Judicial Review action launched by Chief Constable of Lincolnshire over scheme to require all new police officers to obtain a degree

In an ‘exceptional’ legal move, the Chief Constable of Lincolnshire Bill Skelly, supported by Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones has begun the first stage in taking the national College of Policing to Judicial Review over its plans to introduce a requirement for officers to achieve a degree level qualification to enter the police service.

Lincolnshire Chief Constable Bill Skelly. EMN-191107-112028001

The College of Policing is the national body which was established by the Home Office in 2012 and Mr Skelly is taking issue with its plans to implement a new officer recruitment process which requires all recruits to have an academic degree or be prepared to commit to study for one in work time.

But he says it will mean 40 fewer officers at any one time for front line policing - roughly 10 per cent of his deployable strength – because the study time has been significantly increased compared to the current recruitment programme, increased turnover and failure to complete the course.

In addition, there will be extra cash costs to pay for contracts with local academic providers and a requirement for more training staff within the force. There is no estimate for the impact across England and Wales but if it is 40 officers for Lincolnshire, Mr Skelly says it could easily be over 4,000 for the country.

Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones. EMN-191107-112052001

“I have been raising these concerns with the College of Policing and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) for more than two years since the impact became clear,” he said. “The College has pushed forward ignoring the growing evidence that demonstrates the impracticality of their proposals for Lincolnshire. Their most recent communication states the intention to change Police Regulations to enforce the Police Education Qualifications Framework (PEQF) recruitment process from next year,” says Mr Skelly.

He is being fully supported by Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones who is funding the court action.

“All I am asking for is a stay of implementation (to the summer of 2023) to give time for a legitimate evaluation of the new system being imposed across the country and for the results to be assessed and any adjustments made,” says Mr Skelly. “In the meantime we are developing an enhanced initial training package that meets the requirements of the modern police officer without creating an unaffordable impact on the police service in Lincolnshire.”

In addition to the financial costs, Mr Skelly says that no assessment has been made on such issues as the additional strain on the Police Pension Scheme or on the impact on equalities. Mr Skelly has also questioned the future of the Special Constabulary under PEQF.

He said: “The College is requiring that every new police officer be a degree holder and have undertaken years of initial training. At present, Special Constables have the same police powers as our regular officers but do so after a limited period of training and a lower required level of educational qualifications. I see this as unsustainable after the introduction of PEQF”.

Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones has also written to his PCC colleagues in England and Wales saying that many of them share his views on the introduction of PEQF.

He said: “I was elected by the people of Lincolnshire to represent them and act in their best interests regarding policing and crime. Put simply, if I did not challenge the imposition of these untested and far reaching changes that will see fewer officers on the streets of my county and the country as a whole, I would be failing in my duty.

“The public did not support a council tax rise earlier this year so we could put extra cops in classrooms and to have fewer than ever fighting crime and protecting communities. I would have expected the College to present a single business case that includes a detailed academic rationale, full financial assessments, detailed equalities assessments and a full benefits realisation plan,” said Mr Jones.

“Protecting the people of Lincolnshire is our number one priority and to do that we cannot support a further loss of officer numbers to this ill thought through scheme. We believe that losing around 40 officers from the front line without challenging the College would be unforgivable and the costs to the public both financially and in loss of service leave us with no choice.”

The current National Police Promotions Framework (NPPF) was developed and trialled over several years before then being implemented over an additional three-year timeframe. The PEQF is expected to be simultaneously developed and implemented across all Home Office Forces by January 2020, with very few or no trials.

The College have attempted to consult with various people, such as Chief Constables and PCCs. These results were presented in their December 2016 report in which they failed to address key concerns or make any changes to their plans, say Lincolnshire Police.