POLICING is potentially ignoring the ‘pool of talent’ who have already passed Sergeants’ and Inspectors’ exams and are putting acting Sergeants ‘at risk’, the Police Federation of England and Wales has said.
The College of Policing has announced that Sergeant and Inspector exams cancelled in March due to COVID-19 will be held online instead with dates yet to be confirmed.
However, PFEW Professional Development Lead Dave Bamber says officers who have already passed their exams are being ‘overlooked’ and that ‘quick fix’ solutions are being deployed to fill gaps in the service.
He said: “I personally feel the cancellation in March is being used as justification to ignore a pool of talent who have already passed their exams.
“Instead of promoting those who have worked and studied hard, they would rather opt for an operational quick fix to plug the gaps rather than investing in and developing their workforce.
“It seems to me to be spreadsheet management where the gaps just need filling with little thought for the overall impact.”
He added that this is exposing acting Sergeants to risk.
Dave explained: “Successful development of our membership is the forefront of my mind as a professional development leader – but it’s also our place to recognise officers in acting roles have specific needs while pointing out there are hundreds of keen and qualified officers who are waiting for vacancies.
“In many cases I’ve seen, leaders are taking advantage of young and enthusiastic constables who are placed in a tricky position of turning down the opportunity of becoming an acting sergeant for x amount of days.
“Also, you don’t want to come across as incapable when there is the promise “this will look good for further promotion”, which sounds really great, but the system doesn’t allow for this local manipulation in the long term as national assessments rightfully need to be passed.”
Acting sergeants who have not yet passed their exams are being exposed to potential risks operationally, legally, and from a welfare point of view.
Dave added: “Where is the support, the mentoring, or actually – in most cases – just someone else to bounce an idea off? You can pretty much guess that the divisional commander who has heaped such praise on the acting sergeant isn’t there at their shoulder when the pressure starts to mount.”
He added that having support and mentoring is vital for acting Sergeants, who should get more ‘admiration and respect’ from the forces they serve.
He said: “When I was first promoted, I was on a shift with other more experienced supervisors; they helped, they guided, and their real-time example was invaluable.”
“That mentoring was crucial, but most of our newly promoted, let alone acting sergeants, are left to fend for themselves, which isn’t fair. It isn’t really helpful, and it doesn’t assist in developing the individual or the organisation.
“Constables will understand what good leadership looks like and in turn, have the potential to harness these skills and be a strong line manager. Hopefully, unlike some others more senior, they won’t label longer serviced officers who have passed the exams in the distant times of Ospre as “stagnant”; that really isn’t a way to value and motivate those who you supervise.
“But there are certain areas which require vital book knowledge. There will be times where they will be expected to provide legal advice to their colleagues – and with no track record of their legal knowledge, this can put them in a difficult position with nothing to fall back on. The onus is on them, and the pressure is ramped up.
“I have nothing but admiration and respect for acting Sergeants – I just wish the wider organisation did as well.
“The organisation should be putting their officers first, and I think they need to go back to the drawing board and properly think about this. The risks are too great if they get it wrong.”