There are currently three main routes to join the service as a police constable (PC). The route taken will depend on whether a candidate has a degree or not and what routes the recruiting force offers.
The three main routes are:
The police constable degree apprenticeship (PCDA)
A degree in professional policing (PPD)
The degree-holder entry programme (DHEP).
From 1 April 2024 the police constable entry programme (PECP) will be added and forces will begin to offer this as one of their entry route options into the service.
The initial police learning and development (IPLDP) route will be closed from 1 April 2024, meaning there will be four different ways of becoming police constable from that date.
Different forces will have specific eligibility requirements, but in general candidates need to:
be over 18 years old and there is no upper age limit
be a British citizen, an EC/EEA national or a Commonwealth citizen or foreign national with no restrictions on stay in the UK
be in good health, including fitness and eyesight
have no criminal record (sometimes a force will consider a candidate with certain offences).
The current Government has committed to recruiting an additional 20,000 police officers in England and Wales by 31 March 2023. As at December 2021 an increase of 11,053 from the baseline:
8771 had been recruited from funding for the Police Uplift programme
499 additional officers had been recruited through other funding streams such as local council tax precepts
female officers made up more than 4 in 10 new recruits up to April 2020 and accounted for 45% of recruits between July and December 2021
11.3% of the new recruits are from ethnic minority backgrounds and as of December 2021 the police force is as ethnically diverse as it has ever been in its history, with officers from ethnic groups making up 7.9% of all officers.
In 2022, concerns began to be raised regarding attrition rates in forces leading to calls for a focus on retention as well as recruitment numbers.
Data from the National Police Chief’s Council has shown the average attrition rate of 9.1% for recruits recorded in November 2019 and leavers in April 2020. Of great concern are figures such as 19.3% of Northamptonshire recruits leaving during their probation period since the start of the uplift programme.
North Yorkshire recorded 16.8%, followed by Cambridge at 16.1% and Bedfordshire at 15.7%.
In late 2022, following the case of Sarah Everard who was murdered by a serving police officer, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) reviewed hundreds of police vetting files and found a significant number of cases where candidates should not have been able to join police forces. In 68 cases the review considered that candidates should not have been given clearance to join the police force and in a number of cases the review team found no evidence that forces had fully assessed risks to an adequate level.
In conclusion, HMICFRS made 43 recommendations, including establishing better processes designed to improve the quality and consistency of vetting decision making. As 2023 progresses, changes are likely to be implemented to support these recommendations.
Consultation on a revised College of Policing Code of Practice on vetting was published in early 2023 which will serve as a statutory piece of guidance. This means adherence to the Code of Practice will be assessed in courts of law as well as disciplinary proceedings. The consultation ended in late March 2023 and implementation of the new statute is expected by the summer.