

He said it was also “effectively discrimination” on people with children, and says BAME and migrant communities tend to have bigger families at a younger age making it harder to work and study at the same time, and on older age groups without degrees.

The force met with Nick Herbert, former policing minister and the newly appointed chair of the college, to share their findings and forebodings.

The uplift has been going on for two years now, and Supt Verma says they've now got lots of evidence for analytical research.

“There's no better evidence clearly than what we've done if one of the key drivers for the government, the Home Office, and the College of policing is actually we need to diversify policing. Because it’s not diverse enough - we are nowhere near it at the moment.”

Northamptonshire's chief constable Nick Adderley said in May he intends to write to the college about the impact PEQF has had on the experience and hardiness of "very young" recruits. 

Supt Verma says he understands where he's coming from. 

“We're almost saying no, we want a workforce of 21-year-old graduates. And quite frankly, that's quite a worrying thought for me.

“When we do have issues like riots, and around large scale public order offences, idiots after football matches causing carnage and terrorist related offences, and everything else that that needs people who are going to be wanting to be on the front line, don't all want to go flying up the ladder because there are clearly enough roles in senior roles within the service. We need people who want to be rank and file.”

Last month the interim CEO of the college, Bernie O’Reilly, told Police Oracle that degrees were needed to keep policing in tune with the 21st century and equip officers to deal with the growing number of crimes that have a digital element.

But Supt Verma isn’t convinced you need a degree for that. “You tell me someone who doesn't have a smartphone, and you show me somebody doesn't know how to log on when they go to a pub to buy a pint from a phone or an iPad, because that's the world that we live in.

“Most people don't shop physically they shop online, most people know about digital footprint. And that's a part of the world that has become more and more prominent.”

He said that can be taught as part of their core training.

But in fact he thinks one of the areas that policing is "fundamentally failing" in its ability to engage with communities and build rapport and trust.

"When there's been a murder, and no one wants to talk in the local neighbourhood, it doesn’t matter if you have a master's degree, or whether you were a builder/painter, you need to have the ability to be able to communicate, to talk to and make people feel safe.

“We've seen it so often in the last few years. The Westminster Bridge attack, the Borough Market attack, the issues at the MEN arena, all of these incidents required really brave emergency service personnel to put their bodies and their lives on the line to help others. That doesn't need someone to be acutely aware about digital footprints that needs people who are brave, and understand what it's like to stand between good and bad.

“We talk all the time clearly about legitimacy with communities, we talk about legitimacy and having that trust, and we police by consent, all the words that you hear from every chief that comes out.

“But we sometimes forget about the legitimacy that you have within the service. As a senior leader, what we talk about is actually the legitimacy for people to lead, that legitimacy that people believe in what you're doing. And they understand that you understand the business that you're asking them to undertake, you understand the importance of why you make decisions - that all comes from learning on the job, and it's no different from any rank within the service.”

Supt Verma says the IPLDP cohorts are a very diverse group of different ages and backgrounds.

“But I walk into the PCDA classroom and I've got 14 people who are all 18 years of age, who are still living at home with their parents, that are worried about what university is going to bring and don't really understand the formalities of the police service and the risks that we face. And there is an unbelievable contrast, when you stand there and you look at them.”

While last week the thirteenth female chief constable was announced, the biggest female representation ever seen, there is still a glaring lack of chief officers who are BAME.

Supt Verma said the glass ceiling has been broken for women, and there's a really strong network of support nationally for females that doesn’t exist for BAME officers.

“We've got loads of talented BAME officers, but I still think there's a cultural challenge around that, which the college are working on,” said Supt Verma.

“Lots of our younger ethnic minorities look up and they go, well, I'm a foot soldier forever because I can't see myself anywhere. We're happy to be in but we're not supported to move up. That's got to change as well. And until we do that, we're still gonna have problems enticing people because they don't think it's a viable career for progression.”

The UK has only had one BAME chief constable - Michael Fuller of Kent Police in 2012.

“There's got to be something wrong,” said Supt Verma. “There's got to be a cultural problem with that, because there have been plenty of talented people who could have been chief constables. So that's something we've got to work through. Otherwise, we're going to keep banging our head against the brick wall.”

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