Policing life is best learned on the frontline

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Divisive, unfair and even dangerous are just some of the concerns raised about a controversial programme, to allow ‘experienced’ leaders from the private, public and charity sectors to directly enter the police at the rank of superintendent.

Over the next few months 20 applicants will be chosen nationally to undergo 18 months of intensive training aimed at bringing a ‘breath of fresh air’ into senior police leadership.

There is no doubt that outside the police service there are truly exceptional individuals who have the potential to dynamically change police leadership and culture.

However, this programme seems very similar to teaching someone to swim by dropping them into the deep end of a pool and I am not convinced it is fair or safe for the candidates, career police officers or, most importantly, members of the public. The ‘direct entry’ superintendents will be paid at the same rate as ‘real’ superintendents even though they will not be qualified to command major public order or firearms incidents or be put in charge of murder inquiries.

This has the potential to create a degree of confusion among other officers during the initial stages of major incidents. An officer may suddenly discover their superintendent is limited operationally and they need to seek advice and operational leadership elsewhere.

These candidates will be missing so much on the job training. You gain essential experience from working demanding 24-hour shift rotas with under-resourced, overworked and often inexperienced teams. Dealing with violent, drunken or mentally unwell people and victims, delivering death messages, experiencing the actual impact of crimes and the effects of chaotic lifestyles, simply cannot be taught in a classroom.

A superintendent, who has never made an unsupervised arrest or experienced the physical emotion of being involved in a frightening or tragic operational situation, is void of so much credibility and their character is untested.

The other obvious concern is these truly exceptional candidates will join the police for a few years during which they will devise and implement allegedly new and better ways of working.

Then having added policing to their impressive CVs they will seek higher paid and less demanding work outside the police service and leave a trail of chaos in their wake!