I have been meaning to write this blog for a while and as I sit here studying for my definitions check this Friday, I can think of no better time than to avoid said study and put into words my experiences over the past five weeks! I'm hoping this will give prospective recruits a little bit of insight into the IPLDP format and I intend on writing a series of blogs as my time on the course progresses. So here goes...
In my force, an IPLDP course consists of 18 recruits, no more, no less and not limited to any particular background. On my course we are a fairly good mix of ex-PCSOs, ex-Special Constables as well as four recruits with no policing background at all (I myself previously serving as an SC for the same force). As the weeks on the course go by you soon notice that all of that past experience is largely irrelevant and actually counterintuitive on occasion - you really are unlearning all that you've learnt and are starting back at square-1! This gives those from outside of the service somewhat of an advantage in my opinion and you may well find that the trainers and bosses agree with that train of thought! Much, much more is expected of you as a PC and this is reflected in the training. Not to put anyone off, of course, I'm having a great time thus far and am thankful to be where I am! Anyway, I shall take you through my weeks thus far just to give you an idea of what to expect!
For all intents and purposes, week 1 was very much an introduction to the Police Service and my force in general. We received input from all the relevant bosses, a talk from the Police Federation (who had us signed up to a million different things by the time they'd left!) as well as various other guest speakers with introductions to different aspects of the Police Service. We started this week in civilian clothes as at this point we were not sworn in constables! The heat that week was unbearable also, so office wear was not the most comfortable (mind you, neither is the uniform itself!). Day 2 in the first week we had our induction exam. This exam tested our knowledge on topics detailed in our induction folders that were given to us at the welcome evening two weeks prior to our start date. All of the recruits were nervous for this exam, perhaps a bit too nervous than we should have been, but everyone pulled through and passed! The following day we had our fitness assessment. This is not designed to be a pass / fail assessment as we had already had this prior to starting training (national standard of 5.4 on the bleep test), but rather to gauge our level of fitness. The assessment consisted of the bleep test to destruction followed by a spin on the Fitech bike, which determines the level you should be hitting on the bleep test. This, unfortunately, is where we sustained our first casualty on the course. A recruit with lasting injuries from a recent car accident was unable to participate in the fitness due to pain in their neck. With this being quite high-risk and with rest / physio being the only remedy, it was decided by the trainers and occupational health that the recruit would be leaving our intake and held back for another. This was obviously quite emotionally distressing for the recruit as they, like all of us, had worked very hard and jumped through hoops to get to where they were - it was sad to see them leave. The recruit was gone by the following day and another prospective recruit lined up to take their place in the next week. I can't overemphasise how precious places on these courses are... My particular force accepts only the best candidates to fill vacancies for PCs and there is always somebody ready to take your place if, for whatever reason, you can't continue...
On the Thursday of week 1 and with all introduction and assessments out of the way, it was time to get attested! Despite me having done this before as an SC, this time was different - more special and poignant. The entire morning was more-or-less spent learning our attestation inside and out... In our force, we read the attestation in both Welsh and English and have to say it in unison. For anyone who has read the Police attestation before, you will know that it isn't exactly written in the plainest of English - the same applies to the Welsh! It took us a while for us all to get our pronunciations right and our pauses nailed down, but we had it polished by lunch time! We then donned our No.1 uniforms; tunics, dress shirts/trousers, helmets/hats and boots (bulled to perfection) and made our way to the local Magistrates Court. There were a few hiccups along the way, a particular constable forgetting his helmet and another falling victim to a heavy dollop of seagull poo, but the less said about that the better! Upon our arrival at the course we were promptly informed that Magistrates were not available to attest us today... However, a District Judge was present (sitting in on a case previously) who was happy to swear us in - a rare treat! After a rather sweaty and uncomfortable wait in the lobby of the court, we were directed into the main courtroom and read our attestation in front of the judge - all went well and the attestation sounded great! He did fall off his chair at one point, but we remained composed... We were now Police Constables - sworn in and eager to crack on... From now on we would be turning up to class in our freshly pressed uniforms and expertly bulled boots (still getting the hang of that...). To top the week off we had a talk from the Chief Constable - this was a great opportunity for us to ask questions re the future of our careers in the service and for him to share his ideas for the future.
Onto the next week... Again, a bit more introduction. We were introduced to the force IT systems - yawn-fest, though it has to be done I suppose... Many of us had seen this all before in our previous roles, but a refresher is always useful. The class were also issued with the Pocket Notebooks (PNBs) and we were given a run-through of how and what to record in them. We went through various PNB exercises, writing mock entries to get a feel for how we might best use our PNBs in the future. A lot of forces these days don't issue PNBs to their officers and some may look at them as a somewhat outdated form of note-taking, however, our force still recognises a use and importance in their existence and I am inclined to agree!
