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Police force goes to court over plans to make all new officers

All new police officers will be required to have a degree All new police officers will be required to have a degree Mr Skelly said: “I have been raising these concerns with the College of Policing and the National Police ChiefsCouncil (NPCC) for more than two years since the impact of Police Education Qualifications Framework became clear,” he said. “The College has pushed forward ignoring the growing evidence that demonstrates the impracticality of their proposals from Lincolnshire. Their most recent communication states the intention to change Police Regulations to enforce the PEQF recruitment process from next year.” A police force is taking legal action over the controversial policy requiring all new officers to have a degree qualification.Lincolnshire Police is seeking a judicial review of the College of Policing scheme, which was introduced last year, arguing that it will place officers in the classroom rather than out on the front line.Chief Constable Bill Skelly said if the scheme goes ahead he will have around 40 fewer officers available to deploy at any one time, which amounts of 10 per cent of his overall strength.The requirement for all new officers to become graduates was introduced by the College of Policing in order to professionalise the service.New recruits will have to complete a degree course which is expected to require them to spend around one day a week in the classroom.But it has proved controversial with many serving officers, who regard academic qualifications as unnecessary for a job that requires a range of skills that many believe are best learned on the job.Mr Skelly believes implementing the policy in his force area will be unsustainable at a time when he has been forced to slash resources to the bone.He is also worried about the financial impact of having to pay for officers to attend the degree courses at local colleges and impact on the police pension scheme. Four years ago the Telegraph revealed how Mr Skelly’s predecessor, Neil Rhodes, had written to the then Home Secretary, Theresa May, warning her that his force faced going bust under the government’s funding arrangements.Mr Rhodes warned that under that structure, Bobbies on the beat would be a thing of the past in Lincolnshire, while those officers left would take much longer to respond to 999 calls.He said minor offences such as criminal damage and theft would have to be largely ignored, while investigations into issues such as historic child sex abuse and cyber-crime would stop.In a stark assessment, he warned: “If we were a business, then it would be being funded at below the cost of being in business. The cupboard is bare and it is likely that we will be the first force in the country to fall over.”Geographically, Lincolnshire is one of the largest forces in the country, covering almost 2,300 square miles.But with few urban conurbations and a relatively low population, the force has one of the smallest staff of all 43 forces in England and Wales. He went on: “Nobody in my force area, be it members of the public or fellow officers are saying to me, we want cops to have degrees.”What they want are people who can speak to them and relate to them. These are not skills that you can learn in the classroom. “Also I am concerned about what the drop out rate might be for perfectly good officer candidates who perhaps are not academically minded.”Mr Skelly has estimated that implementing the degree scheme will cost his force around £2.5 million a year.He is now seeking to challenge the policy in the courts through a judicial review, in a move that is being supported by his local Police and Crime Commissioner, Marc Jones, who is funding the court action.   Mr Jones said: “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 withoutchallenging the College would be unforgivable and the costs to the public both financially and in loss of service leave us with no choice.”Mr Skelly said he has already been forced to make £3 million of cuts in his force area and the extra cost of implementing the scheme could result in Lincolnshire Constabulary having less than 1,000 officers by 2020, which he said would be unsustainable.”We will get to a point where we are simply unable to provide the sort of service that the public expects and deserves.”DCC Bernie O’Reilly from the College of Policing said: “The College of Policing is aware of a potential legal challenge in relation to the implementation of the new entry routes into policing.”The training for new recruits seeks to prepare those entering the service for the complexity of the job and has been developed with colleagues from across policing.”We continue to work with Lincolnshire Police to enable them to join the other 30 police forces across England and Wales who are introducing the new training over the next year.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? 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