Officers are reluctant to put their hands in their pockets for a certificate authorising them to do the job – but soon they may have no choice. Royston Martis reports.
It is, by all accounts, going to be a hard sell.
Here’s the brief – to try and make serving officers pay money, potentially more than £100 annually, to gain a certificate giving them the authority to do their job.
In short, to make them pay for a right to practice the roles they have been doing for years, if not decades. It is a question that has angered many who have said they will not be forking out.
But officers in years to come may not have choice. How will the College of Policing fund itself in the future? Will personnel have to become “chartered” professionals, such lawyers or accountants, as policing heavyweight Lord Stevens suggests?
It all begs the question – will everyone soon have to pay to police?
While many officers appear unwilling to dig deep to pay for their profession, it is one of the ways their policing and political pay masters see the future of policing.
The College of Policing has asked officers and staff whether they would be willing to pay a subscription fee as part of a consultation on the professional body’s future. Responses to the consultation – which ended in December – are currently being analysed.
In a strategic intent document, the College stated: “Comparable professional bodies charge their members a subscription fee. Even where the fee is relatively low, it helps the organisation maintain independence and gives its members a direct interest in the direction and performance of their professional body.
“There are no immediate plans to charge membership fees. However, we will explore all forms of membership, including voluntary subscriptions, as we develop our plans for the professional body.”
Over recent years, however, officers have suffered pay and increment freezes, increased pensions contributions, a loss of Special Priority Payments and are witnessing Competency Related Threshold Payments being phased out.
With all this, would they be willing to give up more money?
A PC from Greater Manchester Police, who asked not to be named, said: “I am going to be working longer to get less pension, have had several years of pay freezes and below inflation rises and pension contribution increases – and now they want more money out of my hard earned wage? I don’t think so.”
A PC from Surrey Police added: “Surely this madness has got to stop? As far as I see, this government will not be satisfied until every officer in England and Wales is ex-public school with a millionaire’s bank balance.
“It is stomach churning for the majority of us to have to watch the job we cherished, and were once proud of, reduced to a cash generator only accessible to the rich. I fear this will force many people to leave.”
Plans for officers to pay to police, however, do not appear to be confined to the current Coalition Government. Even if Labour comes to power in 2015, this still appears the direction things are going.
In the Labour-backed Lord Stevens’ independent review of policing, published at the end of 2013 – the former Met commissioner highlighted that the job would see greater professionalism if officers achieved “chartered” status, in the same way as accountants or lawyers.
Lord Stevens has said that in more than in his 40 years of working in policing, the job has “never been a profession”. He maintained that introducing a chartered status – which would cost officers to achieve – would help address this issue.
He highlighted that, if officers were given this status, it would help to recognise the judgement and consummate professionalism they demonstrate “every day of the week”.
According to his report, officers would need to register with the College of Policing and pay a “small” fee. As part of a professional register, officers found to have committed serious misconduct could be struck off, as is the norm in other professions.
Ian Loader, Professor of Criminology and Professorial Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and a member of Lord Stevens’ commission, said: “Ultimately the College of Policing has to find a way of becoming self-financing.
“The suggestion we make in the report is that, in the same way as any other professional association, in the way that lawyers pay to become members of the Law Society or medics the Royal College of Medicine, you can reasonably expect police officers pay a small amount of money to the College of Policing in order to be its members.”
A cursory examination of some other existing chartered professional groups in the UK shows they all have different grades of membership, costing differing amounts each year.
For example, to become a member of the Chartered Institute of Housing can cost around £162, the Chartered Institute of Marketing will set you back £124 and to be a member of the Institute of Legal Executives will leave you £164 out of pocket.
The cost of being part of the Royal College of Physicians is in the region of £48 annually while being in the Chartered Management Institute is priced between £114 and £354 per year.
Currently the College of Policing covers around a quarter of its £75 million operating budget from its own income, such as charging academic institutions for licences to teach pre-join policing qualifications. The body aims to be covering 51 per cent of its budget within “three to five years”.
Speaking last year Dame Shirley Pearce, Independent Chair of the College of Policing, suggested that recognised qualifications could prove an incentive to pay a membership fee.
She added: “We don’t want to do something that would not be supported. But some people have said they would be prepared to pay subscription fee to an organisation that enables them to have a certificate to show the world what their skills are.
“I spoke to someone who supervises a busy control room, which is a highly complex and high-pressure role. He described the skills required to do that job and he said ‘I would be willing to pay a subscription fee that enabled me to have a piece of paper that proves what I have done’.”
But College of Policing Chief Executive Alex Marshall also raised the prospect that officers may not have to pay. He told PoliceOracle.com in December: “At the moment we have no plans to charge a membership fee – we earn quite a lot of money from other areas. It may actually be that we never charge a membership fee.”
Steve White, Vice-Chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales said the staff association supported any measures aiming to further professionalise the service – but stressed that potential recruits should not deterred from applying for financial reasons.
He added: “Likewise, existing officers should not face further financial burden. We are working closely with the College of Policing with regards to these issues and how they will work in practice.”
In a statement, Chief Constable Marshall stressed: “We are currently assessing feedback from the strategic intent document and will examine the membership issue as part of our five-year strategy. At present, there are no plans for membership.”
So there you have it from the top. No plans for officers to pay to police – “at present”.
The hard sell of paying to police
See also - Certificate in Knowledge of Policing: Level 3 – Part Time