Suffolk Police Deputy Chief Constable Rob Jones discusses recruitment challenges faced by the force and the rewards of a career in policing
Three years into a national uplift in police officer numbers, SuffolkNews spoke to Deputy Chief Constable Rob Jones about the challenges the force faces in recruiting officers, along with the opportunities a policing career can offer.
The headcount of police officers in Suffolk Constabulary currently stands at 1,425.
It is a number the force aims to maintain which, alongside officers retiring or leaving, means recruitment is ‘consistently open’, according to Deputy Chief Constable Jones.
He said there are currently two main routes to becoming a police officer – a three-year apprenticeship in partnership with Anglia Ruskin University, which sees recruits paid for the duration and leave fully qualified with a degree, or a two-year programme for applicants who already hold a degree.
“We have been running the apprenticeship scheme for a couple of years and it’s quite exciting,” said Mr Jones.
“However, I think some people hear ‘apprenticeship’ and think they are just for young people. There are young people (who join the apprenticeship), but it is open to all ages. Some people also hear ‘degree’ and if they haven’t got a strong academic background they might be put off, but the course is really well-designed and broken into bite-sized chunks.
“People who come through the apprenticeship – perhaps they might have had a completely different career before – say they really enjoy it.
“You can join at 18 – and many people do – but others join in their 40s and we really welcome people with life experience.”
The apprenticeship handles intakes of up to 20, meaning ‘you really get to know your group’ according to Mr Jones.
“It is a fantastic opportunity and some people just don’t know it is there,” he said. “And there is no upper age limit to join the force. We certainly have many people in their late 40s joining and we don’t have a retirement age.”
He acknowledged one of the barriers for some people was the current lack of flexibility in working hours during the training period.
“In the future we would like to be able to offer flexible working as soon as you start, but at the moment you can’t work flexibly for the first two years, although as soon as you’re finished training we are open to that flexibility,” said Mr Jones.
“Many people join us with caring responsibilities – for example, for children or relatives – and we do everything we can to help. We try to be as flexible as we can, but policing is a 24-7 role, with the core of it being shift work, while the training itself is quite intense.
“When we look at the reason people leave very often it is because we can’t be as flexible as they need, but we are working hard to help where possible.”
Mr Jones said another reason some left policing was down to the job being different to their expectation.
“We keep a close eye on why people leave us and we’re aiming to maintain our numbers,” he said. “Policing can have aspects some people find hard, while it is difficult for people to know what the job will be like before they join. We lose some people who find it is not right for them, or their circumstances in life change.”
However, with nearly three decades of policing under his belt, Mr Jones said it offered a career full of opportunities.
“There are all kinds of areas you can move into once qualified, like dog handling, firearms or detective work. It is so varied, you could have a long career and spend it working in many different areas,” he said.
“The biggest thing people talk about is the sense of purpose the role gives them. You’re often meeting people when they need help. Being able to come in and make a difference is really rewarding.
“Every day there might be frustrations, but there are also things you can look at that you think were worthwhile.”
Before joining Suffolk Police Mr Jones spent 25 years with the Metropolitan Police.
“No day was the same. In many ways the policing challenges in Suffolk are similar (to those in London), but I have really enjoyed the size and feel of Suffolk. Here, you get to know people really well. People are really friendly and helpful,” he said.
“In Suffolk, most police officers wear lots of hats and have lots of different skills. You might be policing an Ipswich Town football match on Saturday, dealing with a protest on Sunday and on Monday out helping with local problems. It is rewarding and challenging.
“A lot of people might think ‘I’m not like a police officer’ but actually we have got a tremendous variety of personalities on the force who are all committed to making a difference.”
Meanwhile, he said there were also opportunities to join police staff in Suffolk.
“In particular we have had a real growth in our control room staff. We have had fantastic people joining our control room and they are thriving,” he added.
For more information on the careers available, go to https://www.suffolk.police.uk/police-forces/suffolk-constabulary/areas/careers/join-us/