05 Jul Blog: Direct Entry: It's the evidence, stoopid
05 July 2018
The Federation’s Professional Development lead Dave Bamber takes a look at the latest findings on direct entry- a controversial topic at best – and we also talk to a top academic in the field, Emma Williams from Canterbury Christ Church University’s Centre for Policing Research (CCPR).
Ask any detective what is the single most important factor in any investigation, and to adapt a famous quote from Bill Clinton, they’ll always reply: “It’s the evidence, stoopid” as if there were any doubt about the matter.
And yet that’s precisely what detractors of direct-entry (DE) schemes have been complaining about ever since the College of Policing first introduced rank-based schemes a couple of years ago. Since then some forces have adapted the concept to apply to detective-only schemes. Only last month the Home Office announced it was launching a new national accelerated scheme, which would take a raw recruit to detective in just 12 weeks, to plug the national detective crisis.
Aside from the belief that good coppers should be multi-skilled or omni-competent – not just versed in one specialism or discipline – there is a growing clamour of people asking exactly where is the concrete proof that direct entry works. And that noise is coming from an unusual source.
(For the record, the omni-competent approach is championed by Durham chief Mike Barton whose force is the only one to have just been awarded ‘Outstanding’ ranking by HMICFRS for the third year in a row and it also has the best detection rates in the UK. CC Barton puts special pressure on senior officers to catch burglars and car thieves, seeing these crimes as a litmus test of the force’s investigational efficiency. Nor are these crimes the sole responsibility of detectives – in Durham, everyone is encouraged to play their part.)
But now a growing group of police academics have been adding their voices to the clamour, applying their thoughts to this issue and suggesting more research be done to understand outcomes of such schemes.
One university at the forefront of these conversations is the CCPR, experts in the field of policing research and practitioner engagement. They have taken a deeper look at the issues. This new external research, which has just been published, is an in-depth analysis of the qualitative data produced by PFEW’s most recent annual Pay & Morale Survey.
It highlights the concerns our members have about the vulnerability of those direct entry candidates as well as the position it puts our more experienced members in. When asked in the survey about their views on College of Policing initiatives, overall the Direct Entry scheme was the most commented on.
Emma Williams, Deputy Director of the CCPR, says: “The research threw up some very worrying concerns. Officers clearly do not feel that there is a sufficient evidence base to justify the DE scheme but one of their chief concerns is the lack of operational experience of the DE candidates and the service’s ability to be operationally resilient as a result.
“You see comments like: ‘You cannot learn policing from a book’ and ‘You cannot beat experience, it is not like managing Tesco’s’ and no wonder there is strong negativity and a lack of support towards the scheme.”
Ms Williams said there had been a noticeable perceived lack of engagement and communication about DE from the CoP towards the frontline, which had damaged the perception of DE and impacted on officers’ morale and sense of self-worth.
She said: “Respondents felt that it is not currently a level playing field. Officers are confused about what it means for their own continuous professional development when they see recruits sweeping in with no relevant experience at all. They are left querying what it means for their own career progression and resentful about the lack of recognition that they are having to support these candidates in the workplace. Consequently they do not feel valued or treated fairly.
“If DE is going to continue then the College needs to reconsider the current methods to communicate with the frontline.”
Dave Bamber adds: “Whatever the contention, we have to remember that these Direct Entry recruits are still our members. So whatever concerns we are highlighting about the various schemes, we will still support those members, no matter what.”