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'Remote and insufficiently useful' College of Policing vows to change

Poor products, concern over usefulness and distance from frontline officers have been identified in a major review of the College's work

The College of Policing has admitted “much needs to change” after a fundamental review flagged concerns from every level of policing over its effectiveness.

The “sobering” message from officers was that it was too remote from the service and insufficiently useful to frontline officers.

The review was ordered last year by the College’s Chair, Lord Nick Herbert who established it a decade ago when he was the Policing Minister.

He said: “When I established the College of Policing as Policing Minister, my ambition was clear: it must improve the standards of policing by empowering officers with the skills they need to keep people safe.

“Ten years on, it is sobering to see that many of the challenges the College was set up to address remain, and, in some cases, have increased. Improving policing leadership at all levels – which will be central to the College’s mission – is critical to addressing these challenges.”

Frontline officers have raised concern that decisions on difficult issues are not being made: calls for guidance on an acceptable approach to carrying out stop and search have not been met despite pressure from campaigners and the media.

And the shift to policing degrees has added to pressure on tutor officers – with different courses being delivered by universities.

Detailed findings, based on the views of 15,000 officers and staff plus forces, staff associations and PCCs, revealed serious concerns.

Core findings:

The findings echo concerns raised more than a year ago by former College CEO Mike Cunningham that it is viewed as a tool only for joiners and people seeking senior promotion rather than a career hub for CPD. 

He also warned some Chief Constables don't see the value of professional development.

The College's response to lockdown had rapidly moved sergeant and inspector exams online and it has relaunched its website to improve access to training material.

And support for leadership development to reach senior roles – such as the strategic command course was also praised.

For most officers, training is delivered by forces when it has a renewal date or in a worst-case scenario is ordered as reflective practice following a failure in role.

In response, the CoP has set out plans to ensure officers at all levels have access to quality CPD and ensure it is properly prioritised by managers.

Lord Herbert said it cannot achieve “the necessary cultural change on its own”.

There was a vote of confidence from the government with the announcement of £1.1m towards a new National Leadership Centre.

Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, said: “It’s good to see the College thinking hard about its position in the policing family and its usefulness to the front-line officer. This review begins to answer the question 'Why would I ring the College of Policing?', and it will form the basis of an exciting new chapter in the organisation’s development.”

The College’s executive, which includes senior staff association leaders, was well aware of the concerns.

And new Chief Executive Andy Marsh had already warned that it needed to become more relevant to frontline officers, saying it needed to be able to offer guidance that could be accessed by a response officer “at 3am from their phone”.

He wants to build on the goodwill gained during lockdown and push further with development of its online learning portal.

He added improvements had to be made to help forces avoid more of the serious misconduct cases seen during the past two years.

Mr Marsh said: “Policing is full of dedicated officers and staff who work selflessly to make a difference every day. But they need our help.

“The sometimes-overwhelming demands and challenges placed on officers and staff mean they rarely have the opportunity to reflect and learn, or even, look after themselves and their own wellbeing. These challenges should never be an excuse, but if they are not addressed by strong leadership, they can create breeding grounds for the type of toxic culture seen recently.”

He added the College was committed to connecting better with officers of all ranks: “I am confident that the findings of this review, combined with the committed efforts of the people who work across the College, will mean policing’s professional body will provide real value to the service and the public in the coming years.”

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