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Careers in Policing and law enforcement

Policing and law enforcement within the UK includes agencies responsible for: the maintenance of law and order; the prevention and detection of crime; and the reassurance and support for communities.

The UK justice sector works to create and maintain a safe, just and stable society. The purpose of the sector is to reduce crime and re‐offending, promote confidence in the criminal justice system, protect people and contribute to the reduction and fear of crime, and support the administration of justice.

The sector employs around 600,000 employees in the UK across a range of organisations operating with different remits.

Policing and law enforcement within the UK includes agencies responsible for: the maintenance of law and order; the prevention and detection of crime; and the reassurance and support for communities. The main functions are:

  • promote safety and reduce disorder
  • reduce crime and fear of crime
  • investigating crime
  • contribute to delivering justice in a way that secures and maintains public confidence in the rule of law

Policing organisations includes: 43 police forces in England and Wales; 8 police forces in Scotland; police service of Northern Ireland; Non‐Home Office Forces, such as British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Ministry of Defence Police; and Special Forces, such as Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency and Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch. Law enforcement organisations primarily work to protect the UK borders and frontiers, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and UK Border Agency.

Key facts:

  • In total, there are 321,828 people working in police and law enforcement, of which:
  • 262,124 people work within the police service
  • 62,231 work in Non‐Home Office Forces
  • 4,645 work in Special Forces
  • There are approximately 90 establishments across the UK with the majority employing over 200 employees.
  • Police forces in England and Wales employ 80,322 full‐time equivalent non‐uniformed staff to undertake posts in finance, personnel, scenes of crime and transport, force intelligence, etc.
  • Women across the justice sector as a whole tend to be concentrated in support roles.

Jobs in the industry range from: Police Officers, Immigration Officers, Police Community Support Officers, Force intelligence officer, Border patrol, Immigrations officer, Inspector, and Call handler.

Entry and progression

There are no formal educational requirements for entry to the police service. Recruitment and selection procedures are managed by police services at a local level, although there are nationally agreed competencies and a minimum entry age of 18 years. It can be an advantage to have some experience of working with individuals or groups in the community, such as sports coaching or working with local youth groups. Applicants need to be physically and mentally able to undertake police duties, so will have to undergo written and physical exams as well as complete a medical history. The Initial Police Learning and Development Programme is delivered to all recruits and in some forces this is delivered to Foundation degree level. Recruits can also complete the NVQ Level 3 and 4 in Policing.

There are basic eligibility requirements to become a Police Community Support Officer (PCSO), but unlike requirements for regular police officers there is no minimum age. Training for PCSOs currently varies between forces; however a new Certificate for PCSO Policing is being introduced during 2010.

There are no formal academic qualifications required to become an Immigration Officer, however most candidates are educated to A level standard. Some ability in a foreign language can be advantageous for applicants.

Requirements for Non‐Uniformed Police Staff, such as those in support roles, vary greatly throughout the forces. Qualifications and application process differ for each force and job role.

There is a range of industry endorsed courses, foundation degrees, vocational qualifications and training schemes. In 2010, a graduate fast track scheme will be introduced to help attract individuals with potential to progress rapidly through the ranks starting at constable.

The High Potential Development Scheme (HPDS) has been introduced to help existing officers become future leaders. The Scheme is a combination of work‐based training and academic study, leading to postgraduate qualifications. It is open to the ranks of constable and sergeant only.

Employment trends and future prospects

Across the justice sector as a whole, there is a forecasted need for 136,000 people from 2007‐2017.

The number of Police Officers has remained steady since 2006, with only a small decrease in 2008. However, across England and Wales cutbacks in funding from central sources are expected, which will have an impact on the amount invested in operational activity and recruitment. Northumbria, Derbyshire, West Mercia, West Midlands and Gloucestershire have seen a 2 to 4% increase in officers since 2007. Police staff figures have increased by 2% and PCSOs have increased by 17% to around 16,500 since 2006, but numbers are not expected to increase further.

Between 2009‐2011, there is funding provision to increase the Special Constabulary numbers from 14,000 to 20,000 across England and Wales. It is important to note though that special constables is a voluntary role and they do not receive pay for their work.

Migration between forces is popular, particularly away from smaller rural forces towards larger metropolitan forces. There is recognition within forces of the need for workforce to reflect the immediate community population with targeted recruitment amongst women and Black Minority Ethnic groups.

Skill requirements and shortages

In policing, skills needed at both the senior and front‐line manager level include return on investment, performance and financial management. There is also reliance in many forces that people already have robust ICT skills, but there is an increasing use of bespoke software, such as PDAs and Blackberries, which may have a long term impact on skills needs.

In the HMRC, change management, communications and writing skills, and leadership skills have been identified as areas for improvement. Within the UK Border Agency, ICT and electronic case handling skills, and multi‐agency working skills are needed for first line and team managers with other non‐law enforcement agencies including private custodial providers.

Across the board, others skills required include: management and leadership; performance and quality management; financial and resource management; risk management; commercial skills in contracting and procuring; ICT and computing; plus race and diversity.

Occupational trends

Police Community Support Officers are a new and emerging support staff role in English and Welsh police forces. In Scotland, this role has only recently been adopted in the forces to aid neighbourhood policing.

Justice sector occupational distribution

  • Managers and Senior Officials    9%
  • Professional Occupations    8%
  • Associate Professional and Technical    54%
  • Administrative and Secretarial    18%
  • Skilled Trades Occupations    1%
  • Personal Service Occupations    1%
  • Sales and Customer Service Occupations    *
  • Process, Plant and Machine Operatives    *
  • Elementary Occupations    7%

Salary levels

In police and law enforcement salary ranges:

  • Police Constable (on commencing service) – £22,680 to £25,317
  • Police Constable (upon completion of two years service) – £26,787
  • Sergeant – £35,610
  • All Police Officer roles have a £2,163 London salary weighting
  • Police Community Support Officer – starting at £16,000 rising to £18,700 after 5 years of service
  • Non‐uniformed support grades – from £11,400 to over £40,000 depending on the role
  • Immigration Officer – £20,968 to £26,214, all new entrants start on the minimum salary scale. Salaries at senior level rise to between £54,989 and £69,444. The role also includes London weighting ranging from £3,020 to £1,240.
  • Date published: 02nd October 2015