A new initiative to improve police skills takes off in December, amid hopes that it will improve the use of data and evidence by officers as they strive to improve performance and drive down costs.
The Home Office has just announced that Alex Marshall, chief constable of Hampshire (pictured left) will head the College of Policing. It will be more of a ‘virtual’ college than a campus-based institution and support the training and capacity efforts of police forces rather than itself provide courses. But the government hopes that it will improve police operations and set standards for specialist skills and training, in fields such as investigation, intelligence gathering and firearms.
The government hopes policing will become cleverer, allowing cuts in what it calls bureaucracy as well as ‘driving down crime’. Home Office minister Damian Green said: ‘the college will be the engine of police reform, enhancing professionalism and setting the highest standards of integrity. It will allow us to develop the change in culture crucial to British policing.’
Mr Marshall has been chief constable in Hants for four years and is credited with establishing a national police air service, cutting costs on the way. He talked of the college cutting ‘unnecessary policies in policing’, replacing them ‘with practical, common sense approaches based on the evidence of what works.’
But assessing what works depends on more police officers being able to read the data and count the numbers. A test for Mr Marshall and the new college will be how far it picks up the work commenced by the Society of Evidence Based Policing and similar initiatives, pushing officers and police managers to study crime patterns and police deployments closely.
Police officers are going to be able to do the numbers and the College of Policing will need to insist on more stats capacity.