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Promotion exams go online as some forces confirm sergeants early

Promotion assessments are going ahead despite the COVID-19 outbreak.

The final group of candidates hoping to become inspectors with the Metropolitan Police will be interviewed on Friday following online tests.

National sergeant exams are still scheduled for the traditional date of the second week in October, the College of Policing has confirmed. It followed the decision in March by the College to cancel the Spring exams the night before candidates were due to sit them.

Forces that urgently needed to fill posts or had already started selection procedures for sergeants have promoted some candidates that had already passed the Part One exam.

Hampshire Constabulary is among those to have used this option by removing face to face interviews from the process.

Officers at the end of their five-year validity period and who were set to sit the examination in March have been granted a further 12 months validity, whilst officers on stage 4 of the NPPF have been allowed up to 24 months instead of the usual 12 months to complete their portfolios.

The College is working to develop an online process to examine the legal knowledge of candidates. The assessments cannot be scrapped as the process is enshrined in law.

Dave Bamber, Professional Development lead for the Police Federation and member of the College of Policing board, said: “The decision to cancel the Sergeants’ legal examination in March has had a significant impact on our members. It is understandable that officers who have invested a great deal of time and effort to develop themselves feel disappointed, with some probably feeling frustrated and some feeling annoyed.

“What can be said about the way the response has been handled is there has been welcomed and important dialogue, negotiation, discussion and engagement between the College and the Federation which has been consistent, and hopefully constructive, throughout this time - creating as good a situation for our membership as we can hope to gain during this challenging period.”

The selection process for inspectors is different as it is more heavily weighted towards analysis.

The Met has switched to online assessments using a video link to support the written assessments of the report and practical scenario of how the candidate would respond to an incident. The last group of candidates will be assessed this Friday in video interviews.

Challenges for the two written elements have been IT-related with candidates reporting problems with opening documents and video links breaking down due to bandwidth issues. But the Met overall is satisfied with how the process has worked.

A Met spokeswoman told Police Oracle: “We are working closely with the College of Policing to make sure we can continue with the promotion assessments and that we follow the government’s advice in keeping our candidates and assessors safe. We were able to restart the inspector level promotion assessments on 4 May after introducing an online test. We are currently considering options for the sergeant assessments which we expect to start later this year.”

The sudden rollout of online learning has also included training for new recruits with the development of an emergency eight-week training programme. The curriculum covers essential police learning to cover safe deployment of a new officer with the safeguard of team support or with a specific mentor.

To ensure consistency and fairness to candidates throughout the period of the pandemic, the College has confirmed that the online assessment process will remain in place throughout the remainder of 2020.

A College of Policing spokesman said: “To enable police forces to continue with planned recruitment we have developed an online assessment process, providing an innovative solution that enables all forces to continue the recruitment of police constables without the need for face-to-face contact.

“The online process enables an effective assessment of the required competencies and values and meets the current standards for assessing new recruits.”

The Police Federation has supported the development as a short-term measure to ensure frontline officers are not put under added pressure during the lockdown by having to work rest days to cover roster gaps.

Mr Bamber said: “We have made it clear that this training programme should not be seen as a panacea to any force level training issues, nor should it be seen as the approach to be automatically adopted for the training of new recruits. It is, as it says, an ‘emergency’ curriculum.”

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