Case study

Why study a Professional Policing Degree? — The University of Law

The BSc (Hons) Professional Policing degree at The University of Law equips you with all the skills and knowledge you need making it a great first step on the road to becoming a police constable

Alastair White is a lecturer in policing and former detective chief inspector at Northamptonshire Police. He spent 27 years working in mainly CID/proactive roles culminating in promotion through to detective chief inspector (DCI) where he spent three years as senior investigative officer dealing with murders as part of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit.

How does the degree help you develop the skills needed to become a police officer?

A policing degree does not automatically make you a great police officer. However, the knowledge you obtain about not just policing, but the wider criminal justice system, as well as elements of criminology, put you in a great position to succeed within whichever police force you apply for.

If I were interviewing a prospective police officer who would I choose, the one with a degree in an unrelated subject or one with a wide and deep appreciation of the criminal justice system, knowledge of police powers, an understanding of vulnerability and risk and, potentially some experience within the special constabulary?

What are the benefits of the degree over an apprenticeship?

Mainly time to embed your learning. You get the student experience as well as learning from experienced tutors to help you be the best you can be.

Other routes require you to put in 40-hour plus weeks (including shift work) and then study after hours, leaving little time for yourself. The drop-out rate is high, and at 18 years old there is plenty of time for full-time work later. Yes, it might help financially but you can also work while studying for a degree if you need to. By doing this degree you are ideally situated to become a part-time special constable.

Also, with the policing degree, you will come out with a degree and the knowledge that policing is either for you or not. If it isn’t then you will have a worthwhile degree for other roles within the criminal justice system.

Why is the course important prior to joining the police?

I wish I'd had this input before joining the police as it would have made me a much better police officer in my early years.

As a police officer you have a number of powers that the ordinary citizen doesn't. These are many and varied, and you need to know what you can and cannot do at a scene, often literally within seconds. This course gives you the confidence when walking out of a police station on your first day that anything that confronts you, you will know your powers and how to use them. You will have knowledge of the criminal justice system and its processes and above all you will have a level of confidence you wouldn't have gained without the Professional Policing degree.

What are the courses unique selling points?

You have access to experienced expert instructors and lecturers with years of service in the field. This experience is utilised in the course with lots of practical learning. We have a crime scene suite that gets regular use, and virtual reality learning coming soon.

We also were one of the first policing courses to dispense with online learning (although it is still used when necessary), preferring a face-to-face tutor/student input which, we believe, gives you an enhanced student experience.

We have close links with several police forces who come in and deliver talks at all our campuses. This includes:

  • British Transport Police
  • the City of London Police
  • the Metropolitan Police
  • Northamptonshire Police
  • Thames Valley Police
  • West Midlands Police
  • West Yorkshire Police.

Our employability teams and careers service can help you with any applications and put you in touch with the right people for any advice you require.

What type of students would suit this course?

This course mainly attracts those who wish to join the police force. The Professional Policing degree has been designed to meet the requirements of the College of Policing National Curriculum for the role of a police constable under the National Policing Education Qualifications Framework. The degree has a currency of five years following graduation for recruitment into the police and you must still apply to the police force and satisfy their eligibility criteria. However, not all our students intend to join the police, there are lots of careers within the criminal justice system. We also offer degrees in policing and criminology combined and criminology or law.

What advice do you have for anyone considering a policing degree?

Do it, you won't regret it. You are gaining much more than a degree, you will gain confidence in public speaking, thinking on your feet, you will make lifetime friends and potentially you will have a rewarding career in policing or the wider criminal justice sector.

How has the nature of policing changed in recent years?

It is has changed immeasurably. The first person I charged I had to type out the charge onto carbonated paper. On patrol I had to go to a phone box to receive any prolonged instructions from control room. Interviews were completed on a tape machine, the list goes on.

What are the top three issues within policing and how can graduates help with these?

  • Trust - The recent incidents with the Metropolitan Police have highlighted that the bond of trust we have with the public is wearing thin, especially among females. Graduates are taught the professional knowledge of the ethics, skills and attitudes that are critical to twenty-first century policing. They will be part of the change that needs to happen.
  • Technology - Just the sheer scale of data produced these days is phenomenal. Harnessing and presenting digital data for a prosecution is a logistical challenge, and because police are risk averse, they are now disclosing huge amounts of material, which takes police officers away from what they should be doing.
  • Policing the online environment - This is a big one, from multi-million pound frauds, to online sex abuse, to disinformation posted online. The police need to be better equipped to deal with these issues in a dynamic and robust way.

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