Review of Police Initial Recruitment

​Why has the College of Policing conducted the review?

The review was conducted in response to concerns from the police service that the current model of police recruitment may not be designed for future recruitment needs of police forces. These concerns were driven by the need to recruit more diverse workforces that represent communities the police service serves, by strategic developments in police professionalisation (eg, ties in to Recommendation 3 of the leadership review (values based recruitment) and the update of the Police Professional Framework (PPF) behaviours incorporating values behaviours), and a need to find greater efficiencies within the recruitment model (eg, reducing timeline of application to appointment, better use of technology).

What are the aims of the review?

The aims of the review are threefold: a) identify what is important to force recruiters and key stakeholders in a future recruitment model; b) identify best practice and industry standards; and c) assess the latest evidence base for effective selection and assessment and recommend further investigation where the evidence base is less clear.

Who is the review aimed at?

The review is aimed at those who are involved in the recruitment (Human Resource and Learning and Development professionals and senior policing leaders) of new police recruits (police constables, PCSOs and specials) across the police service of England and Wales.  The review will also be of interest to those who are involved in recruitment in other sectors.

Who has been consulted?

During the review forces, staff associations, and the Home Office have been consulted in a number of different ways which have included being asked to comment on an interim report released earlier this year, being invited to a national consultation event held at Ryton in December 2015, and attending regular review working group meetings.  In addition, a peer review process has sought to seek views from relevant policing and non-policing recruitment/research specialists.

What is the review saying?

The College of Policing developed an evidence base which included robust research evidence and the identification of areas for future exploration that have potential to benefit the future of police recruitment. The key findings are outlined below:

In order to implement an effective attraction strategy, organisations need to focus on attracting quantity and quality of applicants. It is not sufficient to have large quantities of applicants – they have to be of the right quality or assessment outcomes in terms of subgroup (eg, minority groups) disproportionality can be exaggerated.

The College of Policing will need the service's help in identifying effective interventions to attract underrepresented applicants – there is some promising work by some forces in this area but there is still more than can be done.

The College of Policing is working with the Metropolitan Police Service, South Wales, Thames Valley, Sussex, and West Yorkshire in piloting a new recruit assessment process.  The new recruitment process will be designed by external consultants with the College of Policing defining recruitment standards.

The new recruitment process will include the most effective approaches to recruitment and will include the trialling of modern approaches to assessing candidates.  There is a need to consider technological solutions in recruitment and selection, such as the implementation of a national e-recruitment solution, and how these can be best delivered nationally.

Some promising evidence emerged around interventions that were reported as enhancing applicant experience and leading to better assessment outcomes.  Of particular interest is the findings of underrepresented groups performing better under conditions that require little additional expenditure such as candidates receiving recruitment messages which possess a positive tone or performing better when a clear rationale for why a selection procedure has been included within a recruitment process has been communicated.  Whilst the evidence base is promising interventions focused on enhancing police recruit applicants performance should be trialled and evaluated.

The change in the current Police SEARCH® Recruit Assessment Centre and the introduction of other interventions won't take place until a full evaluation, including costs and benefits, has been completed to determine if changes to process reliably identify applicants who are the right people for the rank of police constable, are predictive of on-the-job performance, do not adversely affect underrepresented candidate groups, and meet assessment delivery standards.  In terms of a new assessment process this is likely to have been evaluated, at the earliest, by the autumn of 2017.

Next steps


The College is currently evaluating a pilot of a new recruit assessment process, called Day One. An interim evaluation report has been produced, detailing findings from the first 12 months of the pilot. A full evaluation report will be available in Q4 of 2019.

If you any questions about the review or next steps, contact the College of Policing recruit team at  

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