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Degrees: challenging the ?Old Guard?

The public rightly expects police officers to be educated professionally and trained to the highest standards argues Martin Tangen
Published - 13/07/2021 By - Martin Tangen

There has been a lot of commentary recently in relation to the Police Educational Qualification Framework and the associated entry routes to policing. Much of this commentary has been unhelpful, and in many cases demotivating and off putting to those officers and students undertaking their qualifications both within police services, but also those studying at their own expense at university in preparation to apply to join the service.

Many of the comments are at best somewhat ignorant, but in some cases disingenuous and misleading. They range from the old firm favourites of questioning the relevance of a degree, through to claiming that the necessity for a degree will impact BAME recruitment and recruitment of more mature students.

To set the record straight and to be absolutely clear, the requirement for a degree is quite specific.  Just because you may have a degree in the paranormal, or a degree in English, that alone does not qualify you for entry to the police under the new PEQF framework.  The specific degree you need is a degree in Professional Policing.  Under the Degree Holder Entry Program (DHEP), you are able to convert your current degree by undertaking a course of study (In some cases combined with working as a police officer) in order to meet the requirements. 

Alternatively, you can apply to a police service to enter under their Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship program (PCDA), whereby you work as a police officer and study for the degree at the same time, paid for by the service you have joined.

Finally, you can complete the degree course as an ordinary student (In some cases with options to work as a Special Constable, police volunteer or member of police staff), and once you graduate you are qualified to apply for the role of police officer.  This route is known as the ‘Pre-Join degree’.

Having laid to rest those spurious and unhelpful references to non- policing degrees, let’s move on to some of the rationale behind policing needing degree level education.

Let me start by posing a question.  A friend down at the local pub fancies being a solicitor.  They don’t particularly want to go to university, but they have watched a couple of YouTube videos and are offering to do your conveyancing for your house purchase on the cheap in order to get some practice. Would you let them?

Another offers to sort out your toothache because you can’t get a dental appointment.  I mean, how hard can it be to pull a tooth out?

In both cases I suspect that your answer would be ‘No way’. Rightly, those individuals need to be qualified to practice.

Whilst these examples may be flippant, why should the public expect any less from the individuals who are charged with protecting them and enforcing the law? Police officers have extensive coercive powers that allow them to interfere with the human rights of the populace. So, is it not appropriate that those officers should be educated professionally and trained to the highest standards?

In his report in 2010, Peter Neyroud identifies clearly the rationale for the professionalising of policing. Not surprisingly he identifies democratic accountability, legitimacy, evidence base, national (and international) coherence, capability, competence and cost effectiveness as key requirements for a modern police service. (Neyroud, 2010) His report sets out a clear and cohesive argument for professionalisation and reform.

In the main, major police reform in England and Wales has been the result of events rather than a pre-emptive and planned evolution. The policing scandals and misuse of powers in the late seventies and early eighties, culminating in a series of riots and the subsequent enquiry and report by Lord Scarman (1981) brought about the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The disparity in charging and prosecution of offences across England and Wales brought about the recommendations of the Phillips commissio

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