Open entry to the police will bring new talent and ideas to a great institution.
I met a police constable in Cardiff recently. We were at National Police Memorial Day and I had spotted his Iraq medal. As anyone who’s spent time around ex-soldiers knows, campaign medals are like beacons in the night. We can’t resist a hello and a “when were you there?”
He had served in Basra in a long and distinguished career and left to be nearer his family. What was extraordinary about him was that he’d left as a Colonel and was now a Constable.
I couldn’t resist asking him how he had found the transition from senior military officer to police constable. He had much to say that I won’t divulge here, except that he loved the job. “I delivered a baby by the road the other day, Sir. You don’t get to do that as an officer in the Army.”
How many more are like him? Not many, I imagine. But wouldn’t it be better if there were? Of course ex-soldiers join the police, but not many officers. How many qualified accountants join, with potential expertise in tracking financial transactions? Or psychologists with an understanding of predatory behaviours?
I remembered this conversation on the steps of St David’s Hall as I read of the government’s plans to open up police recruitment. Here was an example of the best of people – down-to-earth and serving their community.
But do we make the best of them? Some will be happy to give up senior command for life on the beat. But many will need more rapid promotion, different challenges and greater scope.
That’s why these plans are a good idea. Forget PCCs, this is the reform with the potential to reshape policing for generations to come. Handled well it will breathe new life into venerable old structures.
The police service needs better leadership, more skills in new areas like finance and online crime and ready access to a wider experience base. Opening up recruitment is the best way to achieve this.
This is an opportunity for a new raft of applicants to serve their community. We need them.
More than that, though, this is an opportunity for the police. Our officers can compete with the best.
The police service has nothing to fear and everything to gain.