Case study

Police constable — Fiona Hitchcock

Fiona studied a degree in modern foreign languages (French and Spanish) at Durham University before joining Police Now's National Graduate Leadership Programme as a neighbourhood police officer

How did you secure a place on the programme?

I initially applied for Police Now's National Detective Programme, but due to a high volume of applicants, I didn't make it to the next stage. I then applied to the National Graduate Leadership Programme and was successful.

I began my residential training and was attested into the police service with Hertfordshire Constabulary. I'm now based at St Albans Police Station where I'm serving as an intervention officer (also known as a response or 'street duties' officer) before I take up my neighbourhood role.

How does the Police Now graduate programme work?

The programme lasts for two years. After receiving a conditional offer (following interviews and assessments), we were required to complete knowledge checks, which prepare you for the intense academy. They strengthen a candidate's legislative and policing knowledge, as there's no expectation for you to have any prior policing knowledge.

Once vetting, references, and knowledge checks have been completed, the training academy begins. It involves seven weeks of theoretical and practical learning delivered by serving officers who are there to provide support. It's a mixture of residential and daily training at your home forces. You also get the chance to spend time with and get to know other graduates on the programme, as well as being assigned a performance and development coach to support you personally and professionally.

After finishing the academy, participants then start their 10-week response phase. You'll join a response team and respond to 999/101 calls on a shift rota. During this phase, you'll practice and demonstrate your skills and confidence to achieve Independent Patrol Status (IPS).

You'll then be deployed to a neighbourhood team, to carry out your main role as a neighbourhood police officer for the remainder of the two years on the leadership programme. This involves investing time into your community, to strengthen public confidence in the police and help some of the most vulnerable members of society.

Police Now run impact events where candidates from across the country meet up to share what impact their projects have had on their communities. There will also be skills days organised throughout the year to provide further insights into topical issues and refine your skills so you're best equipped to deal with them.

In the second year, there's an opportunity to undertake a four-week secondment. This may be with an external partner organisation such as the Home Office or a specialist unit within your police force. This allows officers to work with partners, bringing new skills and learning back into their force, and experience the day-to-day life working in a specialist unit.

Finally, you'll be enrolled at university to complete a Graduate Diploma in Professional Policing. Police Now are partnered with Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) who deliver this course.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love how every day I learn something. The work I take on can be challenging, but I feel a sense of accomplishment in delivering results and seeing progression in such a short space of time. I enjoy working with like-minded people who also want to help others. People typically call the police in desperate situations, so being a visible and reassuring presence to those who need it most makes me very proud to be a police officer.

What are the challenges?

Since I'm quite early on in my policing career, it's very easy to get imposter syndrome. During your first encounters with the public while wearing your uniform, it can be quite daunting as you're required to make quick decisions in a high-pressure environment. I went from working in retail to working on the policing frontline in three months, which is quite a surreal feeling. However, there's constant support from your peers, mentors, and coaches. The key is to not be afraid to make mistakes and to always learn from them.

How has your role developed and what support have you received?

I began my initial training 17 weeks ago and a lot has happened since then. I've received an immense amount of support from Police Now staff, my mentors at Hertfordshire Constabulary, peers on the leadership programme, my performance and development coach, plus my LJMU mentors. There's always someone to reach out to if you have an issue.

There are learning and development opportunities available throughout the leadership programme and I'm looking forward to reviewing my progress again 17 weeks from now.

What are your career ambitions?

I'm an ambitious person but am also open-minded to where I'd like to be in five years' time. I have ambitions to fulfil a leadership or supervisory role within the service and feel very supported to achieve this thanks to being a Police Now participant.

In the meantime, I just want to throw myself into as many areas of policing as possible, to really gauge what role is best suited to me. The options for specialist roles within the police are endless.

What advice would you give to others considering joining the police?

  • Look into the different routes into policing. The many pathways include Police Now's National Detective Programme and National Graduate Leadership Programme, Degree Holder Entry Programme (DHEP), Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship (PCDA), Initial Police Learning and Development Programme (IPLDP), Accelerated Detective Constable Programme (ADCP), and special constables (volunteer police officers). Depending on your area, education and future ambitions, some routes may cater specifically for your situation.
  • Don't shy away from mistakes. Everyone makes them and what matters is learning from them.
  • Research the police service's 'Code of Ethics'. Its entire ethos is based on these values and officers are expected to display these in all situations - both on and off duty. To me, the most important ones are honesty, integrity, and respect.
  • Think about your personal motivators and drivers. In the police, we're looking for people who want to transform communities, reduce crime and anti-social behaviour, as well increase public confidence in the service. Why do you want a career in policing?
  • Ask lots of questions. Speak to serving officers to learn more about the job and career progression routes available to you. Alternatively, follow your local force on social media and look out for recruitment days, as they give you the opportunity to visit your local station, ask questions, and see what the career is like.

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