The government scheme aimed at parachuting professionals into senior police ranks in order to improve diversity has gathered a handful of successful candidates and been deemed as an expensive flop.
The programme was launched last year and allows people with the right ‘life experience’ and skills to join the police at Superintendent level, rather than learning the ropes and up the career ladder, and was intended to end he “closed shop culture” in policing.
Critics however have played down the scheme and claimed it is a PR exercise after it emerged that just seven candidates had made it through the selection process this year.
Last year after launching the campaign more than 800 people applied for a place on the 18 month training programme. After rejecting under qualified or unsuitable candidates just eight people remained and are in the process of completing their training.
This year, however, the numbers applying have dropped by almost a third, with only seven potential candidates making it through to the interview stage.
The scheme has been questioned as to whether it will have any impact on improving diversity in a service that has more than 1,200 officers at Superintendent rank, with only seven of the 43 police forces opting to take part.
Shadow Policing Minister Jack Dromey told the Telegraph that while police recruitment needed reform, direct entry was not the way to do it.
He said: “The much hyped direct entry scheme has been an extensive experiment that promised so much and has delivered so little.
“Direct entry can play a role in both bringing in the technical capabilities, for example combatting online and cyber-crime, and increasing the diversity within the police force, but it is simply not working.”
“There is no substitute for experience, with those who lead learning from the sharp end of experience on the beat.
The chairman of the Police Federation, Steve White, which represents rank and file officers, also questioned whether the initiative was having any impact given the low numbers taking part.
He added: “This is being driven by an ideology over the culture of the police service, but 15 Superintendents across the country are not going to change the culture of the police service.”
But Chief Superintendent Nicola Dale, who leads the programme for the College of Policing, defended the scheme insisting it was not about the quantity but the quality of candidates.
She said despite initial opposition to the scheme from rank and file police officers, those candidates undergoing training had received an overwhelmingly warm welcome from their colleagues and were making excellent progress.
She said: “From the value point of view, this is just a start. We have got a lot of lessons to learn from the first two years. From a financial point of view it is expensive but it’s not about the money, it’s about opening up policing.
“It’s a really important first step to show we are not just a closed shop and for me it’s about improving the blend of senior officers.
“I think it is really important and worthwhile and it shows that ‘yes, we are prepared to do things differently’.”