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Force welcomes its first Police Now recruits

In her latest blog, Alison welcomes new recruits to Devon and Cornwall who went through the new Police Now scheme.

There are few sights more rewarding for a Police and Crime Commissioner than seeing new officers in the final days of their training.

It’s inspiring to see people who have chosen a career which offers more than simply a salary, a straightforward career path and a pension. Yes, policing can be extremely challenging, but it’s a vocation that can offer huge rewards in terms of job satisfaction and variety.

If there’s one thing that unites communities when I’m out and about it’s that they want more police officers. We received a public mandate to pay for exactly that through public engagement work last year and now the force is fulfilling that obligation and increasing officer numbers to 3,015 by April 2021, a task that requires us to hire and train another 575 officers.

This week eight new officers join the Devon and Cornwall policing family – I’d like to offer them the warmest of welcomes - and they have come to the force from an entirely new route.

Police Now is an innovative scheme which is seeking to help deliver a police force that is more reflective of the communities it serves. Hopefully it will be part of a mix of recruitment tools that help us deliver officers who are equipped to develop skills that deal with an increasingly complex set of demands – from cross-border drug running to cybercrime.

Instead of coming through the traditional route of joining a force, these new recruits, all of whom required a first class or 2:1 degree, undertook their legal training before joining the programme, and faced a must-pass test on this area of knowledge on day one of an intensive six-week summer academy in London. After 28 shifts with a tutor constable who will support and assess them they will be allocated to a local community rather than to response teams. Their progress will be assessed at regular intervals until the two-year Police Now programme is completed. At this point they will be well placed to pursue a career in any area of policing or the criminal justice system.

Police Now is a charity established by the Metropolitan Police as part of its drive to tackle the problem that its force was not as diverse as the people it served. It has been strongly supported by the Home Office and early results are promising. It has already delivered more than 400 graduates who have outstanding leadership potential. The programme has seen a marked rise in the confidence of young people (17%) in the police where a Police Now participant has been active.

It’s not a fast-track scheme – candidates have the same chance of promotion as those who join us from more traditional routes – but does help us to engage people who might not have considered a career in policing.

The eight who are joining us in Devon and Cornwall this week either selected the force area because they are from here originally or because they identified it as a part of the country that they would like to work in – and who can blame them? But they certainly won’t be getting an easy ride. They are being asked to connect with some of the most challenged communities in the region, and come up with innovative ways to solve problems in these areas and make people safer.

I’m extremely glad that the Chief Constable has nominated Devon & Cornwall as one of the 17 forces to take part in this scheme. According to the Universities and Colleges Admission Service more young people are going on to higher education than ever before, and it’s only right that police forces make an effort to reflect this change in society.

Police Now is just one of the ways in which the force is aiming to improve the diversity of the officers who make up its ranks. Although there’s still work to be done, a great deal of progress has been made in this area to achieve a vision of a police force that’s made up from people of all backgrounds, so our people have different cultural, religious or cognitive difference that represent the people we serve.

While the vast majority of warranted police officers will still join the ranks through the traditional route – a two-year programme made up of an 18-week training course and response - police forces desperately need this fresh thinking on how they can solve problems like a national shortage of detectives.

Another example of the efforts made to achieve workforce diversity relates to the increasing reliance on police staff in what were traditionally roles filled by warranted officers. Police staff investigators are being used to support detectives in this critical area of policing. As well as being a different way to resource these departments these police staff come from a variety of backgrounds and give a fresh perspective on the cases they work on.

In Devon and Cornwall we have a proud track record of delivering innovative policing models and I remain committed to helping the Chief Constable to develop a workforce which is flexible, capable and agile enough to adapt as crime and society changes.

Alison Hernandez