Current topics

 Current topics list

Continuing Professional Development

​The Leadership Review provided an insight into the changing context of policing and its impact on leadership. CPD offers a way to ensure everyone in policing can keep their skills and knowledge relevant for that changing context, while fulfilling one of the defining requirements of being a recognised profession. CPD already takes place in several areas of policing, including functions such as investigation, public order and public order command, personal safety, covert operations, firearms and forensics.

There are references to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) throughout the Leadership Review. Although it's a phrase common within other professions, feedback during the review demonstrated that there are many views about what this means for policing.

What do we mean by CPD?

The College defines CPD as "A range of learning activities through which policing professionals maintain or enhance their capacity to practice legally, safely, ethically, and effectively." CPD supports the notion of lifelong learning and is a commitment to seeking to improve continuously, either within the scope of an existing role or to support career progression. Used effectively, it can boost confidence, strengthen professional credibility and help police officers and staff become more creative in tackling new challenges.
The College is developing a national CPD strategy and the emphasis is on individuals to take responsibility for their own CPD within frameworks set by the professional body.

CPD can be both individually-driven or core to a role:-

  • Individually-driven: CPD is directed by the individual in discussions with their line manager and includes activities that the individual identifies for their own personal and/or professional development.
  • Core: includes
    • National: learning or development defined nationally to support service-wide initiatives such as the implementation of the Code of Ethics, the National Decision Model or Evidence Based Practice. The learning may apply to all personnel or be differentiated by rank or grade.
    • Local/Force: this learning or development is defined by the Force to meet specific needs, such as IT systems, or to implement a Force-specific initiative or priority.
    • Role/Specialism: these are the specific requirements for specialist roles. For example, investigation, forensics, call handlers, public order.

What activities constitute CPD?

CPD can be: self-directed, in which individuals choose and carry out specific actions that support their own learning and development, or the learning and development of colleagues; work-based, in which an aspect of their current role requires or creates a learning and development opportunity; and structured or formal programmes which may lead in some cases to specific qualifications or credits towards qualifications.  Examples include:

  • Distance on-line learning, mobile applications
  • Taking part in online events (webinars)
  • Private study such as reading online or a paper relating to their profession or specialism
  • Reading/studying professional practice guidance, case law, inspection and inquiry reports etc.
  • Delivering a presentation on a subject in which they are fully competent and
  • Delivering training and teaching to others.


  • Development of personal and practical skills through activities such as shadowing and delivering and receiving coaching
  • Secondments and job swaps within policing or other sectors that have a clear link to their professional role
  • Being part of a working group
  • Taking on action research projects.

Structured/ formal programmes

  • Professional courses, seminars and conferences
  • Training courses provided within their force
  • Undertaking academic courses that have a clear link to their professional role.

It is important to note that these activities are not ends in themselves; reflecting on what we have learned through the activity, and how we might apply it or adapt and change our behaviour as a consequence, is the key component of CPD.


​The Leadership Review identified five major trends affecting the future context for police leadership, among them rapid technological advances and the Internet as a social space. In the early stages of the Leadership Review CASS Business School looked at the thinking and research underpinning our thinking and emphasised the change and disruptive effect of technology. They said we must not underestimate the likely impact on the future of policing and police leadership.

Thus the proposals in the review emphasise the need for organisational flexibility and agility in response to changes that are currently unknown or unrecognised. Agility will be required in the way staff are developed, organised and assigned powers, but also in the leadership capabilities to deliver change quickly and nimbly in the wake of technological change.

Crime in the digital sphere

It became clear in the course of the Review that the capabilities and standards currently applied to digital crime and investigation are inadequate.

The College of Policing has recently been supporting a Digital Crime and Investigation Project, led by the Chief Constable of Essex. In this we have been defining two basic standards that should underpin our response to digital crime.

Firstly those who are charged with responding to, investigating, or preventing crime, should be able to “patrol” the internet and digital sphere legally, just as they would patrol streets. They should be skilled at recognising and retaining basic digital evidence and have access to the tools and techniques to retrieve evidence from common devices. Secondly, victims of such crimes should expect a response that matches the threat, harm and risk of the crime, regards of how it was committed, on-line or in person.

Delivery of Services

The College of Policing recently published its view of what a digital police service could look like within the ‘digital capabilities’ vision. This covers, among other things, public contact (crime and incident recording online), digital evidence gathering (e.g. Body Worn Video), use of mobile technology by officers and staff, and use of social media. It is clear that forces will have to innovate and collaborate substantially in order to enhance digital services to the public and the way policing operates internally.

Implications for Leadership

Meeting these standards presents a significant leadership challenge. Most evidence suggests the police service falls a long way short of these ambitions and the Leadership Review should be viewed in the light of this challenge. Technological change may well precipitate change in the way police services are brigaded and delivered which would be more achievable with flatter structures, organised differently (recommendations 2 and 8). Additionally the proposals in the review, for powers to be assigned to police staff roles, would enable more technical specialists to take on policing functions (recommendation 7). Ultimately, managerial competence at every level will have to be of an extremely high level (recommendation 6) with skills in delivering change, including harnessing private providers and exploring other means to deliver policing services differently.

Pensions and movement into and out of policing Open Menu

​Central to the leadership review ambition is for officers and staff to exit and re-enter policing, maybe more than once, to gain experience and insight from other sectors and organisations. Feedback from those consulted, particularly police officers, raised questions about pension implications and other factors associated with exiting and re-entering.


