Home Secretary's College of Policing speech

Speech given by Home Secretary Theresa May at the College of Policing Conference 2014 in Ryton

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Home Office

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be back at the College of Policing nearly one year on from your inaugural conference. The creation of the College has been an important pillar in my programme of police reform, and I am pleased to see it doing as well as it is.

When I spoke to you last year I set out my vision for the College. I said then that the police are dedicated professionals. That policing requires specialist skills, training and expertise, but incredibly – up until now – it had not been recognised as a profession. That was a terrible aberration, and the creation of the College would help to put that right.

The College would be the professional body for the police. It would lead the way in setting professional standards and seeing that they are upheld. It would make clear the ethical behaviour and personal integrity expected of everyone in policing. It would seek out best practice and develop an evidence base of what works, and it would identify the policing challenges that lie ahead.

In short, the College would be the institution spearheading excellence and championing better policing and reform. Independent of the Home Office, it would be owned by the police, for the police, so that you can develop the leadership, training, and knowledge that you need.

And you have made an excellent start.

This July you published the new Code of Ethics which sets out clearly the high standards of behaviour expected from all police officers, staff and volunteers.

You ran the recruitment and training programmes for both direct entry and the fast-track scheme, ensuring that we can open up the senior ranks of policing and promote talented people quickly.

You are providing training and guidance on important and sensitive areas such as child sexual exploitation and domestic violence.

You have established Authorised Professional Practice on important policing areas, helping to cut down on excessive guidance, bringing consistency and encouraging the use of professional discretion.

And you are building an evidence base of what works so that in future police practice is always based on evidence, and not habit.

This includes sensitive areas like police bail. I am pleased that the College is developing evidence based guidance to bring consistency, transparency and rigour to the way in which pre-charge bail is used in criminal investigations. You have consulted on the operational guidance and will publish your findings shortly. But in parallel we must also look at statutory time limits on the use of pre-charge bail to prevent people spending months or even years on bail only for no charges to be brought.

I am clear that where the police hold sensitive powers, they must be used appropriately. This also goes to the heart of my reforms to Stop and Search, and I am delighted that all 43 forces have signed up to the Best Use scheme which was launched in August. And it is why we are conducting a review of the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. I am already aware that there have been concerns over the use of RIPA to access journalists’ phone records and that is why we are revising the relevant code to make clear that specific consideration must be given to communications data requests involving those in sensitive professions, such as journalists. This code will be published in draft this autumn and will be subject to a full public consultation so that anyone with concerns can feed in their views.

With the support of your frontline champions – I know that the College is starting to reach out to all in policing, encouraging those with policing expertise, whatever their position, rank or background, to come together to help make policing as good as I know you all believe it can be.

These achievements represent solid progress. They will ensure that the police continue to develop and evolve as a profession. And they show that the College has a fundamental role providing policing with the leadership that is so necessary for its future.

But this is only the start. As everyone in this room knows only too well, much work still lies ahead. That work will be necessary and wide-ranging, it will continue to professionalise the police, and it will help shape the police officers and police forces of tomorrow.

Leadership Review

Nowhere is that work more pertinent than in the Leadership Review you are undertaking.

It is clear that in future the police will need new types of leaders who can meet the demands of the 21st century. The context in which the police operate is changing fast. The evolution of modern technology, changing demographics and public expectations, and the challenges of improving police efficiency while at the same time cutting spending, means that policing needs to keep up.

Those coming into policing now also have different expectations. New recruits no longer automatically expect to follow a fixed career structure for 30 years. Those in leadership roles should have the opportunity to explore a range of experiences throughout their careers, perhaps benefiting other areas in the public sector, and allowing them to bring new skills back into policing.

As I have just said, the College has already helped to pioneer new ways of recruiting and promoting through its work on direct entry and the fast-track scheme.

I am delighted that this year’s direct entry scheme has proved so popular. There were a large number of applications: 867 candidates applied for the superintendents scheme, and 2,000 applied for the inspectors scheme.

In London alone, the Metropolitan Police received 595 applications for between 5 and 10 direct entry superintendent posts. 26% of the applicants were from a black or minority ethnic background compared to around 8.6% of traditional recruits, and 27% were female. I am pleased that shortlisted applicants have been interviewed and the successful candidates will be formally appointed shortly.

There are other initiatives too. Last week the Metropolitan Police launched Police Now, a scheme designed to attract the brightest and best young university graduates. It challenges them to spend two years on the frontline, working as dedicated ward police officers in some of London’s toughest neighbourhoods.

Just as Teach First revolutionised teaching in difficult inner-city schools, Police Now will transform community policing in some of London’s most challenging areas.

It will open up a career in policing to those who might not have considered it before, and its success will mean that in future there will be a new generation of police leaders in the Met.

But I have been clear that I want to go further. The Leadership Review will help us to do that.

I have asked you to look at how we can go further and faster with direct entry, how we can encourage officers to gain experience outside policing before returning later in life, and how we can open up the senior ranks to candidates from different backgrounds.

In future we will need leaders with a broad range of experiences, who can challenge old ways of thinking, and lead their officers effectively through a rapidly changing policing environment. I believe that there are many already in policing who have the talent to thrive in other professions, and I want them to have the opportunity to do so. Too many good officers only get that experience at the end of their policing career, and too few therefore bring back the skills they learn to benefit all in policing. I believe that needs to change.

But there is no one set of answers to police leadership. And I don’t want to tell you what solutions are right for you. The College was created as the professional body for the police so that you can drive ideas and best practice, and decide what is right for policing. I hope that you have conversations with all your members so that you can form the right evidence based solution. I look forward to seeing the outcome of that review.

