Recruit training: action needed

Gwent Police Federation chair Steve Thorpe has called for immediate action after a new study revealed a lack of support and training for tutor and student constables.

Steve said the research by Police Federation for England and Wales (PFEW) was worrying and fears newly-qualified officers could be going on the beat without the necessary skills they need.

His comments came as the PFEW’s Tutor Constable Support Survey is published, two years into the Government’s uplift programme, which aims to recruit 20,000 officers by March 2023.

Steve said: “It’s really disappointing and worrying to see failings in the system to train new officers. Student officers need the very best training and supervision to be able to meet the many and varied demands of policing our communities, but they’re currently being failed by the system.

“That’s not to place the blame at our tutor constables, who are also being let down, tutoring students on top of their workload and time constraints, and not always with the proper training themselves.

“We need immediate action to put it right and maintain the confidence of the public.”

The survey found that four out of 28 forces which responded to the survey revealed no formal training is offered to tutor constables prior to training recruits, while a quarter of respondents indicated tutor training in their force lasted just one day (five forces).

Overall, most said tutor training lasted between four and five days which demonstrates how inconsistent the picture is across forces.

The demand on policing, coupled with uplift numbers increasing, has also seen tutor officers raise concerns over juggling their frontline role with training student officers. In some cases, respondents noted the normal tutor to student ratio in their force was up to 4:1.

The Federation said it raised questions about the quality of training for student officers and it has also has concerns that members taking on tutoring roles will be left tired due to the extra workload.

Additionally, more than three quarters of respondents (22 forces) said tutors in their force do not go through a formal selection process before taking up the role. A majority (64 per cent) said there is no specific selection criteria that tutors need to meet.

This raises questions around the impact on the professional development of tutor constables, the Federation said. PFEW believes they should be accredited for the important role they undertake.

A majority (17 forces) said they do not receive any formal qualifications as part of their tutor training.

Respondents also stated a high level of new-in-role officers were applying to become tutor constables due to a shortage in interested experienced officers. Several disclosed this sometimes means officers, who have not long completed their own probation, are taking up a tutor role.

Dave Bamber, PFEW professional development lead, said: “We are deeply concerned about the lack of support and training for tutor constables and the negative impact this can have on both student officers, tutors, and ultimately members of the public.

“It is basically just one big mess and is an ineffective way for forces to get the best out of their workforce to protect the public. How are the new recruits going to learn and be ready to go out on the beat if the time invested in their development is divided between four in some cases?

“This is unsustainable and puts additional pressure on colleagues who are already under immense strain. We appreciate work is being conducted by key stakeholders involved in the uplift programme to try to fix these problems, but it simply doesn’t go far enough, nor is it timely enough to make a real difference to the current intakes.

“The Federation has a seat in these discussions and will be pressing for the system to be urgently overhauled to better support all officers

“We strongly suggest tutor constables should be substantive in rank and role as well as suitably trained and accredited. They should also be volunteers for the role and given time to develop and to perform the task appropriately.”