CPD - the Five Ws

Across the police service, there is an individual responsibility for undertaking CPD.  This article explains the what, the when, the who, the where and the why of CPD.  The how is explained here.


Continuing professional development (CPD) is a core life-long learning strategy that ensures an individual consistently meets the competency requirement of their role and is continually seeking to further enhance performance throughout their career.

The College of Policing has designed and developed a CPD framework for policing to support you to maintain and enhance your competence throughout your career.  Over recent years, CPD has become an integral requirement of most professions. This is because the development of knowledge, skills and behaviours has a key role to play at every level of the workforce. It ensures they each have the required skills to enable them to do their jobs to the best of their ability and to keep up to date with current practice and thinking.

The College CPD model is based in part on the idea of reflective practice.  Reflective practice leads to deep understanding and enhanced confidence and is most effective when shared.  Our experiences at work can be used to learn fresh insights into ourselves and the way we do our jobs.  To learn in this way requires self-awareness, the critical evaluation of events and situations and a general willingness to examine our own performance.  It is thinking about what we have done in order to find ways to improve on how we and others do things in future.


The concept of CPD is not new. It is likely to be something you already do informally and spontaneously on a frequent or daily basis.  The important issue is how often CPD events and activities are reflected upon.  Ideally this would be after every learning event or development activity but this is not always possible, particularly for those of us with operational, dynamic or demanding roles.  Good practice is to use whatever method you prefer to capture, record or note your CPD activity in a timely fashion as a stimulus for later reflection.

If your role requires being part of a professional register, you are seeking promotion or your employer is appraising your performance you may be required to provide evidence of your CPD activities.  Regular, consistent reflection and evidence gathering is the best way to establish and maintain an awareness and appreciation of your development and developments needs. CPD is also an important part of any Professional Development Review (PDR), formal or informal appraisals and for anybody in the Assessment & Recognition of Competence (ARC) process.


CPD is unique to the individual and we have a responsiblity for our own CPD.  The requirements and specific demands of our roles, the needs of the communities we serve and our professional interests and aspirations should inform much of our thinking and planning about CPD.  You may also look to, or require, your line manager's guidance on your CPD activities, and there may be a need for your line manager to direct your CPD activities.  It is advised that you provide your line manager with a summary of your CPD activities when appropriate, such as during the PDR or ARC process or as part of your ongoing development.

CPD should often be shared.  Reflective practice is most effective when shared with others, particularly in peer to peer and professional groups and networks, either in person or by distributed means such as online communities or social media.  Professional development is a two-way process and sharing your progress, motivations and insights with others is a highly recommended activity. 


CPD can be any activity which helps your professional or personal development.  The circumstances of CPD are diverse and arise on a daily basis.  The continuing element in CPD emphasises the steady abundance of opportunites available to us, much as it does the regularity with which we should engage with them.  Taking an active or conscious role in your CPD will allow you to develop an awareness of when a learning event can be reflected upon and turned into a professional development activity.

If approached properly then formal CPD such as workshops, conferences and seminars can be engaging and rewarding, but as with any self-directed activity it requires some planning and consideration.  Whilst the quality of the input is significant, it is the output of CPD that is important.  CPD isn't just about attending a conference or training course or earning points from attending events.  Informal development activities such as listening to podcasts, watching video content and reading professional or specialist publications can all provide equally valuable development opportunities.


CPD activities bring benefits to you, the policing profession and the general public.

CPD should be valued as a core life-long learning strategy that ensures you meet the competency requirements of your role, that you are able to maintain these and that you continually seek further enhancement of your competence throughout your career.

By maintaining your CPD, you can:

  • gain new skills and knowledge
  • keep up to date with the latest trends
  • demonstrate your commitment, competence and professionalism
  • enhance your credibility as a professional by being a member of a dedicated professional body
  • improve how you adapt to change (e.g. by being up to date and relevant).


​DocumentLatest version number​Publication date​
​CPD framework​1.01​15 August 2016
​Code of ethics​NA

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