Code of Ethics

The Leadership Review will help shape the policing of the future. But as I said last year, the College also has an important role to play in providing leadership now, and nowhere is that more important than on police integrity.

Since I addressed you last year, further events and revelations in relation to police conduct have reinforced the need for reform. I spoke about this in my speech to the Police Federation in May, and I don’t intend to rehearse those revelations again here today. But I am clear that the role of the College lies firmly in providing leadership on this fundamental issue.

The College has published the new Code of Ethics: Policing now has its code, just as the medical profession has the Hippocratic Oath. It leaves no room for doubt about what is expected of everyone in policing. It emphasises the importance of personal integrity, honesty and fairness and obliges all in policing to challenge and report wrong-doing.

I know that the College has been working hard to ensure that the Code is embedded in every police force across the country. It must underpin the actions taken by all those in policing, so that it can act as a guide to good decision-making for all officers, staff and volunteers.

Amid the significant challenges to the public perception of police integrity, it is important for the police to drive – and be seen to drive – their own response to “bad apples.”

And it is down to the College to ensure that every police officer up and down the country, no matter what their rank, no matter what their role, and no matter what police force they work in, knows the high level of professionalism and the respect for the public that is expected of them.

Evidence based policing

The work the College is doing on leadership, training and standards is vital. It will help to further professionalise the police. But a fully-trained, well-led police force will only be able to continue cutting crime if we understand what really works in policing.

Just as medicine and the law have a codified set of research from which all professional practice and knowledge is drawn – and which body of work is added to and improves over time – so too policing must be based on a core body of best practice and knowledge.

So the College has a much greater role to play. Not only must it drive leadership and ethics, but it must actively pursue an understanding of what works so that we can cut crime, make our streets safer, and serve the public better.

You host the What Works Centre for Crime Reduction – one of a number of similar centres which include health, education, ageing, local growth and early intervention. The centre will soon launch an online, clearly labelled evidence base of what works, and what doesn’t, and will make it available for officers across the country to draw on.

The College has also hosted its own capacity building fund to support research. Already it has funded a small number of focused research projects, specifically targeting those areas that will bring the greatest benefit to those working on the frontline across all areas in policing.

In addition, the Police Innovation Fund is encouraging officers to come forward with new incentives and better ways of doing things.

In 2014/15 the Police Innovation Fund was worth £50 million. Funding will support a wide range of innovative projects which will deliver savings and efficiencies, while encouraging collaboration and new approaches in the fight against crime.

The Metropolitan Police have been given funding for a Mobility Programme which aims to provide 15,000 mobile devices to frontline officers so that they can access police systems while on the move. The Met have predicted savings of £116 million over four years, and the programme will mean much less time spent behind desks, and more time out on the streets.

This year’s fund is also being used to trial new forensics capabilities. The City of London is implementing the latest behavioural detection tactics at important sites and transport hubs in the City. And Lancashire and Nottinghamshire forces are both testing the latest in DNA profiling technologies to significantly reduce the time it takes to conduct a DNA test.

These measures are a good start. But alone they will not be enough. As the College matures it will need to continue fostering links with universities and academics. It will need to constantly develop research and generate an ever better evidence base on the effectiveness of different strategies and practices for reducing crime. The projects you support and work on will also need to have a strong evaluating base so that we can improve practice over time. And I am clear that the Police Innovation Fund must go further too, to ensure that every bid is evaluated properly and its results shared with the College and other forces to learn the lessons of innovative projects.

This drive for an ever better evidence base is important. Not only for ensuring that the College becomes a first class institution; the holder of the best and latest knowledge on how to cut crime, but so that it can continually develop effective guidance and quality training. It is only by doing so that we can ensure the most up-to-date knowledge is put into practice and used by officers on this country’s streets.

I am pleased that in the next session you will hear about the research into body worn video in relation to domestic violence. It is exactly this type of research which contributes to a better understanding of what works so that we can put a stop to this devastating crime.

Research such as this is invaluable if we are to catch more perpetrators, and protect the public.


The College of Policing has already achieved a lot. But it is only two years old.

It must now lead the way in professionalising the police and developing better policing in this country.

I have always been clear that I don’t believe it is the role of the Home Office to tell the police how to do their job. You are the professionals and you will use your knowledge and judgement to know how best to fight crime.

The College has been created so that you can make policing better, and so that you can take ownership of policing’s future.

Police reform is working. The most recent figures published by the Office for National Statistics showed crime down by a fifth under this government, according to the independent Crime Survey for England and Wales.

We know what the challenges in policing will be: integrity, police cuts and leadership.

I know there is much more that you want to do, and much that remains to be done.

Your work on digitisation is immensely important if we are to ensure police forces are fit for the 21st century. I know the College has plans in place for rapid progress in nine areas and I look forward to seeing tangible results in the near future. The online conference that you are hosting in November will ensure that we have a national conversation on this issue.

The “five year strategy” which I know you will be launching shortly sets out a clear and ambitious vision for what the College intends to achieve with the help and support of its members. From building the evidence base through to the systematic introduction of continuous professional development, your achievements in the next five years will have a real and lasting impact on policing in this country.

Just as importantly, the strategy sets out the values that the College espouses – allowing everyone to have a voice, working collaboratively, making decisions openly and welcoming challenge.

The College is now established as an important police institution. You must now assume your rightful role as the professional body for policing; the holder of knowledge and regulator of training.

You must provide strong leadership from the centre; telling the police what works; acting as the national voice of policing; and ensuring police training, standards and ethics of the highest possible quality.

Published 15 October 2014