17 Year Old Recruits. Is This What Policing Needs?

Last Updated on October 23, 2020 by RetiredAndAngry

There was an article in The Thunderer, and others, yesterday announcing that recruitment into the Police Service will be opened up to 17 year olds. This seems to have quite literally polarised the world of Social Media.

Personally I’m opposed to it. The main reason that I am opposed to it is one of Life Experience. I was 19 when I joined, and 20 by the time I first hot the mean streets of North West London. with the benefit of hindsight I’m not certain that I was adequately equipped. I had survived 16 weeks at Hendon, none of this Distance Learning, CBT Malarkey, then 2 full days per month local training until I had completed my first two years.

Do I think I was adequately prepared? No, but not because I hadn’t been sufficiently trained, but because I didn’t have sufficient life skills and experience to back it up. All the time I was paired up with a senior Constable all was well. The senior Constables and some of the Sergeants and Inspectors were brilliant, they also patrolled the streets, they knew what me and the (very few) other recruits needed and we were properly tutored and mentored. I get the distinct impression that would not be feasible today.

In the other corner is a group that I assume includes a number of serving officers who are ex military. They quite reasonably point out that we recruit 16 year olds into the military, train them, then send them off to foreign parts to fight and possibly die. That is absolutely correct and I can understand why it is used as an argument against me. The difference, in my view, is that they fight as a unit, under close supervision on the battlefield, and in company with soldiers, sailors, airmen, far more experienced than they are. Police Officers can find themselves either alone, or part of a team of only 2, who are faced with anything from a difficult domestic dispute to a rampant, machete-wielding murderer, at close quarters. Once again it’s just my opinion, and I accept that there will be contrary opinions out there.

Also lining up against me, unsurprisingly, is the Collage (sic) of Policing. They most definitely think it’s a good idea, but they would wouldn’t they, they have to help Boris reach his target of 20,000 extra officers. At 17 years old they can’t possibly be Graduates but I can see the attraction of the Apprenticeship root, hopefully leading to a degree but without the Student Loan. I can’t help but wonder how many of them will hang around once they’ve got their Degree, as we all know that a Degree does not have to be relevant to a particular profession to get you a job.

The College of Policing said: “Reducing the age you can apply to be a police officer from 18 to 17 means the police service is able to recruit from the biggest possible pool of people at a time when it is looking for an unprecedented number of new officers.

“The restriction on 17-year-olds applying, particularly through the police apprenticeship route, meant the service could potentially have been losing good candidates to other careers.”

I’m not sure about that last sentence but it will certainly make it easier for Boris to reach his 20,000. I’m not convinced that the Collage should be a positive part of that, smacks of getting involved with Politics to me. I’d rather they came up with some innovative ways to improve grass roots Policing than made Boris’ life a little more comfortable.

Apart from anything else, these 17 year old recruits won’t even be old enough to get a round in at the bar. A minor issue I agree, but it makes one think.

Finally, this scheme does nothing to address the problem of mid service officers leaving the serving early. Retention is rapidly becoming a huge problem and one that does not appear to be being adeqately addressed.

I refer you back to a recent piece wot I wrote. https://retiredandangry.co.uk/the-ever-thinning-blue-line

The number of Voluntary Resignations as a percentage of all Leavers is rising. The 5 worst affected Forces individually, and I have no idea why, were Bedfordshire at 65%, Kent at 53%, Surrey at 52%, Northamptonshire at 49% and Cambridgeshire at 45%.

Those are stunning figures, and whilst they represent the 5 worst affected Forces, it does not make comfortable reading for anyone with an interest in Policing.

So, I leave you with this thought. Which ‘solution’ would be better for Policing? 17 year old recruits or solving the Retention problem?

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