Police Officers Need people Skills not Degrees, says Union Leader

Police Officer and sign

People shouldn’t need to have a degree to become a police officer, Hampshire Police Federation has said.

Much-debated degree courses have resulted in police recruits lacking in ‘life experience’, according to one senior Chief Constable. There are also reports that some recruits have been shocked about the dangers of the job and the need to do night shifts.

The College of Policing wants all recruits to gain a degree before joining the force – or gain one whilst on the job – rather than the more traditional training programmes.

Hampshire Police Federation Chair Zoe Wakefield said the scheme could leave people with the life skills needed for the job out in the cold.

She explained: “When I’m asked if officers need a degree to be an officer, it’s always a big fat no from me. It always has been and always will be.

“I came into policing with a degree, but in between A-levels and Uni, I did aid work out in Romania, that’s all the recruiters really wanted to know, about how I developed my people skills out there and what it had taught me about life, what it had taught me about other people and myself.

“That massively influenced whether I was accepted or not. I worry with the mass recruitment going on that we are thinking about quantity over quality.”

Surprisingly, new recruits are not interviewed face-to-face by the force in Hampshire, Zoe added, meaning that their suitability for the role is not always picked up.

She said: “People are joining with no face-to-face interaction – people who may appear to be a good candidate on paper are not always right to be a police officer in person.

“The form and tests are all done online, it was a decision made before COVID, and it’s all down to dealing with the number of recruits… unfortunately, we do see some people who just don’t have the right people skills for the job.”

Officers don’t need the degree label placed on them, Zoe added, and it’s putting good people off from signing up who may think they can’t get a degree or don’t want to go down that route.

Zoe warned: “It means we’re missing out. Former military personnel, for instance, used to be a good source of officers, but they understandably don’t want to have to do a degree after their years of military service.

“Even on the apprenticeship, they have to study for a degree – why? They have the right life experience; they don’t need that degree to be an excellent and effective police officer. I’ve worked with ex-RAF, army and navy who made excellent officers, so it’s a real shame.”