Blog: Experience, and not just knowledge, counts

12 June 2018

Police Federation Chair Calum Macleod

Police Federation Chair Calum Macleod

Chair Calum Macleod responds to yesterday's announcement about Direct Entry scheme

How would you feel if you were going in to hospital for an operation and you were told that the surgeon had only left their old job in accounting a few weeks ago?
 
Worried? Nervous? Angry?
 
But don’t worry; don’t be nervous - they will only be allowed to do minor surgery.
 
Does that fill you with any more confidence?  No – and understandably so.
 
It’s the same reason that many people like to see a little grey hair or the odd wrinkle on the person fixing our central heating system at home. Experience, and not just knowledge, counts.
 
But not so, apparently, for up to 1,000 new direct-entry detectives to be recruited to fill the shortfall in detective numbers identified by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Rescue Services. We learned this week that Government is to invest an additional £350,000 for a new direct entry detective scheme, in the hope of boosting detective numbers by 1,000 over the next five years.
 
The public deserve better. They want to know that they are getting the experience and policing knowledge that cutting your teeth in uniform brings. And I don’t accept that we don’t have the right people in the job already. It’s just that, over the years, we have seen CID units cut and detective numbers fall to the point that they are juggling numerous, often highly complex cases, and they unable to give any the attention they want to.
 
So, instead of a sticking plaster solution, let’s actually deal with the issues. Let’s deal with the issues of too few people, increasing demands, unbearable pressure, long and anti-social hours, cancelled rest days, annual leave declined, lack of promotion prospects. Let’s deal with these and make detectives feel valued again.
 
The police service needs to properly invest in its people. Despite the rhetoric of late, many people still join the police service for a long-term career. They want a profession where they can develop, learn, gain expertise and use that knowledge to help people. Crime has changed and we need to properly invest in training for officers to deal with the changes; not see it as an abstraction from duty and a therefore a hindrance.
 
As Karen Stephens, Secretary of the Police Federation National Detectives’ Forum, rightly identified, direct entry detective recruitment will fail to identify and invest in the exceptional skilled and capable people in the service already. It will fail to take the experience gained of walking the beat, speaking to the public, dealing with the heartache and emotion of victims and the knowledge of preventing and detecting crime.
 
All it will be is be another slap in the face for police officers; another door closed to develop skills and make detective policing a desired career choice; and another opportunity missed to actually tackle the pressures and demands within CID departments that resulted in the shortage of detectives in the first instance.
 
Anyway, if our policing and political leaders truly believe direct entry is such a good idea, then how come we never hear them call for direct entry Chief Constables or direct entry Ministers in Government?