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Outgoing chief talks direct entry, police degrees and training overseas

In an in-depth interview with PoliceOracle.com, CC Alex Marshall discusses his time as the first head of the College of Policing

From training police in countries with questionable human rights records to the introduction of direct entry, the College of Policing has had an eventful life since its inception in 2012.

The body, which replaced the National Policing Improvement Agency, has sought to set guidance on a raft of issues and increase its membership in order to act as a knowledge sharing entity.

Chief Constable Alex Marshall was the first chief executive the body has had, and will leave policing in September.

Speaking to PoliceOracle.com before his departure, CC Marshall said direct entry is winning people over and proving to be a good initiative for policing.

“I am interested to see now that more than half of forces have said they want to take some people from direct entry.

“I was originally sceptical about it myself,” he admitted, but said: “These things need to be tested and you need to prove the concept but what we can say is that the first small groups of are making a positive impact, a positive impression.

“I think people are now confident the 18-month programme is robust and not everyone gets through and the people that do get through can do their job.

“I don’t doubt that the vast majority of people who reach senior positions in policing will have come through every rank as I have.

“I still expect that to be the most likely route for people coming through but I still think [direct entry] can add value to policing alongside the traditional routes.”

All officers will be have to be educated to degree level by 2020, a standout College initiative. The University of Cambridge alumnus believes this will improve the overall standard of officer in England and Wales.

The officer, in the 37th year of his career, said: “It has now been approved as the scheme for entry into policing in the future and I think it will give a much better introduction for people joining up.

“It will give them better preparation for the things they will face on the frontline: cyber crime, vulnerable people, victims of domestic violence, child exploitation and so on.

“The will be a generation of officers who have better initial training for the things they are going to have to deal with in their roles.

“Previously we had been using old fashioned methods of training for six weeks and then releasing them into the wild, I want to see them trained throughout their careers.

“I think the apprenticeship scheme is particularly good it seems to me a very good way for perhaps those who would be put off by a traditional degree or feel they could not afford it to join.”

On the idea such a level of education or training might act as a barrier CC Marshall is unperturbed, adding: “I think there is a risk it will put people off but policing is a demanding job anyway and I would be really surprised if the type of person we need was put off by the idea.

“I think the apprenticeship will attract people who wouldn’t normally go for a degree and will help create a more diverse work force.”

There is some debate among rank-and-file officers as to the relevance of the organisation but the former Hampshire chief is confident of its growing influence.

He said: “We have 60,000 to 70,000 in our online shared knowledge area and then we have our membership platform.

“So far 18,000 people have joined up and that figure is rising after being launched a few months ago.

“Once 15-20 per cent of everyone in policing has joined up as a member I think that will be very significant, that is then a very big group of people who can talk to us about areas of policing we should concentrate on.”

The training of police forces outside the United Kingdom, particularly those with question human rights records such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and China, has proved a controversial issue for the College but CC Marshall defended the practice.

He said: “I think it needs to be right for the College and policing in the United Kingdom and it needs to be delivered using our code of ethics. It should be in the UK’s interest to sharing skills around the world in terms of raising standards, particularly where it is based on a good human rights code of ethics.

“We want the ability to share information with other countries and it’s valuable for them to be working with the UK to achieve similar standards.”

Despite some criticism, CC Marshall feels he has achieved a significant amount in his five years and is proud of what he leaves behind.

He said: “My biggest achievements will be around new standards in education around issues like child sexual exploitation, vulnerable people, domestic violence and mental health.

“We have a much better curriculum now being delivered and the number of police officers in frontline roles involved in research and building on the knowledge and evidence base we have is growing.

“The degree and apprenticeship scheme, which I think is a much, much better way of introducing people into policing, and most recently the work around mental health and officer safety training I am particularly proud of.”

CC Marshall will now join the International Cricket Council to fight corruption in the sport.

A spokesman for the body said the “recruitment process” to find a new CEO is “ongoing”.