What’s the process for constables wanting to get their hands on a set of these, other than ‘borrowing’ some off an unattended coat?
As far as police forces go, the Westshire Constabulary is one of the worst around.
Officers from pretty much every other force will agree that particularly when it comes to Westshire’s Sandford Division, their bobbies are some of the laziest in Britain and it comes as no surprise that the public are not happy.
Pretty controversial, no? Well actually, no.
You see, whilst from reading the force’s extensively detailed profile, you may think that you’ve stumbled across England and Wales’ 44th police force, Westshire is actually a completely fictional police force used as part of the police promotion process.
Yes, Jeremy Sarno hasn’t really been the chief constable since 2009, Kristina Metz isn’t the force’s PCC and there aren’t 98,000 people living in West Ferry, which doesn’t exist.
It’s all part of the catchy ‘Objective Structured Performance Related Examination’ (OSPRE) which officers have to pass to qualify for promotion to the ranks of sergeant and inspector.
The examination process is – or at least to date has been – split into two separate stages.
The first is a 150 question, multiple choice law exam lasting three hours and capable of causing even the most prepared officers’ heads to explode right there and then in the examination hall.
This is OSPRE Part I, if successful officers are then able to progress onto Part II which if you’re reading this around mid to late October 2013, officers will be sitting about now.
This was the exam I took last Friday at the College of Policing’s Ryton campus.
With even more head exploding capability than the first stage, Part II involves constables assuming the responsibilities of a sergeant or inspector for five role play scenarios.
Each involves meeting an actor playing a dissatisfied member of the public or an officer with a discipline issue, the candidate has five minutes to resolve the issue with an assessor scoring them on competencies including decision making, professionalism and leadership.
It’s an odd, nerve-racking exam and one that officers hope they pass mainly so that they avoid having to put themselves through the exam again the following year.
With Part I and Part II both passed, an officer can consider themselves qualified for the next rank and then awaits promotion boards – formal interviews – at which if they are successful, they then are promoted permanently.
Promotion to ranks above inspector takes place via interviews rather than funny role playing as above, it is also possible that officers not to have passed their boards can ‘act’ up a rank temporarily to gain experience.
As I’d suggested earlier, the above framework is up for some imminent tinkering with Part II of the process due to be scrapped and replaced with something called the National Police Promotion Framework (NPPF).
This means goodbye to the role actors with the funny costumes that they don’t wear but should do, and hello to a work-based assessment lasting twelve months with a set of stripes of pips at the end of it.
The change is taking place as under the old system, many more people were passing the exams than there’d ever be room to promote hence fostering some unrealistic expectations for those completing the process.
Personally, I’d add that Part II always seemed an obscure assessment that offered no guarantees the successful candidates would be suitable to undertake the rank and as such, appeared to fail in its purpose of vetting potential leaders.
The new system has been trialled in a few forces already and should be introduced nationally from next year.
So there’s police promotion as it is, and as it will be, in a nutshell.
It’s an exciting step to take and daunting too, some of the officers sat in exams now will be future Chief Constables and hopefully will be fortunate enough to lead forces performing a little better than Westshire!
Anyone interested in the finding out more about the NPPF can have a look at the College of Policing’s Police Promotion Framework and also at the NPPF FAQs.