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Policing – the new graduate career path?

Launched in 2014 as a two-year leadership development programme, Police Now has a mission to transform communities, reduce crime, and increase the public’s confidence in policing. By recruiting outstanding and diverse individuals, it aims to develop leaders in society and on the policing frontline.

The links between crime, deprivation, and opportunity are widely documented. The fact that you live in a more deprived area shouldn’t increase the likelihood of you fearing, suffering, or getting involved in crime. Unfortunately, there is a body of evidence which suggests that all of these hold true. Our most disadvantaged communities experience twice the rate of property crime and four times the rate of personal crime, compared to those areas in the next worst decile for crime.

The proximity of police officers to our communities’ most entrenched social issues means that we are well placed to address them at the root, as well as responding to their consequences. The Police Now programme has a vision of our society where the links between crime and deprivation are broken.

As anyone who has experienced the very best of the British policing profession could attest, high quality policing can contribute to the transformation of a community, laying the foundations for flourishing neighbourhoods, and the lives of those who live there. It is Police Now’s overarching aim to contribute to the creation and development of safe, confident communities in which people can thrive. Our ‘Theory of Change’ is that by attracting Britain’s best graduates to a policing career, training them intensively as community leaders, and then deploying them as police officers in those communities who need us most, we can have a disproportionate impact.

Police Now is designed explicitly as a leadership programme – bringing the brightest into policing and placing participants into demanding roles where they can develop as leaders within a single local community over the two years of the programme. Participants will be trained as highly effective police officers, but will also be expected to develop a clear vision for local change – co-created with their community – and to take a collaborative and strategic approach to pursuing that vision, looking beyond the parameters of their pure policing role.

David Spencer, Director of Police Now © Police Now
David Spencer, Director of Police Now © Police Now

Our initial research with final year university students revealed perceptions of policing which – while not perhaps surprising – provided us with an understanding as to why it has not traditionally been seen as an obvious career route for large numbers of the UK’s best graduates. Some 38% of the final year students responding to our initial surveys said that they “did not go to university to join the police”. Some of the comments included that policing would be “boring work” and not “intellectually challenging enough”. As anyone who has had even the shortest of policing careers will attest, the work is rarely boring and leadership as a police officer in a deprived community is challenging in every way – including intellectually. Only 5% of our respondents told us that they had even considered applying for a policing career.

Police Now aims to demonstrate that the policing profession and the programme itself are careers that the very best of Britain’s graduates should consider. The challenges and opportunities inherent in a policing career have the potential to fit well into graduate expectations. Graduates tell us that the most important motivations for them in choosing a first career are leadership opportunities, responsibility, challenge, excitement, variation, and altruism – all integral to policing.

At the end of the two year development programme, participants will either continue in a policing role or will leave the profession taking with them lessons of leadership and a passion for transforming deprived communities. We as a profession need to better articulate the work we do, how we do it and why. In years to come having a cohort of Police Now ambassadors working in business, politics, policy-making, journalism, and other professions will support us in that mission. It cannot be right that given the importance of policing within society the House of Commons has 90 former Special Advisors, 100 lawyers, but not a single former full-time police officer.

Established only last year, Police Now has already made great strides forward. We have attracted impressive graduates to join the profession (over 1200 applicants for our first cohort of 70 places, with 56% of applicants saying they would not have applied for a policing career if it weren’t for Police Now). We have developed a training programme unlike any other in policing, and recently described by a senior policing colleague as “the best planned and designed training programme I’ve seen in ten years”. Now we need to deliver on making a difference in the communities who need us most in the years to come – contributing to transforming them and the police service that serves them.

Featured image: Officers on beat by West Midlands Police. CC BY-SA 2.0 via Flickr.

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