The thin blue line could soon turn into the big red debt.
People hoping to join the Metropolitan Police Force will soon have to stump up £1,000 for a 'pre-entry certificate' even before they can fill in job the application form.
The controversial Certificate in Knowledge of Policing (CKP) is a 2014 pre-entry requirement initiative for any aspiring police constable.
Now there are fears the fee could be so large that it will deter those from more disadvantaged areas of society, as well as black and minority ethnics, from applying.
Some politicians have expressed concerns that the police force may not reflect the communities it is policing if people from poorer areas are excluded from the recruitment process on the basis of means. They're accusing the police force of imposing a ‘bobby tax’ that will inhibit social mobility.
A serving Special Constable said: “They try so hard to make the force diverse with positive discrimination of race and gender, and now they're just contradicting that by making it more elitist. And you need people from disadvantaged backgrounds to relate to disadvantaged criminals!”
MP Siobhain McDonagh raised the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, saying: “A thousand pound bobby tax will make it harder for the police to look like the community that it serves and I represent. It will put off young people from poorer backgrounds and ethnic minorities from joining the police. “
The Prime Minister was quick to move on from the former assistant whip’s question and vaguely responded, saying: “What we’re trying to do through the college of policing, is to even further professionalise this vital profession but I’ll make sure the home secretary contacts her about this particular issue.”
The Labour MP for Mitcham and Morden, has since launched a petition to scrap the so called ‘bobby tax’.
As part of a six month inquiry into police ethics, the Home Affairs Select Committee concluded in July 2013 that “Policing standards should be unified for the first time, at every level from constable to chief constable with all new officers required to obtain a Certificate of Knowledge in Policing.”
But in an adjournment debate at the House of Commons, Home Office Minister James Brokenshire was keen to make clear the decision for mandatory accreditation was tmade solely by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and the individual constabularies, and not the Home Office.
The website of the College of Policing states: “The Metropolitan Police is the first force to require this for new candidates who are not special constables; other forces are following suit.”
By way of counteracting the financial difficulties of speculative candidates, an MPS spokesperson said: “From early 2014, the Metropolitan Police will be offering financial support with the cost of the CKP in the form of an interest free loan. This financial support will be available on the basis of London residency and means tested household income".
People have taken to twitter to complain about the revelation and speculate how they could pay for the accreditation.
But even with the certificate, there are still no guarantees the applicant will be successful, which could leave them a thousand pounds out of pocket. This in itself could be enough to deter prospective applicants.
MP Siobhain McDonagh was made aware of the ‘bobby tax’ during a recruitment drive in her constituency.
She said: “The Met were recruiting for 17 officers and held an event in Wimbledon. Quite a lot of people attended and then the officers broke the news that they couldn’t apply unless they had this certificate and that it cost a thousand pounds.
“The conversation just stopped. Many of them have never even seen £1000 let alone have it to spend.”
Calling the Met's new recruitment policy 'elitist', the Labour MP added: “This may look like it’s a small thing. But in light of the what has happened with the police force recently, this could exclude the best people for the job.”
Rhammel Afflick, member of the UK Young Parliament Procedures Group also attended the recruitment event. He said: “A sizeable majority of the crowd were shocked/ disappointed.”
On asked whether the requirement for CKP will inhibit social mobility, he said: “There’s no doubt about it - not to mention at the point you cough up £1k there's no guarantee of a job.”
A policy for improving social mobility, states: “We must work to remove barriers in every stage of life, to give people equal access to opportunities and help give second chances to those who need them.”
Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission chair, Alan Milburn, said the commission shared the view that the £1000 certificate could put off candidates from less well-off backgrounds, but added: “We agree with the Committee’s recommendations that the Government must ensure that a system of financial support is put in place to ensure that candidates from poor backgrounds are not prevented from applying to the police due to an inability to finance the upfront training costs”
But a former beat bobby refuted that. The Police Federation’s constables branch board secretary, Bryn Meredith. He said: “It's a poor attempt by the government to try and control who is recruited based on academic skills rather than the skills you need to deal with people.
“Paying for the right just to apply is beyond comprehension and discriminates against those in society who want their actions to speak louder than their words.”