The next day we had an input from the Professional Standards Department (PSD). PSD are responsible for ensuring the integrity of the force and the maintaining of the image of the Police Service in general, as well as routing out any corruption within the body of staff! This input was presumably meant to put the fear into us, however, we all found it very informative and interesting. We are all now very aware of what you should and shouldn't be doing and how an abuse of your position can easily land you without a job! It is mostly common sense, but it doesn't hurt to hammer it home.
A lot of input on diversity this week - a big topic for the police. In the ever-changing and diverse society that is the British population, it is more important than ever for the Police service in the UK to recognise how we can better represent the people we serve. During these sessions we had guest speakers from various backgrounds relating to disability, sexual orientation/gender, religion, etc. all of whom provided very interesting and thought-provoking talks - we were also given the opportunity to ask questions and to determine how we might better serve these different communities as Police officers in the future.
In terms of fitness input, we also had another assessment this week in the form of a timed mile. This time was recorded and added to our force records for future reference as we are expected to improve on this time in subsequent assessments.
By this time the class had started to come together a bit more with friendships beginning to form. When you spend the best part of 40 hours a week in close proximity to the same people, you find that relationships begin to form between you and your colleagues, perhaps more so than in other working environments. Everybody is there for the same reason and we are all in the same boat! This week also saw the workload up tremendously compared to the previous two weeks. We were now getting stuck into our legislation and were given our crime books and definitions lists... Over the next few weeks we would be expected to become familiar with these materials as it would form the basis for our crime exam at the end of Week 10 - daunting stuff!
Week 3 was a real mixed bag - we covered the National Decision Model (NDM) in-depth, as this really forms a basis for modern policing. Nothing more to say about that... Being a Welsh force we also had a Welsh-input session - it is expected of all officers to reach a certain level of proficiency during the 24-week course so as to be operationally competent in the language. Some find this easier than others. We also had one-to-one sessions regarding our fitness from the weeks previously. Our Fitech bike results from Week 1 would tell us where we should be at on the bleep test and our timed mile times were also scrutinised. Both of these we would be expected to improve on throughout the duration of the course.
Throughout the rest of the week, we spent our days learning our Police cautions and receiving inputs on forming reasonable suspicion and belief - the grounds on which policing is founded! This all culminated in a roleplay towards the end of the week in which we were to exercise our new found knowledge / powers in tackling a rather unrealistic scenario of littering in a public place! I'm sure that may be the last time I ever encounter such a situation, but who knows... We were all graded on our performances during the roleplays and given feedback on where to improve. It was our first roleplay of many and, of course, mistakes were made by all - the course is one big learning curve from beginning to end! Following the role plays we were given an input on statement writing. We would be expected to write a detailed statement regarding the roleplays from the day before. The statements were written as per the input we were given following on from the roleplays. They were then collected in and marked by the trainers - we would be given feedback on these at a later date.
This has, so far, been the most challenging week for the class - we were K.O.'d by the end of it! The workload ramped up once again as we found ourselves knee-deep in new legislation and with definitions to learn. Powers of Arrest & Further Detention and arrest necessities were the main agenda for this week - it would tie into everything we did. We were once again faced with another roleplay task, this time tackling a situation involving suspicion of theft. This one went terribly for me and has, so far, been my worst day on the course. Everything just went wrong - my mind went blank, I lost my legislation, my necessity for arrest - it all went tits up! I came out with the feedback and all I can do now is learn from my mistakes. The rest of the class experienced similar hiccups and we were all given a bit of a row at the end of the day - we needed to improve because things weren't going to get any easier...
I said this week was a tough one and with the roleplays out of the way we still weren't out of the woods! At the end of the week we had our definitions check... That definition book we were given the week previously, we had a lot in there that we needed to have memorised because we were about to be tested on it! The definitions checks in our force take form as a "fill in the blanks" kind of task... The definitions will have been written out, but with critical words removed from the extract. It is important that the correct words are entered into the blank spaces as any slight deviation could entirely change the meaning of the definition and thus nullify the legislation. Thankfully everyone had prepared and we came out feeling confident... Success! We all did well and the week finished on a high.
And that's it up to now! I wanted to keep this somewhat brief, but that really hasn't happened... I've left out bits here and there, but that is largely the process up to now... The pleasantries are well and truly over with by week 5 and a noticeable pattern in the way the course is delivered is starting to become apparent. New legislation is thrown at us every week along with routine knowledge checks. Our fitness is tested weekly - we're pushed hard. Our uniform is scrutinised... It is all quite alien at first, but this is our daily routine now. These next few weeks will see even more challenges as we start to get stuck into the physical side of things with Personal Safety Training in Week 7 - three weeks after that and we will be almost half-way through. That still seems a long way off, but I'm sure before I know it we will be there. It will be on to the traffic legislation then (a further 10 weeks dedicated to that!), but I shall try not to get ahead of myself.
I hope whoever reads this finds it interesting. I shall endevour to put together another one of these blogs as the weeks go by - I'm sure I'll have plenty interesting to tell you!