Plans to make it compulsory for new police officers to have a degree may stop many potential recruits in Yorkshire from applying, according to the chief constable of the region’s biggest force.
The College of Policing is consulting on proposals which would mean all new police officers in England and Wales could require a degree in future.
Currently there is no service-wide minimum qualification for new police officers, but the college says the job is now of “degree-level complexity”.
West Yorkshire Police’s temporary chief constable Dee Collins tweeted today: “I’m concerned that those in our communities without the opportunity to study for a degree may struggle to become a Police Officer.”
The plans, if approved, could run as a pilot in 2017 and be fully adopted by 2019. But the Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file police officers, said the plans would exclude hard-to-reach groups and those unable to afford university fees.
The College of Policing, which is responsible for setting standards of ethics and training for the police service, says fewer than a third of officers have a degree.
“I have worked with many outstanding colleagues over the last 29 years, some who held degrees on joining and many, like me, who did not.”Iain Spittal, deputy chief constable, Cleveland Police
Chief Constable Alex Marshall, chief executive of the college, said the role of a police officer was as complicated as that of a social worker or a nurse, professions that only accept graduates.
Under the proposals, new police applicants would need to complete either a degree in practical policing or a conversion course after graduating in another subject.
Dr Sam Peach, who has put together the plan for the college, said: “The majority of other professions have graduate entry in the UK.
“There’s a lack of parity with other professions and because of that the police is not recognised as a legitimate profession.
“We are looking to have degree-level qualifications for constable and masters for superintendent.”
The proposals from the College of Policing appear to be departure from its position in January 2014, when it was asked about Britain following other European countries in expecting its officers to be formally qualified.
Adam Crawford, Professor of criminology at the University of Leeds, predicted in an article in The Yorkshire Post that police officers could be required to have university degrees in future.
Prof Crawford said: “It wouldn’t be out of keeping with some of our European partners, who require police to be graduates,” he said. “The British police service has a very different tradition and history to our neighbours.”
In response, a spokesman for the College said at the time that there were no plans for a formal degree in policing.
He said: “We can’t ever see that coming into effect. It would be down to individual chief constables to make a decision but, as a college, it’s not something we would expect to see.”
Iain Spittal, a former assistant chief constable at North Yorkshire Police and now deputy chief at Cleveland, said he “joined the service with low academic ability in my late teens”. He added: “I have worked with many outstanding colleagues over the last 29 years, some who held degrees on joining and many, like me, who did not.
“The possession of academic qualifications does not guarantee the commitment to or the ability to be a good cop, it does show a commitment to learn and an academic ability but this is not, and must not, be the only way to assure our communities that they have professional, competent and committed officers, and staff, serving them.
“I am concerned that an absolute requirement for a degree could reduce our ability to be a service made up of individuals who reflect the breadth of our communities and could exclude individuals with huge potential to become outstanding police officers who, for a range of reasons, have not been able to, or have not chosen to, study to degree level.
“That said; policing is becoming an ever more complex and demanding environment which requires officers and staff to be able to adapt, absorb new laws and regulations and help shape new ways of working.”