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New recruit training will go on despite training centre closures

Plans to recruit 20,000 new officers and their funding are secure, police leaders have confirmed.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council and the College of Policing confirmed that assessments of new recruits is continuing despite training centres being closed and most other police buildings having restricted access

Two forces, Hampshire and West Midlands, have started piloting online assessments including vetting. Changes have also included holding interviews over Skype.

The NPCC and Home Office Uplift teams have issued new guidance to forces recommending they defer fitness testing for new recruits until just before they join. With public gyms closed and limited time for people being allowed outside their homes, some potential recruits could struggle to meet minimum standards.

Changes have also been brought in to enable the cohort of trainees who started in January to continue their courses and development

Dyfed-Powys Police revealed it has moved to home learning, attestations made over video link, and secondments of recruits to the force control room or custody units for the first time ever.

The force has three groups of students at different stages of training.

PEQF manager Detective Sergeant Rob Gravelle said: “We currently have three cohorts of new recruits – that’s 62 students – 40 of whom would currently be based at headquarters. This was not an option given the new social distancing legislation.

“We have devised separate plans for each group, allowing them to continue learning while staying safe, and minimising the risk of the virus spreading.”

The first group have completed training two weeks early and are now out on the street. The second group who started in January are part of a crammer course that will finish seven weeks early.

The third group who started in March are working in either the control room or custody suites. A date for later in the year after the lockdown has been set to ensure their degree work is not interrupted.

DS Gravelle said: “We are fitting in as much as we can through distance learning. We have brought in a virtual learning platform so they can work from home.

“This is a completely unique start to their policing careers, and they will be gaining invaluable experience in dealing with the public.”

The NPCC said the Uplift initiative had been carefully planned, including projections on the impact that the new recruits would have and the need to retain experienced officers to develop them in-service.

“Policing has not proactively recruited at scale for a number of years.  For the recruitment of 20,000 additional officers, training programmes, support for student officers and on the job experiences have significantly evolved to be able to support newly qualified police officers as they start their policing careers,” it said in a statement.

“This is then supported by ongoing work around retention of officers once in role and supporting their learning and development throughout their career.”

The Home Office made clear that the decision to bring forward funding to help forces cover the cost of COVID-19 did not mean training would be stopped because budgets had been spent.

Policing minister Kit Malthouse had announced that forces would be allowed to use ringfenced money to cover short-term COVID-19 costs.

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