While the proposals in the Review are based on what is judged to be the right direction for leadership in the future, we recognised that people make choices about their professional development and career progression based on factors such as pensions.

The Review Team looked at the different pension schemes and the impact on individuals. We recognised that the most recent schemes are less likely to have the effect of “locking” officers into their careers, albeit the new schemes are still not particularly portable. Having said that, within the public sector there is much more portability, with officers being able to transfer to a local authority pension scheme. Although the benefits are not quite as good, some officers are willing to make this trade-off for the experience they gain. Many officers we met in the course of the review were unaware of this option to transfer between schemes.

The Review Team foresaw, as people exercised their right to step into and out of policing in the course of a career, the need for officers and staff at all stages of their service to have access to good career and associated pension advice in order to assess options.

Movement in and out of the Service

The police service needs to be ready to accommodate more exit and re-entry at different stages of people’s careers. Thus recommendation 4 enables that to take place and for people to return at higher ranks. Recommendation 6 (improved leadership and managerial development) is a proposal that is linked to the College of Policing’s work in setting up an accreditation and qualification framework in policing. This is not only important to enable people to leave policing with their experience and expertise formally recognised through qualifications and professional awards, but more generally to ensure policing operates within a commonly used and understood framework of qualifications. That parity and understanding will assist when engaging in secondments and engagement with other organisations.

Special constables & volunteers in policing

​Special Constables and volunteers play an important role in delivering policing and are integral to the future of policing. A number of Police and Crime Commissioners and Chief Constables have expressed a commitment to expand the numbers and the roles of Special Constables, and are enthusiastic about cultivating volunteer movements in their communities to take responsibility for some policing services.

The Leadership Review identified trends and pressures that would encourage this expansion to continue. There was understandable concern expressed by some that volunteering would be used as a means of replacing paid employees, albeit the principle that volunteers provide “additionality”, adding to services or providing one where there would otherwise be none, is well established. As far as the Leadership Review was concerned, the potential contribution of volunteers to leadership in policing is still under-exploited and the frameworks to enable this are poorly developed.

Special constabulary
The Leadership Review recognised that Special Constables were well integrated into many areas of policing but, in respect of their leadership responsibilities, there continues to be an element of ‘us and them’. Special constables have a hierarchy, but that hierarchy is not integrated into the regular service. The Review concluded that, given the wealth of leadership skills and capability among specials, they should have the supervisory powers and responsibilities of regular officers provided they meet the same standards. In practice, this would bring policing into line with the way the reservists of the armed forces operate, where they are selected for their competence and developed to have the command and supervisory responsibilities of that rank regardless of whom they are leading.

If policing adopts such an approach it can then link specials into other Leadership Review recommendations, for instance, creating a new model of leadership and management training and development (Recommendation 6), introducing national standards for recruitment and promotion (Recommendation 9), and looking at the implications of exit and re-entry into policing (Recommendation 4).

In England and Wales there are over 10,000 police support volunteers, enabling those in communities to participate actively in policing and in providing services that a police force would otherwise not have the capability or capacity to provide.

In sustaining such an environment of volunteering, the Leadership Review concluded that volunteers could also be more engaged in providing leadership within the service. Findings suggested that there are a relatively limited number of volunteers who are given such supervisory or managerial responsibilities. This is a cultural and organisational issue for policing. The philosophy is very different within other organisations, such as the National Trust and many charities, whose volunteers are actively encouraged to lead teams or occupy positions of responsibility in the delivery of key services. It would not be not be appropriate to use volunteers in every policing role but for some functions, especially those involved in oversight of other volunteers, or management of community-based or less time-critical services, there is scope for developing a bigger cohort of volunteer managers in policing.

The Office of Constable

​The Office of Constable is seen by many as an important, if not core, element of policing. It was often a point of debate in the course of the Leadership Review, especially in discussions about the powers assigned to officers or staff (recommendation 7).

What does it mean?

The Office of Constable confers on a police officer legal powers of arrest and control of the public, given to him or her directly by a sworn oath and warrant. Each officer declares on oath that they will “faithfully discharge the duties of the Office of Constable”. The sworn constable holds independence of office. They are accountable to, and must operate within, the rule of law and must do so without fear or favour. Constables are therefore personally liable for actions or inaction, and their employment is defined as “servants of the Crown”, not as employees.

The holder of the Office of Constable must be apolitical, impartial, and accountable in their sworn adherence to upholding the law and their authority to exercise powers. The sworn constable is also bound by a set of regulations and codes which are laid out within Police Regulations and it is these that provide the legal framework that underpins the concept of the Office of Constable.

What the Review concluded

In the course of the Review concerns were expressed that if policing powers were assigned more flexibly to officers or staff then the Office of Constable would be eroded. In our research we were, however, introduced to professional frameworks in fields as diverse as medicine, the law, architecture, and dentistry, and they all provide safeguards in respect of impartiality, objectivity and accountability to the law, albeit without some of the detailed and sometimes rigid employment regulations that surround policing. In respect of recommendation 7, powers and authorities, we concluded that if there was a clear framework in place, based on professional standards and accreditation, then extending certain police powers to police staff was not a threat to the independence and impartiality of policing.

In a recent speech the Metropolitan Police Commissioner questioned the future of the Office of Constable. We believe that is an important debate that should be continued. While the principles underpinning the concept are undoubtedly important, the maze of regulation within which they are framed, and the division between police officers and staff, should be modified and modernised.

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