Police Officers DO NOT Need Degrees; They Need Common Sense!

We keep hearing (mainly from people with degrees) that police officers MUST have degrees. I am not talking about ‘policing degrees’ I am talking about ANY degree.

I left school at 16 and joined the armed forces where I served for five years before joining the Met, where I spent just under ten years on a 999 response team.

I left the Met to start my own business up (which was an insurance business) that I then sold several years later.

I do not have a degree, but I have a relatively decent amount of common sense, and I know how to communicate with people.

Would a degree have made be a better police officer? Nope. When I retired from the Met, a received a commendation from the (then) HR Director. Did a degree help me achieve this ‘exemplary service’ commendation? No, it did not.

I learnt how to be a police officer from the officers who had been on a response team a lot longer than I had been.

During my time at Hendon, my course average was 93%, but when I found myself on the streets of east London, I quickly realised that it was only common sense that would enable me to do my job.

I prided myself on being able to go out and hunt down the criminals who should not be on the streets.

Would a degree have helped me to develop the ‘coppers instinct’ that enables you to sense when something (or someone) is not quite right or up to no good? No.

The College of Policing thinks that a degree is essential to be able to investigate a crime.

It isn’t ‘essential’. But common sense is.

And common sense cannot be taught in a classroom; it can only be acquired through experience.

And a lot of that priceless experience was culled by individuals who, by all accounts, have absolutely no common sense whatsoever.

Don’t get me wrong; degrees are important – especially if you want to go down specialist routes in the police.

For example, to investigate complex financial crime, then you need to understand what it is that you are looking for and common sense won’t be the only tool that you can use.

But you do not need a degree to know when someone is lying to you.

You do not need a degree to know when someone is about to try and attack you with a weapon.

You need common sense.

You do not need a degree to know when a victim is hiding their loved one who has just assaulted them.

You need great people skills and a keen sense of understanding your environment based on your police ‘intuition’.

When I joined my response team, I knew a lot (on paper), but in reality, I knew nothing.

I learnt from the ‘old sweats’ on the team; they taught me and my probationer oppos what we needed to know and the rest was picked up by responding to 999 calls and by patrolling the streets.

Victims do not need people with degrees; they need people who understand empathy and compassion – two traits which cannot be taught in a classroom.

I have never had any interest in studying for a degree. I prefer to learn by experience.

I have built up a reserve of common sense that enabled me to start up a successful business in the financial services sector, despite having never worked in the sector before.

It was common sense that got me through.

By all accounts, if I wanted to join the police now, then because I do not have a degree, I would be knocked back.

I had one of the highest arrest rates on my response team and during my service received a total of four commendations.

Did a degree help me? Nope. Common sense did.

In summary, there is a place for people in the police force who have degrees.

And having a degree does not make you a good manager. People skills and common sense does.

When I had my business, my ten staff were happy and content, not because I had learnt about management and business in a classroom but because I learnt from trial and error.

I knew how to look after my staff and how to ensure they were productive and happy. I did not learn how to do this in a classroom.

If we start insisting that all police officers have a degree, then we will risk shutting the doors to people who would make fantastic police officers.

We need more common sense, not more qualifications.

6 comments

  • I am currently about to do a policing degree, wish i didn’t have to tbh

  • Quentin Stamp

    100% correct.

  • David Johnston

    Totally agree with what is in this message.I am a retired DCI who left school with basically no qualifications,served my apprentiship as a joiner before joining the Police Force.Throughout my service of over 30yrs of which I spent at least 90 Percent in the CID I always said that 95percent of the job was down to common sense and the other 5 you new who to ask or where to look for an answer.

  • These days it’s uncommon sense. Those that have been through the University indoctrination system will definitely be lacking it.

  • A very sensible and well thought out reply. I much prefer common sense. I have admiration for graduates but not everyone could go to university. I left school at 15 but always had a living, served in the army, prison service and as a lawyer’s clerk.

  • Sandra davies

    Don’t agree policing today is a world away from what it was in 60 70 80s it all depends on what degree you take criminology and phycology help you perceive the way people think and act I would not like the job of police officer as you are sent into all sorts of situations you don’t know what the outcome could be Drugs knife crime. Even domestic abuse police today are more like social workers as well as doing the other jobs ! I do think that being a PCSO for a few years prior the police force gives you an insight to whet you will be dealing with so can make the decision to go further this is my opinion I might be wrong but I also might be right ????

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